For 10 days during March and April 2014, 230 former street children were united in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a festival of football and the arts, and a unique international conference for children’s rights. The message from each of the children was loud and clear:
“I am Somebody“.
The event took place in an atmosphere of hope and fun, and amid the belief that every child can have a future to dream of, no matter what their background. Art played a spectacular role in uniting these children, providing them with a platform to express themselves – the dancing, making music and joyous singing was pleasingly endless.
So often children who have suffered trauma, abuse or neglect have lost touch with their instinctive, childish urge to hope, dream and express themselves but the Street Child World Cup provided a safe environment for the children to do just this.
Underpinning the ten days was the unique international conference which dealt with some of the heavier issues these children have faced in their lives. Without fail, these young people come from broken homes and many have suffered abuse or neglect, and stigma has often prevented their rehabilitation back into a safe society.
One member of Team Philippines declared: “We are not animals, we are humans. We are somebody.” And it seemed that the world was starting to listen to such declarations, Pope Francis declared the event a “significant initiative” while Prince William, Duke of Cambridge praised a “fantastic event” uniting street children and giving them a voice.
Then the professional footballers joined the party as the news spread across Brazil. World Cup winners Gilberto Silva and Bebeto attended and pledged their support for the rights of street children across Brazil and indeed the globe. The football legend Zico took the time to meet Team Brazil girls and give them some much-valued coaching tips. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer heard about the event and joined us on the last day alongside Lord Deighton, former Chief Executive of the London Olympic and Paralympic games.
In a world where millions of children live or work on the streets, something has gone seriously wrong to disconnect these children from society. To receive such incredible global support was encouragement that significant change must come.
The ‘street champions’ who took part in the Street Child World Cup have become Ambassadors to the countries to which they return. They are the proof that with the right protection, rehabilitation and opportunities, no child would have to live on the streets. That is our goal and that is what we will work tirelessly towards through sports, arts, communications and campaigning, as well as by supporting our incredible partner projects who work on the frontline with these vulnerable young people.
So what are some of the impact highlights since the Street Child World Cup?
Team Argentina, on their return, were honoured at a reception held by the Ministry of Labour in Buenos Aires, and shared with Minister Carlos Tomada, the Minister of Labour and Security, about their experiences representing their country in Brazil.
The Brazilian Government has invited Team Brazil from Fortaleza to host a national summit this November in the nation’s capital, Brasilia, to discuss policy changes to the way street children are treated across Brazil. Representatives from all 27 states of Brazil will be in attendance as part of the “Children are not from the streets” campaign
Team Brazil girls continue to train hard in the Complexo da Penha favela where girls football has never had such a proud platform. This week the girls will speak to the Model United Nations day at the British School of Rio de Janeiro.
Team Burundi returned to widespread support, including a welcome at the airport from a representative of the Ministry of Youth and Sport. The team were then invited to meet the President of Burundi with whom they discussed the issues facing street children.
Team Kenya’s Captain Benson has been asked to sit on the Children’s Assembly since returning from Rio
Team Pakistan have led a ten-city tour raising awareness of street children which has led to Pakistan’s National Assembly passing a resolution for social protection plan for the countries 1.5m street children! The summit of the tour will see the team meeting the Nation’s Prime Minister in the capital, Islamabad on 23 May.
Not only did the SCWC winners get to meet their Prime Minister but the constitutional parliament of Tanzania consisting of 600 MP’s was temporarily suspended to welcome the team back. On arrival in their hometown Mwanza the team were met by a cavalcade of 50 motorbikes and 30 vehicles. Following their return, Team Tanzania (Caretakers of the Environment) were awarded vital new land for their shelter in Mwanza. The organisation had lost land which was ‘reclaimed’ by local government with no viable alternative on offer. However following their success the local government had a change of heart and awarded a more suitable plot.
If all that was not enough, Team Tanzania’s Captain has been selected for the Tanzania U15 national team. He will travel to Botswana to represent his country at the Olympic Youth tournament later this month.
The Street Child World Cup received unprecedented media attention for the street child issue across five continents. Here are some stats on how the event was received on social media:
90,000 views on YouTube
2,490 additional followers on twitter
5,124 additional likes on facebook
The SCWC was covered in film documentaries for BBC3, O Globo Brasil, BT Sport, FIFA Futbol Mundial, and BBC Panorama. It will feature in Street Kids United 2, due for cinema release in 2015
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