Bathroom Remodeling Creates Awareness and Unity Within Community

Rehabilitation Action took place at the Deolinda Maneira Severo School, in the Jardim Oliveira Camargo neighborhood, in Indaiatuba

Glass, mirrors and broken vessel lids. Old paint and scrawled walls. No partitions between urinals or clean spaces for toilet paper. This bleak scenario describes the former state of bathrooms at the state government-funded Deolinda Maneira Severo School, in Jardim Oliveira Camargo neighborhood, in Indaiatuba. Eighth-grader Guilherme Sena summed up the old reality of the 530 students this way: “It was difficult to feel good in those bathrooms.” But everything changed when 12 volunteers from the community agreed to get involved and rehabilitate the school’s three bathrooms for boys, girls and people with disabilities. Together they transformed the environment into a place worthy of school conviviality.

To start, Sowing Futures, a partnership of the John Deere Foundation and Global Communities, formed a neighborhood group and, together with Jardim Oliveira Camargo residents and representatives from local private and public institutions, mapped community assets, enlisted local leaders and identified community priorities. The neighborhood met and agreed that renovating the Deolinda school bathrooms was at the top of its list. Parents and many others of all ages and professions enthusiastically volunteered to help. With each donating time and various skills, the community came together with a team that included a plumber, electrician, painter, architect and others.

“The group came together and the reform happened. This is the idea of the program: to strengthen communities and enable them to solve problems from inception to execution of their own projects,” explains Carmen Freddo, Sowing Futures Community Development Specialist. Guilherme Sena, though only 13, helped as much as he could, and with the project complete, he now realizes what the change represents in the students’ lives. “Like other kids, I dreamed of having nice, safe bathrooms at our school, which is why we chose bathroom renovation as a priority,” he says. “I see the progress that is happening because of volunteer work. The students were listened to; the school listened to us and parents got involved to help us. Now it’s up to us to take care of it.”

Volunteering: Strengthening the Love of School
When electrical technician Salvador Santos was invited to help, he accepted without a second thought. He wanted to volunteer out of love and pride; he studied there, and later his daughters did, and now his grandchildren attend the school.  Now retired, he was touched by the trajectory of his family for decades at the school. “This is a unique moment. It is the proof that life is happening. This school is important for my family. Without this school, I would be nothing, and without it, my granddaughters will not get anywhere,” he says tearfully.  “We are doing something for ourselves, it’s something we cannot give financial value to. Helping our community develop is priceless.”

Awareness Raising is the Key to Growth  
For the coordinator of the school, Elaine Batajelo, the collaboration showed how Sowing Futures can and does make a difference. With the material in hand and cooperative volunteers, the school got not only new bathrooms, but a community united around the project. “This is a work of all—parents, students and community—and the valuation of public assets is important,” she says. “The day the students returned to classes, we showed them how the bathrooms had been, with photos of volunteers working. We showed the importance and value of the volunteers who worked for them. It’s an awareness raising job we’re doing.” This new awareness began in 2015, when the John Deere Foundation sought to partner with the school on various projects. Batejelo recalls the excitement and acceptance of the students, which resulted in other projects including a painting room with a reading corner, landscaping improvements and the implementation of robotics classes. “Last year the student council approached the John Deere volunteer committee with the bathroom problem and the committee responded with donations of materials and supplies.  Now that the bathrooms are renovated, the appreciation for the partnership increases. We came together and took steps to make our environment a little better.”

Sowing Futures aims to improve the capacity of local communities and institutions to have greater autonomy in search of better socioeconomic conditions. This three-year program is a partnership of the John Deere Foundation and Global Communities. Learn more about the program here: http://www.globalcommunitiesbrasil.org