Casa Weekly

Friday, February 16, 2007

Casa's 4th Birthday

Last night, February 15th, 2007, we celebrated into the night the 4th birthday of CatComm's Casa technology hub for community leaders.

About 75 friends joined in the fun, with local community leaders from projects as diverse as Fifth Element, Argilano Clay Works, Asa Branca Community Sewerage, Estimativa, The DotCom Health Agency (community radio project), Community Trash Collectors, Samba Republic, and Patchwork Quilts.

A dozen college students from the US-based International Honors Program also joined us, as did Washington, DC activist Zein Elamine of the Campaign to Save Our Schools and member and founder of GlobalLives, David Evan Harris. Alfie Hanssen, a University of Pennsylvania Graduate student also joined in. Alfie is in Brazil using Catalytic Communities and the Casa as a home base from which to do research for his computer simulation game -- a game to simulate the choices made by a young person living in a favela as they work to own their own home.

Party activities included mask-making for carnival, partaking of foods, drinks, and blowing out the birthday candles, along with reveling in the carnival celebrations happening below, in the historic square outside the Casa's windows. Every year, the local street carnival in Rio is kicked off by the first of many neighborhood blocos, which happens to be Escravos da Mauá, which congregates and marches from our local square below.

Over these past 4 years, Catalytic Communities has carefully built an environment at the Casa capable of supporting community organizers from across Rio's favelas, or squatter communities. Many lessons have been learned, and much success has been achieved. For a sense of how our network works at the Casa and beyond, click here for a flash demo. In 4 years over 1400 visitors have been to the Casa, 1000 of them local organizers from over 160 neighborhoods.

On March 2, 2007, we will be launching our Community Advisory Board, comprised of 10 leaders who frequent the Casa. The objective of the CAB is to formally collect, harness and implement ideas by concerned leaders as to how the Casa can be best used to serve and attract more community organizers. Leaders were selected by staff based on their diversity (geography, age, gender, etc.) and, more importantly, their demonstrated concern for the wellbeing of the Casa and Catalytic Communities over the years. The March 2nd meeting will bring these 10 leaders together with staff for an official launch of the group, discussion of initial topics and concerns to highlight during future meetings, and setting up the framework for future meetings. We expect to meet monthly. One of the group's early topics will be organizing for funds expected from Rotary International mid-year that will allow us to set up permanent community radio and documentary film production workshops!