Pan-African Council Ambassadors visit the city of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil to volunteer for a youth development organization inspired by African spiritual and healing tradition:

In the forgotten outskirts of Brazil’s third largest city, Salvador da Bahia, one can hear the rhythms and laughter of a young generation yearning for their place in the modern world. The visitor would be surprised to encounter a deep intellectual discourse flourishing in an area seemingly plagued by poverty and drug-related violence. It is in this very setting that Joselito Crispim created a nonprofit in 1991 that goes by the name of “Bagunçaço.” At just 21 years old, Joselito embarked on a mission to make the young people of his community proud of their origins. Now, over 20 years later, his organization helps educate young children and adolescents by providing access to a library of books, skill-building classes, film production workshops, physical activities, cultural exchange opportunities, and music education.

Joselito’s Bangunçaço serves a community center, or better yet a training facility, that relies on a team of volunteers and sponsors to run its activities efficiently. Ranging from 6 to 18 years old, the 140 participants are immersed in a community where they are encouraged to treat each other as brothers, sisters, i.e. a unified family. The project aims to strengthen the self-esteem of children and inspire a passion for learning and fraternity. The parents of these children face harsh economic conditions in a hostile environment where the state public school system failed to properly educate or provide for their children. During my first visit to the center I was proudly greeted by the eldest of the children who were eager to show me their latest creation – an independent film, recorded, scripted, and edited by the children themselves. In the room next door, I observed the children giving voice and rhythm to improvised instruments made of old drums and cans that were once considered garbage in the streets. And just outside the center, groups of children were forming to practice Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art) and others were preparing for a football match. Officially, the center’s closing hour is at 6:00pm sharp; however, the children are often so filled with energy that they perch themselves at the entrance deep into the night to rehearse the things they have learned that very same day.

This month, Joselito invited and accommodated twenty Danish students of the same age group in a weeklong cultural exchange. Despite the cultural and language barriers between these children from two very different parts of the world, they were assigned a clearly defined mission: to prepare a joint musical performance for the community. Joselito is an educator in the purest sense of the word. The guiding principals of the Bangunçaço project are founded in the values he acquired in his practice of Candomblé: an African spiritual and healing tradition that spread to Brazil during the slave trade, where people live in close communities that mutually help each other and develop responsibilities to serve their communities. His philosophy provides a basis for a new social organization, prepared to transform young adults into the future of Brazil, one mind at a time.