University of São Paulo: students in actions to help poor communities during the pandemic

In a year in which the University worked to contain the advancement of the new coronavirus, with the mobilization of scientists and laboratories, in the construction of respirators, creation of virus detection tests and safety equipment, in addition to studies on treatments, simulations and impacts on other types of actions involved the university community in helping society. The University has shown that it has a fundamental role not only in the front line of fighting the disease, but also in supporting people affected by problems resulting from quarantine, social isolation and the financial crisis that resulted from this situation.

There are countless projects and initiatives in which students, teachers and staff were protagonists in this confrontation to the pandemic and which included direct aid to vulnerable populations, consultancies and information material to assist micro and small entrepreneurs, educational resources to contribute with teachers and students, in addition to alternatives for the members of the USP community to experience social isolation. Check out some actions that stood out in this new world configuration.

Attention to those who need it most
“I was fine in college, Poli [USP’s Polytechnic School] gave me a good support, helped me a lot so that I could continue studying during the quarantine, but knowing that people close to me were not able to study took me out of sleep, and I needed to create something ”, said Diego Peres, student of Environmental Engineering, who mobilized 40 volunteers, coming from different courses at the University, to provide classes and duty shifts to children from the periphery . A resident of Capão Redondo, a neighborhood in the extreme south of the city of São Paulo, he created the project Da Periferia Para o Mundo and aims to make a difference in the lives of children and adolescents reached by the project.

Focused also on the periphery and knowing that the projections of unemployment and lack of income would reach the black population of these regions much more, students from the Medical School of USP Larissa Alexandre and Rafael Marques created actions to reduce the effects of covid-19 in communities with fundraising campaigns, educational videos on hygiene and also with the creation of a totem with alcohol gel for commercial establishments. They founded the Preta.ID project who, among several actions, worked in the São Remo community, which is next to the USP University Campus in São Paulo, with partnerships that made 4.5 tons of food available for 300 families. “As peripheral black students, we are on both sides of the bridge, and this offers us a much wider range of perspectives to propose sustainable and really effective solutions,” said Larissa.


The student Diego Peres, who mobilized more than 40 volunteers for tutoring classes, and a student of the project Da Periferia Para o Mundo – Photo: Personal archive

Students Rafael and Larissa who created Preta.ID to take health actions to the population of the periphery- Photo: Personal archive
On another front, to expand access to justice for vulnerable groups, a group of students and professors, from the Faculty of Law (FD) and the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU), created the country’s first Legal Design Laboratory, which currently works on the theme of violence against black women seeking to simplify access to justice . They start from research with victims and other actors involved, such as the Social Assistance Reference Center (Cras) of the City of São Paulo and the Women’s Police Station.

The university role also brought together students who are part of Enactus, an international non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. There are seven groups at the University that work on more than 20 projects that seek to impact communities where USP campuses are installed. The actions are broad, ranging from cooking classes to the visually impaired to action that offers better housing conditions to people who are in a situation of socioeconomic vulnerability. In one of these actions, in the “Entre Isolamento, Laços” campaign, students from the Faculty of Law collected hygiene kits for reeducated women from the Capital Penitentiary, in the neighborhood of Santana, north of São Paulo, because, with the pandemic and the ban family visits, they stopped receiving basic supplies like sanitary pads, soaps, shampoo and toothpaste.

Lack of access to basic hygiene and food items, lack of equipment to communicate and study, the long lines of patients waiting for care and remote communities that need reliable information. Situations like these were the driving forces behind several volunteer initiatives on USP’s campuses. Most of them focus on taking the knowledge acquired outside the walls of the University, combining the desire to help with the opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom.


Volunteer students perform screening at the outpatient clinic of Hospital das Clínicas, selecting patients with suspected coronavirus – Photo: Disclosure / EE

Professionals thank facial protectors produced in 3D printers in action by students of the Polytechnic School – Photo: Disclosure / E-Group

Student participates in the campaign that took personal hygiene products for reeducated women from the Female Penitentiary of the Capital – Photo: Enactus São Francisco
At the beginning of the pandemic, in April, groups from the university community developed voluntary actions for the production and distribution of facial protectors for health professionals, as in the initiative called E-Group, with students from the Polytechnic School. Also, a group of teachers from the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH) collected used computers for students who could not follow the classes at a distance without equipment. And there was also the collection of food for vulnerable communities, such as the Projeto Criança Feliz which distributed basic food baskets in the Lorena region. In the capital, donation of hygiene kits and production of facial masks to the community in Butantã. Other actions throughout the year can be seen at this link .

Solutions born from entrepreneurship
To overcome the crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic, many micro and small entrepreneurs counted on the help of junior companies from USP, organizations that work with the support of the University and the faculty, with a focus on entrepreneurial education. The junior company in the Marketing course at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH), for example, participated in the Transforme SP project to provide free consultancy and guided companies on market intelligence, positioning strategies and brand building.

Thinking about how to ensure the safe displacement of millions of people, the junior company of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (FauuspJr), in partnership with the junior engineering company of Mackenzie University (Ejem), created the oniPlus project , a bus adapted to avoid the spread of diseases that won the Covid-19 Open Innovation Challenge organized by Brasil Júnior, the confederation of junior companies in Brazil. Another student entity, A FEA Social, formed by students from the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting (FEA), created the Social in Action portal , to publicize Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that work to combat the pandemic and promote the meeting between who needs help and who wants to help.

For the event market to continue promoting its activities, the USP student startup in São Carlos called Kosmos created a platform that enables customized 3D environments capable of virtually simulating an event , as if it were being held in person. Scenarios with booths for exhibitions and auditoriums for the presentation of lectures and recorded or live presentations are some examples of what can be projected. Through a 360º virtual tour, the idea is that the guests have a sensory experience, with total immersion in the event, even from a distance.


OniPlus, adaptive bus to prevent the transmission of contagious diseases – Photo: Disclosure / FauuspJr

Platform created by students from USP simulate the virtual visit to stands and other event experiences – Photo: Disclosure / Kosmos
In search of solutions to the crisis, USP also promoted a technological marathon in which the participants developed business models, products, services and technologies for bars and restaurants, considering the new scenarios of the pandemic. The event, called SancaThon, fosters entrepreneurial culture and arouses the desire of participants to develop innovative projects through a targeted proposal, offering mentors and training to assist them in the development of viable prototypes and business models.

The USP Covid-19 Challenge, an ideathon (marathon of creative and innovative ideas) also sought solutions to combat real and urgent problems that went through stages of the entrepreneurial process, with specialized mentoring from the University. Organized by the USP Entrepreneurship Center (NEU) with partner entities, the event focused on identifying important needs in the context of a pandemic, with innovation as the highlight.

Family farmers in the Ribeirão Preto region were able to count on legal guidance carried out by the Support Program for Indebted People of the Ribeirão Preto Law School (FDRP). The initiative uses social networks and WhatsApp, which is the most used means of communication for these farmers, to disseminate rights and inform procedures for accessing federal government financing.


Plataforma Appadoca, for income generation for cooks, was one of the winners of USP Covid-19 Challenge – Photo: Reproduction / USP Covid-19 Challenge

USP Ribeirão Program provides legal assistance to family farmers through social networks such as Whatsapp to obtain financing – Arte sobre foto / Pixabay
Education initiatives
Several extension projects involving cultural and scientific actions have adapted to the virtual format to help elementary school students and the general public to have quality content with easy access via the internet. Promoted by professors and undergraduate and graduate students, these projects seek to bring current knowledge generated at the University, innovating in form, language and content in school subjects such as Chemistry, Physics, Genetics, Astronomy, in addition to knowledge about geopolitics, biodiversity and others topical issues. The Jornal da USP selected 8 of these projects that stood out in the virtual environment.

In order to deal with fake news and scientific denialism, the scientific communication groups União Pró-Vacina and Vidya Academics, from Ribeirão Preto, work with various educational materials on social networks. One of the featured materials explains how the “anatomy” of false information works , alerting you to details in the message that indicate whether the content received fits the structure that false information usually has. In another production, they show how to talk to deniers , the main behaviors and strategies that can be adopted and also give tips on how to counter more frequent arguments.

Initiatives also seek to guide the population of rural areas with educational actions and virtual materials promoted by the Faculty of Zootechnics and Food Engineering (FZEA), in Pirassununga. The action includes infographics, voice messages, videos in Libras (Brazilian Sign Language) and posters that guide about a set of conducts, procedures, actions and activities to mitigate the risk of contagion of covid-19, in its work routines and in the lives of rural producers and producers, both inside and outside their properties.


Projects like Cientificamente offer experiments that can be carried out at home by teachers to be part of videos and transmissions in distance classes – Photo: Reproduction / YouTube

Using social networks, scientific outreach groups from USP União Pró-Vacina and Vidya Academics advise against false information – Art on photo / União Pró Vacina
Other actions offered online activities for teaching science, aimed at teachers and students of basic education, such as the Cecília project , which teaches concepts of astronomy, geophysics and meteorology in experiments that can be done at home; online courses such as Understanding Oceanography , about the main concepts of Marine Sciences; the Dial Robotics , offering virtual lectures to schools on the careers of applied sciences, robotics and process college entrance examination; the InForme-ConsCiência blog, which offers didactic materials and on-line assistance via e-mail for teachers and students of elementary schools; in addition to events that seek to arouse girls’ interest in science as in the event Science for them , There will be a Girl in Science and Astrominas project .

Online course initiatives such as the Astrominas project helped to promote science education among public school students – Photo: Freepik

Virtual lecture of Disque Robótica that brings knowledge about exact sciences to public schools during the pandemic – Photo: Personal archive
The increase in the number of complaints of domestic violence in indigenous communities in the region of São Gabriel da Cacheira, in the state of Amazonas, during the period of isolation due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus motivated the production of a booklet to inform and strengthen support networks to women . Named Domestic violence and sexual violence in times of pandemic. Support networks and complaints: you are not alone, the project material coordinated by José Miguel Nieto Olivar, from USP’s School of Public Health (FSP), was designed based on the reality of Rio Negro, in dialogue with local indigenous women, and it provides simple guidance on what happens when a woman, child or adolescent reports a violence suffered and how they can be supported in this reporting process.

In another initiative, a booklet helps children and adolescents to seek help in the event of domestic and institutional violence. Produced by the Ribeirão Preto School of Nursing (EERP), it presents simple language and illustrations that indicate where and how to seek help.

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