Friday, April 1, 2011

Kids in the favelas

Below is a set of questions from a student wanting to know more about kids and youth in the favelas..I will try an attempt to answer this students questions..


My name is..... I recently graduated from Brigham Young University and am working on a research paper about children and youth in the favelas. I have found a lot of "scholarly" essays on the topic but was hoping you could give me a more realistic, down to earth point of view on what life is like. I have read a few of your entries on which have been helpful but was hoping to ask a few other questions. If you have a few minutes to answer them I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,

1. What activities/fun things are there in the favelas for children and youth?

I can only talk about Rocinha favela where I live. Other favelas have diferent programs of diferent levels of help from NGO's, comunity or goverment support.

In Rocinha we now have the Rocinha Sports Complex at the bottom of the favela that has many sports activities. From what I have seen, there is boxing, capoeira, judo, jiu jitsu, volleyball, indoor football, basketball, swimming, a surf school, and outdoor football. There might be other programs but these are the ones I know about. There are other programs as well. We have a music school both inside the favela and another just outside Rocinha. We have a few art schools, one at the top of the hill on Rua 1 (first street) and Tio Lino's Mundo de Arte at the bottom of the hill. I know there is a ballet school and of course we have our samba school. The Varandao has dance classes like ballroom, salsa and samba. THis is all my mind can think of right now. The majority, if not all of these programs are only open to kids who are enrolled in school and making passing grades.

2. How many of the children attend school? Are there schools in the favelas or do they attend school in the city?

I am not sure of the percentages as I am no expert in this. Children are suppost to be in school until 15 years but many do quit for many reasons. We have four public schools in the favela. Many students are also bused outside the favela to attend school.

3. Do many of the children/youth work? What kind of jobs do they take? Do their jobs keep them from attending school?

Some kids do work and go to school. I have seen kids go to school then return home and are seen working in a store with their parents at night. There is a 9 years old boy working in the supermarket across from my house. It is now almost 7:30 at night and he is still working.

4. What are the main obstacles the youth face in changing their situation?

Opportunity. Many youth don't see a improvement in their life from going to school. They think short term, not long term. Many teens want money, clothing and by going to school they dont see value in this. Also their parents may have little education and force them to work to help support the family for basic needs.

5. Are there many programs, charities, organizations, etc. present in the favelas to help children and youth? What kind of programs are they? Are they effective?

There are some but certainly not enough. Many of the organizations sad to say are corrupt with individuals who only help themselves and give very little back to the comunity. There are some day cares for smaller children. Tio Lino runs a after school club. We had a great program up and running a few years back but due to embezlement of funds has since closed down and the sadness is the kids and youth loose out to adult greed..the programs can be effective if the kids stay in them. I work with a art school and we have saved about 45 kids from the drug trade..

6. How are children affected by the presence of the drug gangs?

The kids who enter the drug trade are doing it for money and status. Most of them come from absent or addict parents. It is a problem. We definately do need more afterschool programs, recreation space and activities here for our kids. I think the kids see the drug guys as power figures becase they have money and do what they want. Every kids wants nice shoes and clothes. They see the drug trade as a easy way to get those things. The sad thing is when I see some of these kids in the streets with toy guns and immitating the drug guys.

7. What has the government done to help children in the favelas?

The goverment is not much help. It is as if they prefer watching the favela destroy itself. We have many people who are talented here who just need the right oportunity. The goverment is and did start the PAC project to help improve things in the favelas. We receved a new sports, complex, a hospital, community center, and rua 4 was opened up and 200 new units of housing was built. This is great improvements, but new housing doesnt equal the destruction of prejudice that we in favelas fave from the outside. There is still the stigma of living in a favela and I have many friends who would never tell anybody from the outside where they live. We need to de-stigmatize the favela as only being a place of negative things.

8. If there was one thing you could do for these children to help them, what do you think would make the most difference (better schools, better housing, jobs, health care, etc.)?

I think education and activities are the main things needed for our youth. But like kids everywhere, school has to be fun. Teachers need to be able to capture a childs attention and get them interested in learning. I know this is much to ask but our youth is our future and we must nourish them through education and cultural activities. The teens need other options besides drugs and sex. They need leadership programs or for the older ones work/study programs in the fields they have interest in. The parents of these kids also have to take better care of their children and offer structure to their lives so the kids wont seek out negative alternatives.