Changemakers: João Brites, Diogo Silva, Ines Murteira
Country of Implementation: Portugal
Transformers was born from the experience of a break-dance crew from Palmela, a village 50km South Lisbon, in Portugal. Among b-boys and most of the Hip-Hop culture lovers, namely rappers, graffiti writers and DJs, the way most of us had learned to dance, to paint, to sing or to produce music was through a mentor ou mentors that volunteered to teach us, often in the street, not only the technic, but the history and philosophy behind each activity.
We applied that philosophy/ lifestyle that is so much a characteristic of Hip-Hop culture to all the activities a youth can be passionate for learning. Thus, we started a program which bridges kids in schools, prisons, hospitals and host homes that want to learn a specific activity to young talented mentors that volunteered to teach them at least once per week, for 9 months. Currently we are teaching visually impaired kids how to play drums, we are teaching football and graffiti to kids from a low-income community in Odivelas, we are teaching rap, b-boying, drama, waste conversion and swiming to kids in schools, New Style (Hip-Hop) dance and music production in a prision for underage kids, arts and crafts to kids in a pediatric hospital for kids with cancer and photography in low-income communities in Mira-Sintra and Lumiar.
There are 4 important characteristics that define and distinguish the Transformers Movement:
1. Diversity – We work with kids from every backgroung, and not only at-risk youth. We do so because we belive everybody should have the opportunity to learn what he/she is passionate about for free. Besides, we came to realize that for most of the kids the only thing that they have in common among them is that they are part of Transformers – and so we try to use this project as a way to break the stereotypes and prejudices we tend to create towards others. Why shouldnt a kid in a prison for underage kids be best friend with a kid with cancer in a pediatric hospital?
2. Continuity – The project follows the school year, from October of a specific year, to June of the following year. However, the project is pretty much a cycle. We are currently in our second year of operations and we have many activities this year that are made with the same mentors and same kids in the same school that of the first year. Besides, the goal is that the kids we have today become the future mentors, and so on and son!
3. Acting through mentors – the basis of what we do are the mentors – they are the crucial element of this project, because most of the times even though the place where you practice is not the most adequate as long as you have a mentor you can be successful. In Transformers, instead of having a common place where all the kids go learn their activities, it is our mentors that bagpack to go and meet the kids at the institutions where they are and transform classrooms in dance or rap studios, transform the local computers room in a stage where to produce plays, etc._
4. Paybacks – After each cycle of 9 months in which our kids learn what they are passionate about through their mentors, each group of kids is then challenged to giveback to the local community using his/ her talent or super-power. Thus, kids that learned graffiti can bring back to life the walls of their school by means of graffiti, kids that learned photography can use photography as way to preserve the memory of specific events taking place in the community, etc. Thats our slogan: to make the difference doing what we love to do.
Finally, we have 2 kinds of paybacks: the local payback which is made by the teens towards their local communities and the colective payback which is made by all the kids and mentors in the same place during the same day: the T-day. The T-day takes place every June 10 of each year and its concept is of using all the talents of everyone within transformers to transform a degraded and abandoned space in a space that is meaningful and useful for the community.
Our mission is to turn teens into transformers, this is, youth empowered with some kind of talent or ability and use it to the benefit of their community. Our major outcomes are: the kids we work with tend to become more positively engaged in their communities, tend to improve their performance at school and be future mentors.