Refugee’s Best Friend Project

Perhaps you are not yet aware of the fact, but Brazil is one of the main destinations for war refugees in the Americas, receiving mainly Syrian, Nigerian, Haitian and Angolan refugees.

Versão em Português

There are thousands of adults, elderly people and children living in shelters in the city, all struggling to adapt, day by day, to a new society, a new language and new culture.

In such an extreme situation like this, every help is both welcome and necessary. Thus we decided to connect the reason for INATAA existing to this sad global reality, launching a pioneering therapy session in the world, 100% directed towards the emotional needs of refugees.

Watch the campaign spot.

In the words
of the creators
of the project.

Cristiane Blanco, Psicóloga
responsável técnica INATAA.

We were all anxious... In the volunteer group, there was a mix of anxiety due to doing something innovative, but there was also the feeling of happiness at the possibility of making the difference in the lives of people that had suffered so much... In spite of all the conversation we had had with the team from the Institution, the hours studying articles about treating refugees, culture, spiritual orientation, etc. we didn't know exactly how we would be received... That is the complicated thing about doing something innovative... We took a deep breath and started the visit... Initially everyone was shy... some even reluctant...but suddenly the children broke the barriers (cultural, social and emotional) and started to interact with the dogs and the volunteers. A few minutes later, the magic occurred! Children were stroking, brushing, walking or playing with the dogs!

The timid looks gave way to broad smiles, and children laughing with joy! As for the adults, their approach was somewhat gradual, slower, but nonetheless pleasurable. Many produced their first smiles as they watched their happy children interacting with the dogs and took up the courage to get closer and even take photos of such an unusual day for everyone. We don't need to speak the same language, not even have the same beliefs. Love and kindness brings everything together, creating an atmosphere of peace and happiness. I hope this moment can show the world that it is possible to love, regardless of colour, race, religion or whatever other criteria the human being invents to justify their prejudice.

José Roberto Mariano,
manager of Casa de Passagem
Terra Nova

Here at the Casa de Passagem Terra Nova, we are always concerned about bringing activities and novelties that are pertinent to the needs of the people that live here with us. Our main objective in everything we do is to allow the children, adults and families to remain very much at ease... respecting the space and individuality of each of them. The treatment with dogs of INATAA was very well received, in fact it was marvellous. At first I thought we might not achieve a very significant participation, because getting the whole group together is never that simple. But to my surprise, forty-one of our residents took part in the recreational encounter with the dogs. It was much better than we could have possibly imagined. Much of the success of the initiative can be attributed to the involvement of all the volunteers of INATAA ,

who talked personally to all the residents, making everyone feel an integral part of the activity. At the end of the visit, the children, still full of emotional, some even crying because they didn’t want the dogs to leave, were already asking when the next visit would be, which in itself proved the success of the Refugee’s Best Friend Project. Generally speaking, I was very satisfied with the involvement of the users, the participation, the dynamic and the strategy that was used by the group from INATAA to quickly break the initial apprehension. The group has now become integrated... men, women, children. It was very good and very moving. We are looking forward to the developments.

The first phase of the Refugee’s Best Friend project foresees 6 months of visits and boasts the partnership of the Casa de Passagem Terra Nova, one of the main shelters in Sao Paulo. The sessions will be accompanied by professional supervision from a range of areas such as pedagogists, psychologists and, of course, our dog therapists and volunteers.

Here are some photos
from the first sessions.
Look how great it was!

“It has been so long since a Saturday has started so happily. It has changed the children’s day, and ours too”.
- Nigerian refugee

“My son is frightened of everything... but with the dogs, something I just can’t explain happened.. just look, he doesn't look like the same child, it is quite unbelievable”.
- Congolese refugee

“We noticed quite early on that something was going on, we heard different noises... when we got to the community room, we saw the dogs. All the children were smiling. It was something very special to see”.
- Syrian refugee

“In my country, nobody can have a big dog. Big dogs are police dogs. We grow up in fear and are very wary of them. This is the first time we have had contact with such big and friendly dogs”.
- Angolan refugee

Less intolerance,
More dogs

In the end, whatever your opinion about opening borders to refugees, the really important thing is that everyone should be against intolerance and prejudice and, just like the dogs, treat the immigrants that arrive in your country with love, respect, and humanity.

Help Inataa take dog therapy to even more shelters, hospitals and nursing homes.