RONALDO MONTEIRO: from prisoner to social entrepreneur
Ronaldo Monteiro, 47, was serving 13 years in a Brazilian jail for planning the kidnapping of the owner of the company where he worked. In 1998, CDI decided to open its first school in a maximum-security prison, the same one where Ronaldo had been serving his sentence. Ronaldo became increasingly involved in the CDI School. Slowly, he began to envision a new path for his life. He became an instructor and was granted one day off of his sentence for every two days worked in the CDI School. He started organizing computer courses for the inmates’ children and wives, who were normally from poor communities with little or no access to new technologies. Teaching inmates about computers and technology would certainly give them better chances of finding jobs and generating income for their families once they’d completed their terms. The school also provided new opportunities for the prisoners’ families, which were able to take classes on visiting days at the school. The positive ripple effect was now reaching beyond prison gates. When Ronaldo left prison, he founded a nonprofit organization to provide assistance and training to inmates and their families. Today, this organization serves as an incubator for 200 small businesses – all projects of former inmates. It also houses a CDI school, where these individuals learn how to use technology as a tool to foster their social and economic inclusion and change their realities. Ronaldo’s project has gained important support from several organizations, including the financial contribution of one very special supporter – the same man he was planning on kidnapping several years ago and an Ashoka fellowship. Ronaldo’s daughter Tatyana, who learned how to use computers in jail while visiting her father, is currently a teacher in a female prison in Rio.
MARCOS SILVA: beating the odds in Rio’s Morro dos Macacos slum
Marcos Silva was born in Morro dos Macacos, one of the most violent favelas in Rio de Janeiro against a backdrop of drug trafficking and violent crime. A recent study shows that there are 102 violent deaths per 100,000 youth between 15-24 in Rio, a number much lower than Israel (5.3 per 100,000) and comparable to the most violent areas of Iraq today. Brazil is currently the third country in the world, behind Colombia and Venezuela, where youth most die victim of homicide. Marcos could have become part of this statistic. By the age of seven he was working in the entry-level position of the drug industry, serving as a lookout and letting his bosses know whenever policemen came into sight. At the age of twelve he became a drug user and two years later a dealer in his own right. His first prison sentence came at the age of seventeen, his next two years later. After another brush with the law at the age of twenty Marcos turned to CDI. Technology became a new alternative and hope for Marcos to turn his life around. Not only did he find education in the CDI environment but it became a sanctuary from which Marcos could start over. Marcos is now a CDI educator, teaching technology in the community where he grew up and serving as a multiplier to other youth by offering them the same opportunity he received from CDI.
CDI PARÁ: coming together to fight child sexual abuse
CDI students from a small rural village (population: 20,000) in the state of Para detected an epidemic of sexual abuse in their community during a class discussion that asked students to reflect on the biggest challenges facing their community. After the problem was selected, students were asked to brainstorm on how technology could be used to change that reality. They began awareness campaigns, organized petitions, held demonstrations and wrote to state government authorities using their newly learned skills – computers and internet – in a campaign that lasted over 1 year. Their actions resulted in the opening of a child services agency in their town, with psychological and medical assistance and other services for the abused children and their families. That town is now a regional reference in the fight against sexual abuse and the number of cases of reported sexual abuse has plummeted.