By Joe Hewitt
It is with great sadness that we report that one of the young people who took part in the Street Child World Cup, 2014, has died. Carlos Alexandre was a member of Team Brazil boys who took part via our partner organisation O Pequeno Nazareno (OPN) based in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Tragically, Carlos (just turned 18) was murdered on the afternoon of Wednesday 9 November and his death serves as a reminder of both the danger that the children we serve face and the importance of the work of our frontline programmes who try to help these children at risk. Carlos is the second member of the team to have been murdered, following Rodrigo Kelton who was Team Brazil’s captain and was killed just weeks before the tournament.
OPN as an organisation carry out remarkable work in Fortaleza which is a city with some of the highest poverty and crime rates in Brazil and indeed the world. Through the sadness we stand with OPN and we remain inspired by their service to street children and the knowledge that they have saved so many young lives. The following is a little summary of Carlos taken from a conversation with OPN’s heroic social educator Antonio Carlos.
Carlos Alexandre’s story like so many street children begins with poverty and family breakdown; he and his family lived in a notorious favela where his Father was murdered. With the arrival of an abusive stepfather, life for Carlos and his family became hell. At age 14, he and his brother left for the streets where they soon became addicted to drugs. They had built themselves a make-shift shack on the beach. After around 6 months, Carlos and his brother met the social educators of OPN and shortly after OPN took Carlos in. His brother was murdered shortly after, aged 19.
Carlos Alexandre was treated for five years at OPN, and lived with his mother and brothers in a house donated by the institution. He was in education and was participating in an initiation course to enter the job market.
According to OPN’s social educator Antonio Carlos: “Carlos Alexandre’s participation in Team Brazil at the Street Child World Cup was one of the happiest moments of his life. From the process of preparation, to training, to the friendships built and of course the plane trip!”
He continued: “I remember well when he was still a child and also the moment he was sent to O Pequeno Nazareno, one of the things that most caught his attention was the fact that the place had a soccer field, he was passionate about soccer. It was exactly through football that I was able to get closer and win his friendship.”
And so it was that on Wednesday afternoon, following his 18th birthday on Saturday, that Carlos left his house to go and play the game he loved when he was senselessly murdered. Carlos was buried the next day.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Antonio Carlos, Manoel, Bernardo and all the team and young people at O Pequeno Nazareno. The work of this organisation offers a lifeline to the forgotten children, a path of hope and safety to those at such risk.
Should you wish to show your support to O Pequeno Nazareno, please get in touch with the Street Child United London office, and we can help pass on your message of support or donation to the team.
“I know from personal experience just what power football can have to inspire and change young people’s lives whatever their background or nationality. This is what the Street Child World Cup is all about and I give it my full support.”
“No child should have to live on the streets. I commend the Street Child World Cup for providing a platform for the rights of street children to be heard.”
“I experienced hardcore street life in my youth. I know what it’s like. I congratulate the Street Child World Cup project in it’s commitment to bring attention to the plight of Street Children through the power of football.”