Have you heard about the project Favela Orgânica? Or Providenciando a Favor da Vida? And how about the newspaper Fala Roça? They have one thing in common: they have all been created by young people who participated in one of Agência de Redes Para Juventude’s cycle. Regina Tchelly and Raquel Spinelli took part in the first cycle, in 2011; Michel Silva took part in the second one, in 2012. And even though they are completely different from each other, the three projects were created based on the ideas of Regina, Raquel and Michel to impact their territories. In the favelas of Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira, Providência, or Rocinha, and in many other territories in Rio de Janeiro, this is Agência’s work: to potentialize young people from favelas and peripheries, so they become the protagonists of their desires and actions.
Regina was working as a housekeeper for 10 years when she heard about Agência. Something inside her was saying she should look for another path: “I wanted to work with something that would promote something good for me and for people around me, and I knew I was ready, I just needed a push”. Agência was the push she needed, and in 2011, Favela Orgânica was born. The project was brought to life because of Regina’s desire to promote love through food and her aim to modify people’s relationship with food. Regina has been in many places in Brazil and around the world with her food cycle workshops, and has even become a TV presenter! However, it was in her territory, Babilônia favela, in Rio, that everything has started. Regina says that, with Agência, she learned to recognize the potency that already existed inside the favelas: “I’ve learned to empower the local knowledge and I’ve started to connect networks inside the favelas”, she says.
Heading from Babilônia to Rocinha, we get to one of the founders of the newspaper Fala Roça, Michel Silva. Born and raised there, he saw in Agência the possibility to act in his own territory: “I wanted to build a project in the favela, and I understood the methodology as an opportunity to transform what I had in mind into a project”, he says.
According to Michel, in his cycle, there was a group of young people with different ideas in the communication area, but they agreed on building one communication project, all together. As part of the methodology, they did a mapping of the local memory. They added their desire of creating a newspaper to the result of this mapping, and Fala Roça was born. In the process of building it, Michel says he learned to look at the city in a different way, trying to understand its geopolitics: “I started to dispute the spaces and the narratives that are put in the favelas. In the places I go to, when participating in debates and conversations, I underline that favela is potency. This is something I’ve heard a lot during in my time in Agência, and that I always reinforce in my speeches”, he says.
We reinforce that favela is potency because it really is, and Raquel Spinelli is another proof for that. In 2011, she knew she wanted to do something for her community, Providência favela, but she didn’t know how or where to start. Yet, Raquel was already helping adolescents and young women who were pregnant in the local church. She only needed the directions to structure her project of assistance to those young women. During the methodology, she has built many networks, in universities, with renowned professionals and with important institutions that helped a lot in her process of learning: “I neither knew how to build a project nor to look for help. In Agência, I started to learn how to do these things, and I developed myself. It was crucial in my life”, she says. She points out that Agência was not only important in her life, but in her territory: “Nowadays I cannot imagine how it would be not to welcome the pregnant young women, a lot of them talk to me in order to be part of the project. It became something really strong, that cannot end”.
The potency of these young people and the potency of the favelas is there, spread all over Rio, in the most diverse areas. And that’s the way Agência keeps doing its work, stimulating young people to become the protagonists of their own projects, always having the process in our minds. The process matters, creativity matters, strengthening networks matters. Changing the narrative, understanding young people from favelas and peripheries as strong, not disadvantaged, matters! And being aware of the importance of all of these issues, we keep on with our work!