Global Reach: Grantee Partners

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Abraco Campeao


Presidential elections in Brazil took place in late 2018, in a context of economic crisis and widespread corruption. Former army captain Jair Bolsonaro a right-winged candidate known for making racist and homophobic comments, won by a landslide, with his party becoming the largest force in Congress. Bolsonaro’s election, supported by Brazil’s powerful evangelical movement, marked a sharp swing away from three decades of center-left governments. In his first month in office, Bolsonaro unveiled sweeping plans to implement pro-market economic policies and a conservative social agenda.

Rio de Janeiro, the state where Abraco Campeao (AC) is located, faces significant challenges. The city is increasingly affected by drug and police violence and has been under military intervention since February 2018. In certain neighborhoods, the murder rate is as high as 140 per 100,000 people. AC runs its programs in Complexo de Alemao, one of the least developed favelas in Rio de Janeiro, where 40% of residents live on less than half of the minimum wage ($130 per month), one in 12 families live in houses with four or more people per bedroom, illiteracy levels are the second highest in the city, and 26% of children are born to teenage mothers. Between February and December 2018, there were at least 238 shootouts in Complexo de Alemao the second highest number in Rio. Within this context, it is much more difficult for young people to reach their potential. This is evidenced in local educational attainment: 14% of local youth failed in primary education exams in 2014, 2% dropped out of school, and 25% repeated at least two years of school. These problems are compounded at the secondary school level: 22% of local young people dropped out of school in 2014, by far the highest figure in the city.


AC’s organizational profile can best be fully described by telling the life story of its founder and Executive Director, Alan Duarte. Aged 30, Duarte was born and raised in Complexo do Alemao. At 17, he developed an interest in boxing and started participating in classes at Luta pela Paz, in the neighboring favela of Mare. At Luta pela Paz, Duarte quickly stood out as a mentor for the project’s younger participants, and soon began teaching boxing classes to children. It was then that he realized that Luta pela Paz’s methodologies could be replicated in his own community. In 2014 he founded AC. The organization runs the following programs:

  1. Boxing Classes: These are the base of AC’s alternative curriculum and are held twice weekly for children and youth between the ages of 7 and 29, separated by age group.
  2. Personal Development Class: These are mandatory for all participants attending boxing classes. AC holds two personal development classes per week, split between adults and adolescents. Classes are led by a registered social worker and conducted in group-discussion format, addressing topics from race and gender equality to political participation.
  3. Academic Support Classes: Available to students between their seventh and ninth year of primary school (12-14). AC holds weekly Math and Portuguese lessons to support struggling students. Taught by educators and social workers, the classes employ a flexible pedagogy to better engage those students who are less responsive to formal education, with particular attention on helping them through the transition between primary and secondary school (when dropout rates are highest). Enrolled students also participate in personal development classes, and are encouraged to participate in boxing classes

AC is a spin-off of Luta pela Paz (Fight for Peace), an organization previously funded by EMpower (Luta sunsetted in 2018) that is internationally recognized for its success using martial arts training as a tool for social development and change. In 2017, EMpower awarded a one-time small grant to AC, with Luta Pela Paz acting as a fiscal sponsor, as AC was not legally registered at the time. This small grant had a very positive impact, helping AC register as a nonprofit organization, establish a board of directors, hire staff to manage its programs and develop an institutional budget. AC has a staff of seven highly committed employees, plus seven unpaid volunteers that add tremendous value to the organization, particularly in the area of fundraising.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s first regular grant to Abraco Campeao (AC) will help the organization launch a girls-only boxing program aimed at improving participants self-esteem, developing leadership and life skills and improving their academic performance. The program, which will target 30 adolescent girls between the ages of 10-19 as well as their parents, will focus on combating harmful gender norms and providing psycho-social support. It will foster a safe and encouraging space, as participants engage in girls-only boxing classes as well as workshops on gender equity and reproductive health issues. By making sports practice and program retention its key vectors, the program roots its methodology in wider evidence on the correlation between girls’ athletics and academic performance.

Where is Abraco Campeao ?

Primary Location: Rio de Janerio, Brazil


Funded Since: 2019

You can support our work with Abraco Campeao and our other grantee partners.

Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.