Yvonne Bezerra de Melo

Ashoka Fellow
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Yvonne Bezerra de Melo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Yvonne has identified a critical problem for Brazil: Children growing up in slums, or favelas, are often traumatized by violence, leading to developmental delays. She views armed conflict and other violence in the favelas as a sort of undeclared war, an environment filled with fear and stress. Yet the cognitive and learning disabilities of countless children who grow up in this environment have largely been written off as mental illness. They are thus effectively excluded from society, at risk of dropping out of school and continuing a cycle of violence in the favelas. Yvonne has developed a program and teaching methodology to heal affected children’s trauma and insert them back into the education system. She bases her methodology, which enables children to heal emotionally and regain memory and other cognitive skills, on work done in conflict zones. After they are back at regular schools, Yvonne’s organization follows and evaluates children until age fifteen. After piloting a successful demonstration center in Mare, the largest slum in Rio de Janiero, Yvonne is partnering with two public schools in Rio to teach them to replicate her model. In this way, she plans to get her model adopted by public school systems across Brazil.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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