Retrak’s arrival in Brazil; Maggie’s Day 1

EVENT: Director of Programmes in Brazil Day 1 | AUTHOR: Maggie Crewes

We arrive in Rio and, as Retrak’s Director of Programmes, I immediately orientate myself with what Retrak does and how we bring it into a Brazilian context. We will be delivering a workshop in Rio on reintegrating children which will be different from Retrak’s past work in Africa but we are completely aware how much our experience will help place these children into safe families in Brazil.  Walking around the tourist areas of Copacabana we see a young lad fast asleep (pictured). He is one of the estimated 24,000 children on the street in Brazil though these figures are often sketchy.

aa child asleep on street Copacabana

Next stop is a family in one of the most violent favelas in Rio. We are instructed: “Keep the windows down so they can see you.  Don’t make eye contact with anyone.  Don’t joke around or be loud.”  We get an immediate sense of the dangers when we see cocaine and crack being sold openly on the street.

The family we visit are pretty typical we’re told.  Dad has intermittent labouring jobs, mum is a part-time cleaner with four children. The 15-year-old boy is out of school and generally on the street, doing shoe-shine for pennies, and has already got a drug problem. The daughter is 13 and is in school and ‘smart’ they say but is already disappearing on some nights.  Two toddlers innocently play on the floor.

The family is exposed to community violence due to the traffickers.  Invisible boundaries divide the favela where each drug lord has his territory.  The school is closed down on a weekly basis due to shoot-outs; it is clear violence is the epidemic here rather than disease or famine which Retrak is used to seeing elsewhere. We are supporting our new partner ABTH to work with 20 families in this area and I know Retrak’s work is needed here so much. See how the workshop went by clicking here.