SAO PAULO – The sound of barking at daybreak heralds the arrival of therapy dogs at Sao Paulo’s Casa de Passagem shelter for asylum applicants as part of a program developed by a Brazilian NGO.
The shelter’s 40 residents, mostly from Nigeria and Angola, say that adapting to a new country is not always easy.
Many of them have grown disillusioned while confronting the difficulty of finding jobs in recession-plagued Brazil.
But once a month, they are able to put their woes and worries aside for a few hours, thanks to the volunteers who bring the dogs to Casa de Passagem.
Interacting with the dogs overcomes the barriers of mistrust, fear, and prejudice, while fostering connections among the refugees, who usually spend around six months in the shelter.
Oyn, a girl from Nigeria, cuddles a small dog called Pequeno and sings him a lullaby, joined by one of the volunteers from INATTA, which launched the “Refugee’s Best Friend” project a year ago.
“When you bring a dog, you open a door to communicate with them,” INNATA’s Monica Yong told EFE. “Sometimes, they are withdrawn and they don’t want to talk. But all of them like dogs, and even those who are scared of the dogs end up showing affection for them.”