From the street to the market

From the risk of delinquency to the risk of business. Underage protagonists in an expanding purse production business. This is the account shared at the EoC assembly underway in Sao Paulo.

From the street to the market

By Paolo Lòriga

It's not located in the busiest part of the expo of 650 participants of the Economy of Communion Assembly, but it is the most crowded stand during the breaks from the working groups. They sell women's purses, jackets, and women's clothing. Everyone can see the success they had in attracting visitors (which also seem to be customers).

The lines of artisan products are a mix of quality and modern design, with nice original touches, just as is the origin of the raw materials used: tarps from trucks that are no longer in use, scraps of leather and jeans that would not be used in any other way, used out of ecological consciousness. But these are not the only typical characteristic of this young business. No, it's not the main characteristic, because the employees and underage youth or barely over 18 have also come from difficult situations.

The brand of the factory, "Dalla strada" (From the Street), is therefore perfectly explains the entrepreneurial initiative that established its headquarters at Polo Spartaco, just five kilometers from Mariapolis Ginetta, last April. A small two-story building hosts the well-cared windows of products and working spaces. Knowing the origins, it seems more like a bet than true productions, but seeing the dozens of youth working and listening to the reasons that motivate them, one can understand the bounty of productive results that guarantee the future of the business.

A good part of the young workers come from a neighborhood with evident poverty - Jardin Margarida, in Vargem Grande Paulista, 30 kilometers outside of Sao Paulo. "Ours is more than a business. We help one another, because we work as a group, but also because there's an atmosphere of family here. We begin each day with the Word of Life from the Gospel, and this helps us to overcome hardships." Divani is eighteen-years-old and joined the business after a year of professional training and an internship in the North-East, in Recife, at the main headquarters of the business in Ginetta Business Park, linked to the principles of the Economy of Communion.

Behind the two businesses is the meekness and determination of Joao Bosco Lima de Santana, an entrepreneur who went to Italy to specialize in purse production and who then returned to his country to start a profitable business. But something greater within him was his true motivation. When he was young, he me the spirituality of the Focolare and was touched by Chiara Lubich's proposal to "die for your own people".

Life then took  him down other paths. But when he met Fr. Renato and his house of youth, which welcomes teenagers and children from the street, it confirmed his wish to "give my abilities and my life to give young people a profession. Teaching people to work is a kind of development, and we have experienced that love put into practice for a great cause is capable of renewing things, ideas and people who come from the street."

Because this belief is verified daily, Joao Bosco can credibly affirm that "the youth hold the first place in our business - them, their formation - not production, although we do aim at quality." It's a paradox to entrepreneurial logic, but one which brings fruit. A group from the Ivory Coast has asked to learn about this productive activity in order to begin something similar there, and through the Youth for United World, with the help of the Equiverso cooperative, these purses are now exported to Italy. Small multi-nationals of the EoC are growing.

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