My name is Taynara Almeida, and I’m 21 years old. I was born in Nova Holanda, Complexo da Maré, and still live here today. It’s one year since I came to Fight for Peace, to finish my secondary education on the New Pathways programme.

I dropped out of school in eighth grade, when I was 17, and I decided to start studying again to get myself a job, go to university, who knows…my real dream is to do the test to get into the Navy.

Studying here at Fight for Peace is very different to what I’m used to. My teacher is Diego, and he really encourages us to study and learn – I like him a lot. I also like the friendships I’ve made here.

Today I can see that I didn’t use to like studying because I wasn’t being encouraged, even though my mum used to tell me to go back to school. In fact, it was my mum who knew about Fight for Peace, and we both came here for me to sign up. When I was at school, I used to skip lots of classes, and when I didn’t skip, the teacher often didn’t show up, so I would go to school and come straight home. I didn’t even have a favourite subject at that time, it was hard enough just to get me to go to school.

When I stopped studying, I didn’t look for work, and my mum would tell me to go and look for a job, or sign up for a course. But I was “a kid” still and I didn’t have so much responsibility, right? But then I got a bit older, more people started to say things, family, people on the street, and I thought, “Yeah, I really need to do something”.

I had the idea of doing the test to get into the Navy, but it was just a distant dream until I started at Fight for Peace. Now I’m here, I know for certain that I’m going to do it. I even have a favourite subject, History, although it’s impossible for me to enjoy Maths (laughs).

Today I can’t imagine myself not studying or reading – I already liked reading cartoon books, but now I’m reading much more, and lots of different things. And I’m writing as well, because Diego always encourages us to write essays, poetry – it’s one essay after the other, and I remember when we had to do an essay of 30 lines! It was the first time I had written so much. Now I really like writing about my community, about our day-to-day life.

I love living here. Obviously there are negative aspects – the violence, which means that people who don’t live here have negative preconceptions and are scared to come here – but living here is great. There are a lot of shops, a lot of organisations like Fight for Peace, which I think are the best thing about the community. Lots of people dream about moving out of Maré, but I don’t, I don’t want to leave here. Obviously, like everyone else, I want to achieve certain things, but my dream is to stay in Maré.

I can see how much I have grown and developed at Fight for Peace. There was so much I didn’t know before coming here. If I could give the 17-year-old Taynara some advice, it would be to never stop studying. I think what was missing for me at that time was the encouragement and the opportunities. In my family, not everybody has gone to university, and I think that is because they didn’t have the options we have in Maré today. And that is my dream: that one day everybody has the same opportunities that I am getting right now.