Discomfort with inequality inspires sisters to create NGOs that change the lives of children and adolescents

The obstacles of a life, full of surprises, have never stopped these sisters believing in their purpose, looking at each other. They idealized and succeeded in creating NGO Terra Livre, a private non-profit social assistance organization with no political or religious ties that works through art, education and solidarity in the defense of the rights of children and adolescents.

Sisters Maris Amado Teixeira de Moura, 49, a retired prosecutor, and Mitzi Amado Teixeira de Moura, 43, daughters of a mother born in Rio and father born in São Paulo, often say that Terra Livre was born out of an unusual feeling: discomfort. “I think that all the action is generated by a nuisance. It is a feeling that things need not be as they are, that they can be different. That the pain of the other is as relevant as mine ”, stressed Mitzi.

For her, cultural and structural reflexes are strong in a society that is not equal. “When we talk about equal rights in a society as unequal as ours, we are talking about dealing with very ingrained structural and cultural issues and all kinds of obstacles and challenges are in that way. We are talking about sensitizing the most privileged people and empowering people excluded opportunities that, according to our law, must be the same for everyone. These are our two target audiences in the NGO: privileged and excluded ”, said Mitzi.

Mitzi, according to Maris, was the first to feel this feeling of discomfort, this desire that the "other person was also happy". At the time, Mitzi was sensitized and already developed some actions with homeless people. “So, our first attitude as a group (the two of us, my husband and a friend) was to deliver food and talk to an elderly man, a homeless person. Soon after, several dear friends (more or less ten) got involved and then we started to informally go to orphanages, hospitals, etc. Until we decided to become official as an association and then we founded the Movimento Terra Livre, which now turned 24 in January ”, recalled Maris, who together with her sister founded the NGO in 1997.

But, while fighting for the creation of the NGO, Maris started an important process of overcoming. Despite passing a public tender for prosecutor, Maris had to face one of her greatest challenges: the pain of having to interrupt her career and leave the profession. In the midst of her career as a prosecutor, she was diagnosed with Burnout Syndrome or Professional Exhaustion Syndrome, a psychic disorder caused by extreme exhaustion, always related to work. “For my part, it was very hard to accept that the profession I loved so much was making me sick. With the support of the Public Prosecutor's Office, through the sensitivity and confidence of the colleagues who then led him, I moved Rio to Goiânia to facilitate health treatment, while we were looking for different prosecutors and even administrative areas, trying to find matters that were more pleasant to me, reported.

However, at that time, Maris had already had a major memory loss that was beginning to appear and impair work, in addition to so many other problems. "After years of medical expertise by the State's official board, it was decided that I was no longer in a position to practice the profession, starting to face the pain of an early retirement". She said that, after working for many years in a region in the northeast of Goiás, she started to have some health problems and sought medical specialists for each symptom that appeared. For uninterrupted headaches, she looked for a neurologist, for consecutive ulcers, gastro, etc. "Years later, with my body and mind exhausted being unable to treat the symptoms that were accumulating, I dealt with severe depression, which made me seek psychological and psychiatric support to take care of my mind and emotions," she said.

But, even with all this, the initial idea of ​​wanting to help others was always present, Maris recalls that entering the Public Prosecutor's Office required her to be very sure of really wanting to promote justice. After graduating, they spent three and a half years of exclusive study, only achieving approval in the 12th public tender. As her intention was to live outside the Rio-São Paulo axis, in a place that had a better quality of life, she started traveling by doing contests and looking to choose a state that I liked, then build a family with her boyfriend, who also wanted to leave Rio. “In these wanderings, I really liked Goiás, being impacted by the kindness and openness of its people, as well as by the natural beauties. I decided that it was there that I wanted to live, so I moved initially alone, to study and focus on passing the contest of the Public Prosecutor of the State of Goiás. Then my then boyfriend, now my husband, moved, and, soon after , also my sister ”, he said.

At that time, Maris already felt the weight of the responsibility to succeed in the new venture. “I even thought that if I didn't pass the competition that year, maybe I could get a job as a cashier in some market with little movement, so that I could have a law book on my lap, and I could continue studying until I reached my goal. That it was not just a personal goal to have a stable job, but it was the outlet for restlessness and the energy to be able to contribute to bring Justice to our world, a place of so many injustices ”, she said. So, the success came a few months later, in 1998, when it was approved in the long dreamed contest, which also ended up causing the relocation of his parents and a total of ten people his family to Goiás. my then boyfriend, today my husband, and, soon after, also my sister ”, she said.


Good dreams are dreams come true. Currently, one of the sisters' dreams is to strengthen Terra Livre as a more active NGO with the social demands of the present moment, either in the affirmation of their own identity as an agent in humanitarian causes to reduce the abyss that social injustice causes, or in training of the team of social educators, psychologist and social worker to have better skills to understand all the dynamics of violence (domestic, institutional, structural, etc.) and thus intervene more effectively with the institution's public: children, adolescents and families in a situation of social exclusion. With welcoming, trauma treatment, overcoming and empowerment.

According to Maris, with the pandemic and the suspension of face-to-face activities for the 100 children and adolescents that Terra Livre serves daily, they had to be at home all the time, without the four meals that are offered, without the careful presence of social educators. (pedagogues who carry out the workshops) and many witnessing the domestic violence in which they see themselves for longer and more times. Then came the need for the NGO to adapt to the difficulties imposed by the pandemic and to start delivering basic food baskets, since the NGO monitors the hunger situation that various families are going through. In addition, they began to provide legal guidance to women victims of violence, as well as to support them in the reconstruction of their lives.

“My clarity for the next actions came there, this suffering. I hope that the socio-education we provide will help boys to grow more empathetic and able to resolve conflicts peacefully, and for girls to grow up recognizing their value and their strengths. May our white children grow up understanding that their strengths do not come their race or skin color, and that black girls grow proud of their appearance and with the lucidity of those who, when understanding the mechanism of prejudice, manage to go beyond it ”, pointed Maris.


An invitation to reflection also comes Maris: “keep your hearts warm and pulsating to look at each child and adolescent in distress, as if it were your own son, nephew, or godson. Let them expand their empathy so that it becomes constant action and attitude, no matter how small or big. My aspiration is that we understand that, regardless of differences - of interests or points of view - peace is possible. And I believe that building it is the best happiness we can achieve ”, she advises.

Motivate, inspire people. So is the story of these two sisters who struggle to help others. And there is nothing more just than being an inspiration to another and vice versa. Mitzi Moura does not measure the words when speaking of Maris. “For me, my sister, the only sister, represents support, safe haven, love and care in action. A strong reference to what is truth and justice. An example of the highest ethics and integrity I have ever seen. Perhaps the highest. She is like a powerful mother who wants to embrace all beings, especially those who need it most. A beacon, a light, a breath for humanity. A rare human being that I have the privilege of meeting and getting to know closely ”, she concluded.
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