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Portraits - João Gonçalves dos Santos

Lived during 30 years in the CHPB/FHEMIG. He completely lost all family ties. He doesn’t even remember any relative’s name.

The experience of being abandoned and being ill-treated in a psychiatric hospital during a very long time, did not erase from João’s eyes the spark of curiosity nor the childish smile from his face, which he puts up when showing his waiter’s bow tie.

Since January 2004, he has been living in a therapeutic residence and has shown a great interest in learning new activities. He was particularly interested in the waiter’s profession serving people at tables and parties he was called to attend. This attitude encouraged other fellow residents and also professionals working with him. Partnerships were developed and the Hotel Senac/Grogotó of Barbacena offered, free of charge, a training course for waiters.

João visited the hotel, the classrooms and followed the activities of the course . Though this increased his desire to become a professional, he faced the difficulties of the lack of basic education.

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This was a serious problem since he was illiterate. João attended a basic course for reading and writing, but he presented difficulties to learn. He kept on insisting that he wanted to attend the waiter’s course and was not convinced by the vague excuses given to him. Something had to be done.

During meetings, the technical team decided to initiate a basic reading and writing course, pay a teacher and buy the necessary equipment. The team started looking for partnerships to finance this idea.

During meetings, the technical team decided to initiate a basic reading and writing course, pay a teacher and buy the necessary equipment. The team started looking for partnerships to finance this idea.

In 2006 the Brotherhood Campaign was initiated. The technical team was able to obtain funds for this course with the city archdioceses. After revaluating its possibilities, the Hotel Senac/Grogotó started the "First qualified course for waiters" an experimental project for Mental Health patients.

During five months, João and his companions learned etiquette, technique, professional attitudes among other things. They were extremely happy and this could be easily seen on their day-to-day disposition. They took very good care of their waiter’s uniform, the bow tie and the badge until the graduation day when they received their diploma.

However, this was not enough. They needed a job. Again João was insistent and conscious of what he wanted. He started doing odd jobs working as a waiter in parties and finally was able, with two other companions, to share the responsibility of being the official waiter of the round tables at the "II Festival da Loucura" held in Barbacena in April 2007.