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What is an Italian company doing in Brazil? In the case of funerary and memorialization product manufacturer Biondan, it's building a complex of schools (Pão de Vida) that gives children born in poverty the education and skills they need to create better lives for themselves and their families.
This transatlantic charity project came about as a result of company founders Arturo and Walter Biondan being introduced in 1993 to Sister Arminda Terraneo through a mutual friend. Sister Arminda has lived in Brazil since 1980 and been honored for her work there.
After hearing about the appalling living conditions in the shantytowns of Vila Cafeteira, the Biondan brothers traveled to Brazil to see for themselves. Impressed by Sister Arminda's attempts to help the people, the entire Biondan family decided to donate funds for a complex of schools called Pão de Vida (Bread of Life). Elizabetta Biondan raised additional funds with an appeal to others in the stone, marble and granite industries through AZ Marmi, the Italian trade magazine she runs.
Pão de Vida includes not only preschool, primary and secondary schools but also training to help students learn a trade or profession; an IT lab; a sewing lab, which produces school uniforms in addition to teaching a trade; and a hairdressing lab. Students receive meals and medical, dental and psychological care. Sister Arminda hopes to add certification programs to help graduates with employment.
Pão de Vida has 150 teachers and service staff and about 1,500 students. All funds are provided by the Biondan family, friends and business associates. For information on how to donate, go to Biondan's Web site (http://www.biondan.it/) and select "charity." For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Some alumni success stories cited by Sister Arminda, who is still Pão de Vida's general manager:
Rafael, the fourth of 10 children with a single mother, was able to find a job at a methane gas station. After graduating, he was able to take a computer course, obtain a driving licence and is now able to support his entire family.
Merinha, the eldest daughter of five children with an elderly father and a mother unable to speak due a medical condition, completed her studies and succeeded in landing a career at the SADIA factory in Mato Grosso, the second largest food company in Brazil. She applied for this position on the Internet, a common enough occurrence in North America but previously unheard of in the shantytowns of Vila Cafeteira.
Felipe, the eldest of three children, completed his studies and gained a place at a university. He started a gymnastics academy on entering university and is already planning to enlarge his business because of the high demand. Felipe plans to graduate from university in June 2009.
Jean, the son of a local driver for the police force, is proudly studying business management at university and is soon to graduate.
Ramon, the youngest of three children, lost his father while young. He is extremely intelligent and during military service attended a course that would enable him to make a career in the army. Top of his class, while waiting to be called up, he is studying accountancy at university.