Transforming Lives



Countless Northeastern Brazilians have made the trek south in search of a better life.

Following their footsteps in early 2011, Viviana set out from her home in the small town of Duas Estradas, with the hope to find a job in the big city: Rio de Janeiro.

When she arrived, Viviana had no money to support herself and her 7-year old daughter, Maria Isabelle. She moved into the Barreira do Vasco slum, and like many, took work as a housekeeper in a distant wealthy suburb.

But this kept her working night and day while leaving Maria Isabelle all alone to navigate a frightening new life in the slums.

Since she was a young girl, Viviana dreamed of being a seamstress, but she was extremely shy and never managed to express her desire to work with a sewing machine. When she heard about Retalhos Cariocas’ free seamstress courses held right in the Vasco slum’s Residents Association, she began to see a glimmer of hope.

When she reached the workshop, she was delighted with the environment: sewing machines, fabrics, and lines. She concluded that the best thing to do was to take a chance on her big dream of learning to sew and work in fashion.

Viviana’s passion translated quickly into high quality work. Shortly after she arrived, she worked her way to serving as the lead dressmaker for Retalhos Cariocas and now helps run the workshop in collaboration with foreign volunteers.

In May 2011, she had a chance to participate in Rio Fashion Week, one of Latin America’s premier fashion events. Now, less shy and more nimble, she has adapted to the new reality of her hectic new home.

Viviana credits Retalhos Cariocas for making it possible for her to believe in herself. She has gained lifelong job skills and is finally able to achieve financial stability and provide better living conditions for her family.

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