Two young women from a Brazilian World Cup winning squad arrived in the UK this week for the Street Child United Cambridge Ambassador Programme.
Cambridge-founded Street Child United challenges the negative perceptions and treatment of street children partnering with organisations in 19 countries across the world. Their inaugural Cambridge Ambassadorial Programme will unite six young people to enhance their life skills over an intensive ten-week period providing English language lessons and ambassadorial training.
Two of the Ambassadors are 18-year-old Drika Santos and 24-year-old Jessica Medeiros who respectively captained and coached the winning Brazil Girls team from the 2014 Street Child World in Rio de Janeiro, site Brazil. The Street Child World Cup, which is the charity’s flagship event, united 230 former street children from 19 countries and the message from them was loud and clear: I am Somebody. They were supported by Pope Francis, David Beckham and Prince William amongst others.
John Wroe BEM, CEO of Street Child United said, “The Cambridge Ambassadorial Programme provides these young people with a unique opportunity to develop key skills continuing their personal development away from the streets and as ambassadors for street children across the world.”
Drika, and Jessica both grew up in the favela communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – some of the city’s poorest and most dangerous communities. Drug gangs fight with Police leaving young people most at risk. Opportunities are limited and many young people are drawn into working for the drug gangs where they are exposed to violent crime.
Football offered the girls an alternative to the risks of the streets. Jessica and Drika became involved with Favela Street, an organisation working in Complexo de Penha using football to support children at risk of the streets. Favela Street organised the Brazil Girls’ team who took part in the 2014 Street Child World Cup. Both girls were instrumental in helping their team lift the cup and have since become leaders in their community supporting other young people at risk of the streets.
Jessica said, “I have to confess that since I was a little kid I thought I was nobody and that nobody cared for me and with Street Child World Cup I saw I am somebody and I do matter to a lot of people.”
Former street children and 2014 Street Child World Cup players, Innocent and Eric from Burundi and Mehar and Raziq from Pakistan, will join the girls on the programme.
Studio Cambridge English Language School has provided bursaries to all the young people to help improve their English skills and continue in their development as ambassadors for street children’s rights. A young person who can speak from experience about life on the streets makes a very powerful spokesperson.
John Wroe, continued, “I have always believed that the whole world conspires with us to make what we do possible but occasionally an outrageously generous act simply stops me in my tracks. Studio Cambridge English Language School offering to host and teach these former street children in Cambridge this summer is just such an occasion.
Richard Mountford, Studio Cambridge said, “For more than 60 years Studio Cambridge has brought together young people from all over the world to experience life in Cambridge and help develop their English language skills. We are delighted to now be in a position to offer this opportunity to six former street children in summer 2015. We hope that the experience will not only help them to develop into ambassadors for street children everywhere, but will also enrich the learning experience of their fellow students whilst they are here. We very much look forward to welcoming our “Ambassadors” to Studio and hope it will be a memorable and valuable experience for all concerned.”
The programme will finish with the young ambassadors taking part in the Street Child United Summit in London in September at the Amnesty Centre for Human Rights in London.
There are still many ways to support the programme and get involved, if you would like more information please get in touch with Cornelia@streetchildunited.org