Rio de Janeiro, London – Hadi Bakkou escaped Aleppo in 2014 for fear he would be forced to serve in Syrian regime forces fighting for control of the city. He had to abandon his family and his economic studies.
Three years later, the young refugee started to work as an Arabic language teacher in a special language school in Rio de Janeiro.
In the adjacent classroom, other students learn Spanish from a refugee who fled the chaos in Venezuela, while a refugee from the Congo gives others French lessons.
Thirteen teachers in Rio de Janeiro and 14 in Sao Paulo give the language lessons as part of an initiative launched by the Abraco Cultural (Cultural Embrace) NGO.
Bakkou told AFP that it is a great idea because the organization has created a way to help refugees get help without them asking for it. “You earn money to pay your rent and at the same time you make friends,” he added.
Abraco co-founder Carolina de Oliveira Vieira said when refugees arrive, they are unable to integrate in society because they do not speak Portuguese, the official language of Brazil.
She added that they need something they can join where they can feel welcome, otherwise they will have little interest in learning and they may end up in a ghetto.
Chantrel Koko, a Congolese who arrived in Brazil in 2012, and was among the first teachers recruited by the NGO. After his lessons, other teachers help him on improving his Portuguese.
Each teacher has been provided with educational training and a number of books featuring European-style teaching standards, but with different cultural references.