12th October marks National Children’s Day across Brazil. A day when children receive gifts and families are united in celebrating childhood. This Sunday we took our local street child partners AMAR to the beach for a day of fun, food and games, ensuring that these former street children would not be left out of the celebrations.
One of the biggest holidays of the year both culturally and commercially but of course not every child has the opportunity to celebrate Children’s Day and especially not street children.
Our partner project AMAR (To love) is a humble organisation running projects for street children across Rio de Janeiro, providing shelter alongside health, psychological and educational support. The former street children are aged 7 – 17 and we decided to host the most Carioca (native of Rio) of days for the children: a day at the beach.
Though we had planned a number of activities for the day including tag, shuttlecock and Uno, none were of interest to the boys in comparison to Rio’s beautiful ocean. These former street children from the north side of the city, rarely receive the opportunity to go to the beach on the south side.
For one of the children, Marcio (not his real name) this was his very first visit. On arrival at the water’s edge Marcio enquired, “Can we jump in?” A simple experience many Carioca’s take for granted but this was a day Marcio wouldn’t forget. Marcio (aged 7) comes from Nova Holanda, one of the lowest income ‘favelas’ in Rio de Janeiro, located in the Maré complex. Marcio’s Father was unable to look after him and Marcio had no option but the streets. Thankfully for Marcio AMAR offered him shelter and safety. He is now attending school and has also had many of his painful dental cavities healed!
Some months back when visiting AMAR we had met another of the children Roberto (not his real name). Roberto was finding it difficult to make friends; he was quick to violence and in need of much care. Roberto’s Mother is a prostitute and his Father abusive. When at home, Marcio was beaten daily with a wire and violence became all he knew. This was until AMAR took Roberto in and gave him the safe shelter he required. As we spent time with Roberto at the beach he was smiling, confident and friendly with the other boys and showed no signs of the quick anger that was a hallmark of his character just months before.
During the day the children were treated to a training session from Philip and Jessica from Team Brazil (Favela Street). The two sat the children in a circle and discussed the importance of teamwork and trust in overcoming life’s obstacles – just like in football. The children then played football for over an hour and during the session a few more children that were enjoying the beach with their families asked to join in – a great message of inclusion from the children to Ipanema, Rio and the world.
AMAR provide the protection, rehabilitation and opportunities that street children require and they allow them the safe space to be who they are: children. Street Child World Cup support AMAR through a number of activities with the aim of leveraging further funding for their vital work.
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