Team Brazil Girls: From the dangers of the street to female role models in the community

Posted on the 25th November 2014

IMG_2631 copyFollowing the Street Child World Cup in April 2014, our work continues around the world. We take time to hear from Team Brazil Girls and how their lives have changed since the tournament.

Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts. From the soft beaches that change into skyscrapers, vintage-looking houses atop hilly streets into downtown’s hustle and bustle, lively favelas into calm and dense forests. Landing in Rio’s International Airport gives you a perspective of these fascinating landscapes from above.

Complexo da Penha – located in the North Zone of Rio – is home to our Team Brazil Girls project. It represents a vivid example of the reality of many cariocas. An aggregation of 11 communities, over 48,000 people live in this area. Creative entrepreneurs and family business are commonplace but so are drugs and violence.

Rio de Janeiro has just over 6 million inhabitants and 22% of those live in favelas, communities within the city where social and economical issues strike hard. Nanko van Buuren, director of IBISS, founded the organisation 25 years ago with the intention of changing things around. ‘It is simply unacceptable that certain groups are excluded from the society!’, he said.

Favela Street is based in Penha and seeks to ensure youngsters and adults within the communities they work with opt out of the streets and drugs’ life. In order to do so, they offer them sports, social and educational activities.

Philip Veldhuis, coach and one of the project leaders, started his work in 2008 as an intern. Back then, the community was not pacified yet and he soon started building a network and observing the effect their work had on the community and its people. ‘Even though it is pacified nowadays, a lot of those economic and social problems are still there’, he says and adds ‘I saw the opportunity to create something that could help out, in a way’.

Under the guidance of IBISS, Philip founded Favela Street. He leads this programme teaching football to children and youngsters as a tool for keeping them away from the drugs and abuses in Complexo da Penha. ‘Football is my background and has been a tool for communication throughout my life. It is immensely popular in the favelas and therefore a great tool to use in making changes. It connects people through the beauty of playing’.

Team Brazil Girls trained with Philip for the 2014 Street Child World Cup. Nowadays they are the ones leading training sessions and seeking to involve other girls and boys. Apart from winning the Street Child World Cup girls’ tournament, it is worth mentioning a few very visible and notable impacts within the project.

Jessica, 23, (coach) and Taynara, 18, are currently engaged in a traineeship programme with Caesar Park hotel which is part of Accor’s hotel chain and partners with Street Child World Cup. Jessica works as a coach for Favela Street during the weekends and on business days enjoys her position in the hotel’s Governance team when she can put leadership skills at use by managing both maintenance and housekeeping employees. While thriving at this position, Jessica dreams of working aboard big cruise ships. ‘I wouldn’t mind working 2 weeks in a row and taking two weeks off! I want to be independent’.

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Dryka has her first passport in preparation for her trip to the USA

Another two girls of Favela Street, Dryka and Karen, both 18, have been accepted for the Global Girl Project exchange programme in California, USA. They will travel in February 2015 and shall live with American families taking English lessons three times a week and participating in several extracurricular activities. ‘It is my first passport!’ exclaimed Dryka, happily adding ‘I already miss Brazil but am very excited. Once I get back, I plan to help out in Penha by putting together a programme where kids learn both football and English skills’.

In partnership with the British School, Street Child World Cup and Favela Street have secured weekly English lessons for these four girls. During a lesson with Craig Woolard, a very dedicated teacher at the British School, it is visible how much fun they have. They make jokes about pronunciation and sing the alphabet. Using songs and pictures, their Basic English lessons go by fast. ‘He is a great teacher. Always very patient’, says Dryka.

The girls also meet up with Catarine Cunha, a Brazil-based SCWC volunteer, for informal lessons every Friday morning. ‘They are really eager to learn and extremely devoted during the lessons. Besides, they are always in a good mood what reflects positively in our encounters’, said Catarine.

Team Brazil Girls studying English
Team Brazil Girls studying English

‘Several amazing opportunities were given to us after the Street Child World Cup’, says Philip. ‘From meeting football stars to media attention, Favela Street and its girls have received a lot of attention. There’s more unity to the group now’.

Favela Street was offered World Cup tickets from two supporters, Copa 90 and Tifosy; presented at a UN Simulation Assembly at the British School; and are now active supporters of IBISS and Favela Street.

Street Child World Cup could not be more proud of the progress of these girls. According to Joe Hewitt who heads the Brazil office: ‘We are so proud of their progress since the Street Child World Cup. We offered these girls a platform and some new opportunities and in response they have become community leaders empowering children younger than them who are still at risk of the dangers of the streets.’

You can help transform the lives of young people like the Team Brazil Girls by donating today. Donate here.

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