Brazilian families participate in graduation ceremony at end of project to prevent drug use
Families and professionals in the ceremony
Brasilia, 5 November 2013 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) closed up yesterday a pilot project for the prevention of drug use, based on strengthening the relationships of families with children from two to five years old.
Hundreds of people - including parents, uncles, grandparents, children and the teams responsible for the project's implementation - filled up a cultural center in Taguatinga, in Brazil's Federal District, for the graduation ceremony held on Monday evening.
Ana Paula was there with her four children: Vitória, six years old; Ludmila, four; Daniel, three, and Alexandre, almost one year old. "The youngest was the one that stood out the most. He let himself go and played a lot", said Ana Paula about the weekly meetings she attended with her children in the past two months, at the social assistance center that serves the community of Samambaia.
Ana Paula and her children receive a certificate from Seidel
During the meetings, participants had a meal together and performed various activities. By stimulating the interaction between parents and children and also between families from the same communities, the project tried to reinforce family relationships to boost children's development and prevent risky behavior later in their lives, such as drug abuse and violence. The group sessions also approached the issue of drug abuse and were conducted by teams of social assistants, teachers and members of the communities.
Ana Paula first heard about the project from one of her sisters, and after that she did not miss any of the eight meetings held. "Besides my two sisters, who also participated in the project, I didn't know anyone, so it was nice to make new friends. I went to the first meeting without knowing anything about it, I thought it was a party. But then I realized it was kind of a class for the kids: they filled up balloons, made necklaces, painted and drew", she said.
Silvana also attended meetings at the Samabaia social assistance center with her children. "I have learned a lot during these months with all these families, each of them with their own life story. Everyone comes here with big problems, but then there are people who come here with problems that are much bigger than ours", she explained, after receiving her certificate. "I am very happy to have participated and learned the values of these families".
Ana Paula's and Silvana's families were among the 59 who attended the graduation, which included participants from the social assistance centers that serve the communities of Estrutural and Sol Nascente, besides Samambaia. The social assistance center that serves the community of Planaltina also implemented the project until the the end of October, with another 19 families receiving attendance certificates. In order to receive a certificate, families had to attend at least six of the eight meetings held.
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The pilot project is the result of a partnership between UNODC, the National Secretariat for Drug Policy (Senad), the State Secretariat of Justice (Sejus) and the State Secretariat of Social Development and Income Transfer (Sedest) of the Federal District. Sedest's Secretary, Daniel Saidel, participated in the graduation ceremony last night together with Sejus' Under Secretary for Drug Policy, Leonardo Moreira, and Senad's Technical Advisor, Naiá Brillinger.
The Representative of the UNODC Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil, Rafael Franzini, also awarded certificates to the families at the graduation: "When we come here and see the families and communities who benefit from our work, that's when we see that this is worth being done. Our office will conduct another training of trainers in 2014, in order to allow this methodology to be replicated".
Sedest's Undersecretary for Social Assistance, Adriana Carvalho, said she received very positive feedback from the professionals who implemented the project at the social assistance centers: "They finally managed to reach out to some families who they had been trying to bring in for a long time, but without any success". According to her, the teams were very satisfied with quickly achieving more concrete results than they had been able to with other methodologies.
"Working with families is very complex, but this project's methodology has a well-structured academic basis. The professionals felt very valued for being trained on a methodology that is scientifically proven and shows actual results. The most important thing at the end of the project was to see how it empowered both the participating families and the professionals who implemented it", said Carvalho.
The project's methodology has already been implemented by UNODC as part of the global Family Skills programme, which reached over 5,000 families in almost 20 countries. Evaluations indicate that about 80% of the participants attend all meetings and maintain contact with other families after the project is over. Results such as increased sociability, improved academic performance and greater parent involvement in schools, as well as a decrease in conflicts, aggressive behavior and anxiety, were also observed.