Nova União leader’s end-of-the-year charity banquet

Known for his involvement in the promotion of Jiu-Jitsu events around Arizona, with the Arizona State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (AZSBJJF) and his GD Jiu-Jitsu events company, and the solid results his team of gi-clad warriors achieves in competition, Gustavo Dantas is also recognized for the charitable endeavors he performs around the state where he resides, collecting food for the needy and the like.

A recent article published on the website and written by Dantas’s girlfriend Kristina Barlaan -current American National No-Gi and Arizona State Champion at blue belt – sheds light on a likely origin of Gustavo’s sense of moral obligation. On a recent trip to Gustavo’s birthplace of Rio de Janeiro the couple witnessed the end-of-the-year banquet the black belt leader of Nova União Arizona’s master and mentor Andre Pederneiras held for elderly residents of the Santo Amaro low-income housing area in Rio de Janeiro’s southern zone. The following is Barlaan’s account of the proceedings.

Andre Pederneiras and wife Dani

Andre Pederneiras and wife Dani

On Sunday, December 20, 2009, Andre Pederneiras, co-founder of Nova Uniao and owner of the Brazilian fitness gym, Upper Sports Club (, held the 3rd Annual Holiday Banquet for the Senior Citizens of Morro Santo Amaro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Morro Santo Amaro is known as a “favela” which is a low-income neighborhood built upon the hills of Rio. Many of the people who live in these favelas, such as Morro Santo Amaro, cannot afford to have a nice meal in celebration of the holidays, but Andre has made a way to provide a special holiday meal for the Seniors of the hill community.

The morning before the Banquet, Andre headed to the open food

Line to enter the banquet

Line to enter the banquet

marketplace in Sao Cristovao at 6AM to purchase all the food and supplies necessary to feed at least 300 people. When all the purchases were made, and the food packed into his SUV, Andre personally delivered the food to the venue where the food would be prepared and the Banquet would take place: a small, cement building sitting in the heart of Morro Santo Amaro. Upon looking at the building, a person might wonder, “Why here? Why not find a better venue?” Andre’s work in the community does not stop with this Banquet. The building is also where Andre provides programs to enhance the quality of life for the people of Morro Santo Amaro. These programs include Aerobics Classes for the Senior citizens, taught by the high-caliber instructors from Upper, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Classes for the youth and young adults, instructed by Nova Uniao Black Belt and Pro-MMA fighter, Marlon Sandro. So, despite the size of the facility, the little building has become a meeting place for the people of Morro Santo Amaro to forget about their troubles, for even just an hour.

On the day of the Banquet, the line of people waiting to eat was almost staggering. The doors did not open until 12PM, but some of the people started lining up as early as 9AM. Inside the building, tables and chairs were set to seat 30-40 people at a time with enough room to squeeze in a sound system to provide diners with cheerful music. Along the walls, volunteers prepared plates of rice, beans, fish, ham, beef, and vegetables to serve to the many hungry men and women present; Fresh cut fruits and drinks were also provided. To a full room, Andre stepped to the microphone to give his thanks to everyone present for supporting and gave his warmest wishes for everyone to enjoy the food, but it was the many in attendance that were thankful; Thankful for Andre and thankful for the many things he has worked hard to provide forthem. The line outside did not recede until the night, and throughout the day, the Holiday Banquet successfully fed over 300 Senior citizens in Morro Santo Amaro.

For the original article, click here.

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