Registered as a sponsored child when she was just 7 years old, Luana, now 18, is an exuberant young woman.
Over the years, she has participated in a number of different projects and, as a youth, has put everything she learned from Plan International to good use.
As Luana talks about her childhood, she recalls that she had to spend at least one day a week fetching water from a nearby village with her mother. For many years, there was no water supply system serving the rural community in Brazil where she was born.
"It was very difficult for us, because the nearest place to get water was six km away", she said.
As well as collecting water, Luana was also responsible for helping her mother wash her siblings’ clothes.
"But, now the children here don’t have to do this anymore, thanks to Plan," she added happily.
Plan started working in Luana’s community in 2004. She fondly remembers spending time at the play center the organization built when she was a young child.
But, they are just childhood memories now. A few years ago, heavy rains left Luana and her mother homeless. Their house collapsed and they lost all their furniture and personal belongings.
"That time was very difficult because we lost everything,” she said. “With help from neighbors, we built a makeshift shelter in the backyard of our old home. We lived there for many months, until we could rebuild our lives.”
Family life is very important for Luana.
"I like playing with my nephews and nieces very much,” she said. “I even have a blackboard in the yard, and I try to teach them a little bit of what I learn at school.”
Hardworking, Luana is studying at a school that follows the “alternance principal,” which is very common in rural areas as it reduces truancy and school drop-outs. Students split their time between formal classroom education and vocational training. Luana spends 15 days each month at boarding school, and the rest of the time is spent at home, where she is learning new farming techniques.
She is participating in the New Quilombos Project. Plan International is supporting 190 families from three quilombola communities to expand their crop production. Through practical workshops, the communities have learned to create sustainable farming systems, which will yield them a higher income and reduce poverty and social exclusion.
In Luana’s home, she has taken on responsibility for maintaining the family garden. She takes great pride in the blossoming tomatoes, berries, and other fruits and vegetables.
With Plan’s support, Luana was also able to participate in a conference on quilombola communities in the Americas.
"It was a very interesting experience as I could meet and talk with people from various places, with similar life stories to mine,” she said.
Despite her young age, Luana has seen and experienced a lot, which is why she dreams big. She wants to leave her community for a while to live in a place where she can study journalism. The choice seems very natural to her.
"I am very curious; I like to ask questions and be well-informed," she explains.
She wants to tell the world about what life is like in the community where she was born.
"It's all set. In the first half of next year, I’ll move away to study journalism,” she said with a wide smile.