The Safe Space football programme is a legacy of the 2014 Street Child World Cup for children in Rio de Janeiro who are at risk of the streets. Housed in the Caracol community in Complexo da Penha, it is available to around 300 children providing a safe space to play, develop and learn life skills.
Safe Space was developed by Street Child United’s Rio office as part of a one-year partnership with GM Chevrolet to build the football pitch and employ local coaches to work with the children.
Caracol community is part of Complexo da Penha where the 2014 Team Brazil girls came from as part of Favela Street. The training sessions run six evenings a week for local girls and boys to help in their development and keep them away from the dangers of street life – most notably the drugs trade and violence between drug traffickers and the police. Caracol is a historically socially excluded and dangerous area and it is areas like this which many of Rio’s street children are born into. The Safe Space is aimed to help every child who uses it to reach their full potential.
“Caracol is a nice place to live but there are so many shootings, there are many policemen and drug traffickers. We have to run and hide because stray bullets are not aimed, you can die quickly. But now with the pitch we have a place to play, I don’t know what would happen to us without it. We play there every day, all the time.” Livia, 14, Caracol
We work in partnership with the Neighbourhood Association of Caracol who help us uphold an agreement with both the police and the drug traffickers to not fight at the pitch. Through football and team-building activities Safe Space specifically addresses conflict resolution and gender equality.
We employ four local young people as community coaches to run the sessions and act as positive role models and ambassadors for peace in Caracol. Lead community coach, Drika Santos lifted the 2014 Street Child World Cup trophy for Brazil, and Jessica Medeiros was a coach – both came through Favela Street training.
“We help these children, take them off the streets, we can bring them to football, take them to the beach, play in a tournament. By taking them off the streets we take away a percentage of time where they can lose their way. The most important thing is that it gives children the opportunity to think about a future that before this they wouldn’t have thought about.” Maiara, 18, Safe Space Community Coach
Safe Space is helping to tackle the social exclusion of the Caracol community. High-profile visits have included Brazil World Cup winner Gilberto Silva and Manchester United FC Legends Dwight Yorke and Quinton Fortune. The children take enormous pride in these visits in welcoming these visitors to the pitch.
“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.”
“When ever people come across me they laugh. It seems like my mouth is zipped because they talk for us. I wish they could give us a chance to talk for ourselves.”
“No child should have to live on the streets and I fully endorse this campaign giving street children a voice to claim their rights”