Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't worry, the kids won't bite*

*but if they do, we're trained in release techniques!

On Tuesday afternoons we pack some drinks and snacks and head into the centre [of the centre], set up some goal posts under one of the bridges, (right in front of the Mayor's plush offices) and play hockey with the street kids.

Yesterday we had between 15 to 20 kids dropping by to hit a ball around for a couple of hours. Afterwards we share some cake and juice and - if circumstances allow - five minutes of what we believe in and why we are there.

Some kids come to kill time. Some to take a break from begging. Some just for a piece of cake. Sadly, I am now used to the sight of children (averaging 10-12 years old) taking breaks from the game to inhale some glue or smoke a cigarette. I wanted the initial shock of witnessing this - the kids often look no older than my nephews (their growth stunted by their mother's drug abuse while pregnant) - to remain, but how good the mind is at clothing such horrors with dull familiarity.

not quite favela foot, but getting there

I enjoy just hanging out with the kids, chewing the fat and passing the time. Joyce, Alexander, Wanderley, Kennedy, Carol... do these names mean anything to anyone? Does anyone know their stories? Are they even on a Government register somewhere? A birth? A death?

Some of the kids have already lived in multiple shelters, some of the girls have already had children and abandoned them. Others have lived on the streets for years, the product of fragmented (and often abusive) families. One of the kids we spoke to yesterday evening had hit the street that very same day.

The most recent figures indicate that there are between seven and eight million street children in Brazil. Working in and around Anhangabaú (I still have difficulty pronouncing the indigenous name retained for the very core of the old city) - watching the kids in their little ad hoc gatherings - in few places is it more self-evident that sin begets sin. It goes a little like this: Child abuse/neglect at home → children leave home (families divided) → drug addiction on street → older children sell drugs to younger children → child prostitution (to fuel drug addiction) → paedophiles/other predators → children become pregnant/abort their own children → children born on street placed in care.

This is the context of my work here in São Paulo.
These are the children I am called to work with.

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."
Proverbs 21:13


Anonymous said...

why do you say brazil has 8 million street children??
there are 200.000 which is alot, but much less than 8 million.
thats ridiculous. do you want atention or what?

Luke said...

Hello Anonymous. I don't think we've been introduced.

The number I refer to is in the research article (from the University of Delaware) which is hyperlinked in the post. Their figures, not mine.

As to atention (sic) seeking, if you had even the slightest idea of my character or an inkling of the work I do here, you wouldn't be asking this question.

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