She is tall and skinny and looks quite confident. You can barely see a trace of her pregnancy even though the baby in her arms is just a week old. After chatting with me for a while she leaves the room to breastfeed her little girl. A couple of other girls pass me by, chattering in the typical teenage girl manner. The only difference here is that all of them have a baby in their arms or are pregnant.
I am visiting Santa Fé’s mother-child center in Sao Paulo and my feelings are mixed. Márcia Ventura Dias, who is the founder of the organization, tells us about the girls’ backgrounds – young girls who have lived in the streets, abused drugs, been victims of sexual exploitation or sexual violence. Their backgrounds differ but all of them have one thing in common – they are in need of a place that they can call home and feel supported. For these girls, this place is Santa Fé. I am impressed by Márcia who welcomes us, who started working in the streets 20 years ago to help children and adolescents. Today she is 70 years old and has met young girls and boys with experiences that no one should ever have to go through. She does not look tired at all, rather I see a determined woman who fights for each child, both mother and baby, as if it was her own.
Santa Fé works to break the violence circle – the repeated circle of generation after generation following the same path. The objective is not only to help the new born babies in the center but to support the mother and her child, and as often as possible, also the father. The objective is to build families where the babies can grow up in a loving and caring home and where the parents can feel proud and supportive.
The girl with the one-week-old baby looks at me and smiles. She is a young girl but also a very proud mother.