Families in Brazil are experiencing extreme challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which recently escalated out of control. With physical and mental well-being in danger, high rates of unemployment, and the disruption of in-person learning and care for children, the role of community organizations in providing emergency relief and support is now more crucial than ever.

Débora Dias Gomes who runs Instituto Pertencer (Pertencer), a community service organization in Rio de Janeiro, knows any support families receive during this time can go a long way. Prior to the pandemic, Pertencer’s main focus was to support young people and adults living in vulnerable situations, as well as people living with disabilities. When COVID-19 struck her community, Débora knew she had to expand her reach to families with children. Without support during the crucial window of early development for children and their mothers, exacerbated by the pandemic, this could negatively implicate learning and life outcomes for whole generations.

Luckily, Débora was able to expand her program after she secured a micro-grant late last year from Fundo Baobá, a nonprofit founded in 2011 with a social justice agenda, mobilizing people and resources in service of racial equity for the Black population in Brazil. The organization focuses its work around pillars including Living with Dignity, Education, Economic Development and Mobility, and Communication.

A cornerstone to Pertencer’s project is helping parents engage with their children to stimulate their early development. Staff at Pertencer use virtual tools such as Whatsapp to facilitate activities and provide tips for parents. To complement the activities, parents receive books and toys. To personalize their approach, Pertencer asks families to answer questionnaires about their children, making each interaction with families unique to their needs. In addition to supporting young children during this time, Pertencer runs online career workshops and on-site culinary training to support family financial well-being, which is especially crucial as many parents are losing their jobs because of the pandemic.

Lastly, given the lack of basic hygiene and sanitation supplies, Débora’s group has given families baskets of hygiene products and cleaning/sanitation materials. To date, the program has served more than 100 children and their families.

Why We Invested

Débora is one of 56 organizations and individuals who received micro-grants from Fundo Baobá to address the pandemic's devastation on families with young children. In light of the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we partnered with Maria Cecilia Souto Foundation Vidigal and Porticus América Latina to support an emergency relief fund for vulnerable Brazilian communities and families.

It was important to us to work with an intermediary with expertise and closeness to the community to distribute these funds. We also wanted an organization that centered its approach on racial equity, especially since the pandemic's impact is felt much greater among Black and Indigenous communities, families of low-income, and women with children.

We saw Fundo Baobá as the ideal strategic intermediary partner to distribute emergency aid. It is one of the key community-based grantmaking organizations with a sole focus on racial equity in Brazil, and has true knowledge, expertise and established relationships with local communities. Furthermore, Fundo Baobá is experienced in funding community projects — since their inception in 2011, they have already distributed funding to more than 100 projects across the country, 12 of which were Requests for Proposals (RFP).

We need to help people see that it is possible to transform realities, even with limited resources.
Fernanda Lopes, Program Director, Baobá Fund for Racial Equity

Known as the Baobá Fund for Racial Equity, an open RFP process was employed to allow all community-based organizations and individuals to apply. This effort provided a channel for the voices of local communities to be heard. It was important to us to listen to and hear from the local population themselves on their needs and how we can best support them. Once selected, Fundo Baobá provided recipients with training and planning to help them successfully launch, expand and implement their work. Projects also developed monitoring and evaluation efforts to capture their impact on families and communities. Projects ranged across three main areas, including learning, health and social assistance. Similar to Débora’s project, others in education focused on creating teaching materials and supporting families as they provided for their children’s pedological development.

In addition, we believe that it is essential to invest in organizations run by diverse leaders who reflect the communities we hope to impact. Selma Moreira, the CEO, and Fernanda Lopes, the Program Director, are exceptional Black female leaders with a deep commitment to the cause of racial equity and systemic change, and we are grateful for their partnership and efforts in leading this work. “This investment is aligned with what should be the purpose of philanthropic actions for social justice. It means to work with a focus on impact, and intervene on the causes of inequality. We need to help people see that it is possible to transform realities, even with limited resources,” shared Fernanda Lopes.

Supporting organizations like Fundo Baobá is one small, but critical step in the right direction. Funders collectively need to trust and rely on local organizations that are close to the communities they are aiming to support. Imaginable Futures is committed to building more local partnerships and decolonizing our approach to support healthier systems and thriving families for generations to come.

It was important to us to work with an intermediary with expertise and closeness to the community to distribute these funds. We also wanted an organization that centered its approach on racial equity, especially since the pandemic's impact is felt much greater among Black and Indigenous communities, families of low-income, and women with children.
Luis A. Duarte, Partner, Imaginable Futures