Founded in April, 1991, by a group of education and health professionals, AMO is a non-government organization preoccupied with the precarious situation and vulnerability of the children in the community of Rio Doce, Olinda, in the infamous North-East of Brazil.

The founders of the AMO School wanted to give these children an alternative to loitering and working on the street by providing them with special activities in a school setting which would cater to their identified needs:

  • a need for sufficient food to supplement food at home
  • a need to be literate at the Grade One level upon leaving the AMO School
  • a need to have self-esteem and self-worth
  • a need to obtain skills of sharing, co-operating and being respectful
  • a need to obtain skills to cope with the violence in society
  • a need for improvement of the family income and housing
  • a need to learn income-generating skills for making cultural items to sell in the market

The third largest city of Pernambuco with a population of 391,433, Olinda covers 41.83 square kilometres yielding 9,357 habitants per square kilometre (fifth largest demographic density in Brazil) according to the 2000 Demographic Statistics of IBGE. The monthly household earnings of 44.96 % of the families are up to two minimal salaries (1090 Reais/$681); the average is 3.787 minimal salaries (2064 Reais/$1290). (The AMO families, being the most needy, earn ONE minimal salary, or less , 545 Reais/$341 per month—a subsistent salary!) Employment, according to IBGE, is in the Service (26%) and “Non-Specified” (27%) (odd-jobs) area. Olinda has a predominately young population, 36.89% between the ages of 0-9 years; and 63.11 between 10 and 19 years old.

According to the Municipality of Olinda (2004), since Olinda has 60 “poor areas”/favelas (slum) and with the rapid expansion of other favelas and low-income housing (COHAB), the children and adolescents come in direct contact with drugs (consumption and traffic), prostitution, begging, and involvement in gangs. They become subject to the physical, psychological and material violence in their society. (Olinda at the moment has the dubious distinction of being the most violent city in Brazil!). It is no wonder that these children become vulnerable to their incredible social and economic reality: overcrowding of housing; low family income; insufficient government social programs; underemployment; loss of dignity and self-worth; and violence! Even the Municipality of Olinda admits to having diverse problems typical of large cities but having a budget of a small city which is insufficient to meet the needs of its population.