Ashoka Fellows in South America



Ashoka Fellows in South America
Ashoka Fellows in South America
Alice Freitas | Brazil, Connecting Informal Artisans with Conscious Consumers
Alice has created a direct sales catalog to help informal artisans overcome the challenges of
large-scale distribution. An estimated 50% of all Brazilian workers-many of them women-are
currently involved in the informal economy, and consequently lack access both to valuable market
information regarding prices and consumer interests, and to the financial resources and bank
credit required to start a business. Alice matches artisans’ groups with men and women trained
as direct sales agents, providing them with thorough training and an intimate understanding of
the producers’ personal histories and social impact. Capitalizing on the growth of conscious
consumerism, she thus enables consumers to exercise informed decision-making, and provides
them with a direct communication channel to the women behind the products. Having launched
the first catalog in 2007, Alice is now developing a franchise model in order to scale her approach
throughout Brazil and beyond.
Jaime Ibacache | Chile, Creating New Models of Health Care for Isolated Communities
Jaime is developing a new health model focused on ethnic minorities and small isolated communities. Jaime’s model
works by incorporating community knowledge and traditions into both diagnosis and medical treatments to respect
cultural norms while providing the health care the community needs. responds to their specific necessities and has great
respect for their lifestyle. Relying on medical doctors, family members, and community elder, Jaime is bringing together
traditional and modern medicine in a way that not only strengthens the local community but informs care, treatment
and diagnosis for the medical community across the whole country.
Mónica Vásconez | Ecuador, Providing Access to Education for Non-Formal Students
For students who cannot access mainstream education, Mónica has created an internet-based
education system that enables students to earn high school diplomas and develop job skills. The
IberoamericanVirtual School provides distance learning for marginalized groups such as indigenous
communities, rural communities, working adults, the mentally ill, and immigrants. Mónica uses a
standard curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education, but also tailors vocational courses
to each group to help them best reach their potential. Mónica partners with citizen sector
organizations, businesses, and the government to choose potential students to target and ensure
all students can access a computer and internet.
Pedro Guimaraes | Brazil, Providing Education and Support for Children with Cerebral Palsy
Pedro created the Nucleus of Services for Children with Cerebral Palsy (NACPC), which has
become a center of excellence and reference in the integrated treatment of cerebral palsy. It is
the only center in the country that offers an interdisciplinary health and education program, with
actions that cover all necessary aspects to stimulate children with multiple disabilities, while also
monitoring and supporting the inclusion of children with any kind of disability in municipal public
schools. Pedro’s research has shown that the incidence of cerebral palsy is intimately related to
poverty, social vulnerability and the basic conditions of collective healthcare, such as rudimentary
attention to health and sanitation. Pedro is therefore working with hospitals and healthcare
professionals to implement education programs on the prevention of cerebral palsy. Pedro now intends to replicate his
model throughout Brazil and is looking for partners in Africa.
Ashoka Fellows in South America
Maria Das Gracas ‘Graca’ Xavier | Brazil, Providing Housing for Historically Excluded Groups
As a pioneer in the field of urban housing reform, Graca works with historically excluded
groups such as women, the elderly, and AfroBrazilians to take charge of their housing needs and
advance their legal and political interests. Graca helps theses groups build their own homes,
thereby meeting critical housing needs while also doing human rights education and helping to
develop work skills and self-esteem among the builders. In this way, housing is not an end in
itself, but rather a tool to address human rights. Ultimately, Graca empowers residents with a
united platform to express their housing concerns and political positions to both the Brazilian
government, and international housing initiatives. In order to maximize her sphere of influence,
Graca works with influential housing initiatives in Sao Paulo and has instigated numerous policy
changes in Brazilian law. She is also working with international networks to work globally on using housing rights as a
vehicle to advance the rights of minority groups in general.
Ana Veloso | Brazil, Advancing the Women’s Movement In Brazil
Despite the significant achievements of the feminist movement, women continue to be excluded from the important
decision-making spaces that form government and social policies for women as a group. Ana Velosa is changing all
that through her educational movement for women. Ana’s unique curriculum blends the academic with the practical,
taking into account history, philosophy, and the stories of everyday women. Over the course of the year, she provides
participants with the information, training, and communication tools they need to confront political imbalances and
everyday expressions of gender discrimination. Every participant agrees to then perform the training program themselves,
becoming multipliers in their own communities and networks so that, in time, women from across Brazil are both
informed and empowered to create the social and political progress they deserve.
Merula Steagall | Brazil, Improving Treatment and Support for Families with Blood Diseases
Merula founded ABRALE, an organization focused on improving treatment of blood diseases
by bringing together key actors from different sectors, including the government, patients and
their families, businesses, health professionals, and citizen sector organizations. Merula started
ABRALE because there was no other organization with a comprehensive focus on blood diseases
in Brazil—most healthcare services do not have trained professionals to provide adequate
treatment, while those that do focus on illnesses on only a case-by-case basis. ABRALE has
created a new model for public treatment that informs patients and their families about available
healthcare and their rights to treatment. It also collaborates with the government to train
healthcare professionals and increase their numbers as well as geographical spread and outreach.
Javier Palummo | Uruguay, Building the Field of Public Interest Law for Children and Families
Fighting for the rights of children, teens and families, Javier is building the field of public interest law in Uruguay. He has
created powerful legal mechanisms to address public interest issues: generating transparent public information about the
judicial system; training law students and members of the legal community to address human rights issues; pushing citizen
sector organizations to act as watchdog groups in bringing cases of abuse to court; and directly defending children and
their families in key cases to establish precedence in the practice of the law. Javier’s Clinic for Human Rights works with
judges, lawyers, law students, and citizen sector organizations in an effort to foster a legal and judicial environment that
encourages citizens to seek justice for human rights abuses in the courts. In 2007 alone, he and his team successfully
resolved 41 court cases, which has had a considerable impact on the lives of hundreds of young people and their
Ashoka Fellows in South America
Laercio Meirrelles | Brazil, Revolutionizing Small-Scale Organic Farming
In an effort to counter the rising industrialization of organic agriculture, Laercio has developed an
approach to organic certification that places greater control in the hands of small-scale farmers.
Realizing that small-scale organic farmers could not compete with large corporations, Laercio
introduced an alternative organic certification program called Participatory Guarantee Systems,
which relies upon peer visits and frequent trainings. Combined with a focus on legislative reform
and efforts to build consumer awareness, the certification program is helping small farmers
increase access to the market. Laercio is working to create a consistent system for organic
farming across countries, thus replacing the burdensome rules and complexities that distinguish
each country. Having already implemented his model in southern Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, Laercio
is now working to secure international legitimacy, building a powerful cohort of farmers and allies in the field.
Orazio Belletini | Ecuador, Improving Transparency and Public Information
Orazio’s organization, Faro, empowers the public to hold the government accountable by
demanding and obtaining legally guaranteed public services such as education and maternal
healthcare. Faro is improving transparency by convincing ministries and government officials to
release public information like budgets, expenses and records. It also trains the general public
and grassroots organizations on how to request, obtain, and interpret this kind of information.
As a result, Faro acts both as a consultant and as a watchdog organization that pressures the
government to comply with public policies.
Tashka Yawanawa | Brazil, Strengthening Indigenous Communities
Tashka’s work with indigenous communities proves that communities can maintain cultural integrity even while striving
for economic prosperity. As an indigenous man who has spent several years in the United States, Tashka is uniquely
positioned to restore a sense of identity and dignity amongst his people through cultural revitalization while also fostering
innovative business partnerships that empower the community. Rather than accept their role as the mere suppliers of
raw materials, Tashka forms business partnerships with outside commercial enterprises to provide the community and
the enterprise with an explicit mutual benefit.Tashka’s work is already being replicated by other indigenous communities
in Brazil. Furthermore, through partnerships with national and international institutions, Tashka aims to strengthen the
ties between indigenous tribes that are currently disjointed.
Ximena Carrera | Ecuador, Promoting Inclusion for the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired
Through her organization, Foundation DHx, which works with deaf and hearing impaired people,
Ximena raises awareness about disabilities and promotes inclusion of disabled populations. She
begins by teaching others what it feels like to be deaf and then initiates a discussion about
opportunities for deaf people as well as other disabled populations. Foundation DHx has a youth
exchange program for both hearing impaired and non-impaired students that empowers them
to raise awareness and promote inclusion of the disabled in their communities. Ximena also
works with business and government employees to fight discrimination in the workplace and
encourages them to think more broadly how to improve policies and services for the disabled.
Foundation DHx pushes for health policies that support early detection of hearing loss. It also
distributes hearing aids to low-income people and provides trainings and technical support for the devices.
Ashoka Fellows in South America
Sergio Arango | Colombia, Developing Eco-Friendly Community Enterprises
International development experts have long argued that environmental conservation must
be coupled with economic development in order to achieve sustainable growth in the world’s
most fragile ecosystems, which are often marked by extreme human poverty. The challenge
lies in transforming the way that the communities living in these areas view their surroundings:
the prospect of immediate financial return by clearing an acre of forest wood for sale is far
more compelling than the protests of environmental activists in faraway cities. To combat these
challenges, Sergio and his organization, Fundación Espavé, are developing community enterprise
initiatives in Colombia’s Pacific coast region that identify latent business opportunities in these
communities’ traditional use of forest resources. As a result, Espavé is achieving hand-in-hand
economic development and environmental conservation in one of the poorest and most environmentally fragile regions
of the country. Sergio is now exploring how to replicate his work in the forests of southeastern Colombia and in similar
regions of nearby countries like Ecuador.
Flavio Pachalski | Brazil, Improving Access to Information for the Public
Flavio enhances access to information through a unique approach that combines investigative journalism with public
interest law—helping first to expose concealed information and relevant documentation that would otherwise go
unnoticed by the court system, and then to place the information in the hands of the public and jury. Flavio thus provides
members of the public with the communication tools and information they need to defend their rights, and in so doing,
aims to build a better-engaged and informed citizenry. He is now in the process of building a secure infrastructure for
his organization, Publico Interesse, and is developing a virtual office that will involve young journalism students in the
Yvonne Bezerra de Mello | Brazil, Providing Education for Favella Children
Yvonne recognized that children from favellas suffer developmental delays caused by trauma and violence, and that these
children are at risk of dropping out of school and entering into a life of violence themselves. Traditionally the cognitive
and learning disabilities of such children are written off as mental illness, but Yvonne understands that they merely have
different learning needs. As a result, she created an alternative education program to help heal trauma and reintegrate
favella children into the education system and society. After success in the largest slum in Rio de Janiero, Yvonne is
partnering with local public schools who will replicate her model and is hoping to spread it throughout Brazil.
Francisco Vio | Chile, Creating Eco-Tourism Employment Opportunities for Young People
Francisco sees tourism as an opportunity for the Patagonian population to improve their quality
of life, preserve their culture, and protect the environment. He founded the Patagonia School
for Guides to combat migration of poverty-driven young people from Patagonia and to help
integrate local markets into the eco-tourism industry. Francisco’s school trains young people
to become some of the best guides in the world so that they can compete in the industry and
to encourage replication of the model elsewhere in the world. After students graduate, the
Patagonia School for Guides also supports them in establishing nature-oriented tourism businesses
that benefit the community and are environmentally friendly. Francisco forms partnerships with
national institutions such as parks, schools and civic sector organizations (CSOs) to deepen his work and to create a
network between his students and influential regional bodies. Francisco’s work is influencing public policy and inspiring
replication across the country. He is now beginning to cultivate collaboration between the tourism industry and local
economic development projects in other Latin American countries to further opportunities for young people and their