Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Associação ChildrensAid (Onda Solidaria)


Onda Solidaria works in the slums of Rio de Janeiro and in Santana do Deserto, a small rural town located in Minas Gerais. EMpower-supported programs are implemented in Santana do Deserto, where most families work in big farms, textile factories, or have local government jobs. Young people attend the only local public school in town, but most do not complete secondary education, as they must work to help support their families. Drug and alcohol abuse are common, as is adolescent pregnancy. Young people from Santana do Deserto and neighboring communities are under-stimulated, lacking programs that inspire, educate, and offer alternatives to riskier pastimes. Youth do not have any guidance in educational or employment pursuits –their visions of what opportunities are available are very limited, and most only have the example of their parents’ education and careers. Violence, crime, and drug abuse are common. With few opportunities, many young people spend their days on the streets.


Onda Solidaria is a grassroots organization that was founded in 2004 by Ricardo Calçado, a young and energetic social entrepreneur who continues to serve as Executive Director. The organization succeeded in building a second tier of managers, after relying primarily on volunteers for many years. However, more work is needed to strengthen Onda Solidaria’s team further, especially in the resource mobilization area.

Onda Solidaria means “Solidarity Wave” in Portuguese. The organization runs two different programmings “waves” or programs in Santana do Deserto and in four slums in Rio de Janeiro:

(1) A sports program that uses football as a vehicle for physical, intellectual and social transformation, as well as for the reduction of idleness among youth. Thanks to EMpower’s support, the program now includes a gender equity component and girls are actively participating in all activities, including as team coaches. Onda uses sports as an entry point for a positive influence on children’s lives. The program is a safe space where kids work with mentors, eat healthy snacks or meals, and learn about important values like teamwork, nonviolence, and social justice. The program is based in the Football for Peace methodology.

(2) A “transformation program” that includes after-school activities and training for a smaller group of youth at Onda Solidaria’s headquarters (Vila dos Sonhos, see below), as well as in-school training for a larger number of students, through a long-time partnership with the only local public school in Santana do Deserto. This program overlaps with, and complements, the sports program, and focuses on training youth on basic life skills, including employability, English, and gender equity.

In 2012, Onda Solidaria received a donation of 27 acres of land to build an EcoSocial Centre & Villa (Vila dos Sonhos, which means “Village of Dreams” in Portuguese) to benefit and empower vulnerable communities in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. This space welcomes children, youth, and families from the surrounding rural community, as well as volunteers and visitors from across Brazil and around the world. Onda Solidaria established partnerships with Rio de Janeiro’s main football clubs that enable program participants to travel to Rio (many for the first time) to visit the city’s soccer stadiums and teams while receiving the junior teams of these clubs at Vila dos Sonhos. This has proven to be a powerful social integration strategy.

Current Grant: EMpower’s 7th grant to Onda Solidaria will benefit 600 vulnerable youth aged 10 to 24 from the marginalized rural community of Santo do Deserto, Minas Gerias. Santana do Deserto is a small rural town of 4,000 people, where drug, alcohol abuse, early pregnancy and high levels of youth unemployment are common. Program participants will improve their life skills and increase their knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equity, drug use/abuse prevention and bullying. The grant will also help strengthen Onda Solidaria’s fundraising capacity.

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