CAIS – Centre for Support and Social Integration Brazil-Canada

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The strength of female volunteerism supporting Brazilian immigrants.

Group of volunteers and CAIS directors

By Marta Almeida | Translated by Loretta Murphy

Founded in 1999 as the Brazil-Angola Community Information Centre, from the beginning CAIS counted on the presence of women in their services. These volunteers and directors, with the support of several men, provided the necessary support to thousands of Brazilians living in Toronto.

Engaged Direction

Currently, the board consists of four women: Rosana Entler, Roberta Cardoso, Juliana Ferreira and Victoria Mull. These four, like many women in Canada, bend over backwards to balance work, family and volunteering. “Helping CAIS contribute to the dissemination of Brazilian culture is a constant challenge and I glow with every little achievement. This volunteer position gives me, among other things, growth and personal satisfaction, ” says Roberta. Victoria agrees: “As a CAIS volunteer, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about non-profit organizations, to organize events and to meet many people. CAIS is like a family.” Juliana also highlights an important experience that she has had in the institution: “I had the opportunity to participate in the research Latin American Undocumented Workers in GTA, developed by Drs. Denise Gastaldo and Lilian Guimarães. And I’m pleased to have helped not only the Brazilian community, but also with social policies on the issue of public health.”

Programs and Services

CAIS offers the following community services:

Portuguese Workshop: for children 3-10 years old, its main activities include teaching the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil and dissemination of Brazilian culture, based on a constructivist and participatory philosophy, involving not only the volunteer teachers and students who do not pay for the classes, but also parents and partners.

Gather ‘Round: aims at bringing together Brazilians and lovers of Brazilian culture (regardless of nationality) through formal activities, such as lectures and cultural activities, and informal activities, such as a good chat and exchange experiences. It is an important tool for the construction of the network, which greatly helps immigrants.

Guidance for Newcomers: the purpose is to welcome and provide culturally sensitive information to Brazilian newcomers to Canada.

Cultural Events: the objective is to disseminate our culture, and to promote social integration and fundraising for the institution. Events include: June Festival, Carnival Ball for Kids, Summer BBQ, etc.

Volunteers and challenges

Maintaining the quality of programs offered and organizing new projects are challenges to the institution, which also struggles to maintain the number of volunteers. CAIS has about 35 regularly engaged volunteers and approximately 20 irregulars who help at events. Among them, women like Conceição Aparecida, who has taught Portuguese classes, and now participates in the Gather ‘Round activities: ” This job means I can give back to the two communities, Brazilian and Canadian, everything that I have received since I was born… It’s like an exchange, a way of deserving to be in this country. ” The motivation of the volunteers is a priority, says Victoria who adds: ” Volunteers are our most important piece, and without them, CAIS does not exist. ” If you would like to learn more about the institution and the programs offered, you can access the site www.caisbrasil.org.