Gisela Solymos

Ashoka Fellow
Sao Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Gisela Solymos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Gisela launched the Center for Nutrition Recovery and Education (CREN) to address the deep psychological effects of malnutrition on Brazilian families. Beyond treating the immediate physiological needs of malnourished children and promoting their recovery, Gisela’s unique methodology identifies specific weaknesses in the child’s family. These include the anguish of not being able to properly feed one’s own child and the insecurity and shame from not knowing how and where to get their next meal. In such fragile circumstances, a family often cannot prevent their child’s malnourishment. Unlike many other centers that simply medicate and hospitalize children with malnutrition, Gisela’s acts in a multidisciplinary way, creating an all-encompassing intervention that is highly focused on all of these factors. It seeks lasting solutions that will provide them with the dignity and the will to overcome their situation.

The center is more than a nutritional rehabilitation center; it is a place that promotes recovery and human development. Gisela’s methodology starts from the basis of the environment in which the child lives, his/her desire to carry out a fruitful and successful life, and other resources that families already possess but do not value. It brings together community outreach to identify children suffering from or at-risk of malnutrition, outpatient care, and a semi-boarding day hospital providing more individualized treatment and education. During the child’s treatment, the center involves and gives active roles to the family by making home visits and offering training and psychological support when necessary. Such a comprehensive plan guarantees a real and lasting transformation in the life of the individual without forcing a separation of the child from the family.

The first venture in Brazil to fight child malnutrition through an interdisciplinary, family-oriented and psychological approach, the center is now developing new tactics to expand its impact beyond Sao Paulo. First, Gisela has created a new Overcoming Malnutrition online platform to spread the methodology. It is the only website in Portuguese, English, and Spanish dealing with the issue, and it is behind new associated strategies combating malnutrition around the region. Its work will complement the investigation and education arm that Gisela is now designing, which will position the center as the leading research institute on the subject. Given Gisela’s success so far in resolving this problem at its roots, addressing the many circumstantial factors that lead to child nutrition, she is ready to take her project to new levels.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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