The other side to Brazil

I arrived in Salvador amid the chaos of bus strikes. People desperately trying to reach work in any form possible. 43 days of teacher’s strikes have already passed and many schools have been closed for almost two months. No-one is in the streets protesting?

I later heard that the police were on strike earlier in the month, causing wide-spread violent attacks on shops, banks and property. The army was sent in for the three weeks that this strike lasted.

Where is civil society?

The rains continue to pour heavily down and we trod carefully through the water filled roads and the city prepares for devastation yet again. Rains for some means the loss of their homes as they gradually slide down the steep hilltops some covered in heavy mud slides.

It has been over a year since I have been in Salvador, a city known for its roots in the slave trade, the port of the highest number of slaves anywhere in the world. The legacy of slavery is ever-present in Salvador, where the racial divide is highly evident, especially where you enter into the various favela communities that scatter the city.

I am delighted to see our team once again, Juracy and Evelin are still doing an amazing job at running Viva a Vida (Live life) and I can’t wait to see the children again. We drive around the frantic streets in a borrowed car, up and down the winding roads to meet up with the many children enrolled in the family programme. Last year, our fantastic supporters enabled us to expand this programme so that we are now helping siblings as well. All of the children that we visited are previous street children who have additionally suffered a drug addiction. These are the toughest children to reach, they are the most marginalized and the most stigmatized. They are the “lost” and the “unworthy”. It requires a lot of dedication, patience, understanding, knowledge and faith to work with these children, to endlessly be there, to understand when they fall down and just support them to pick themselves up.

Each story is more horrific than the last, all of these children have been traumatized at a young age, and most of the children were sexually or physically abused as a child. The most terrifying tale for me is of two young boys whose suffered severe burns after their mother threw hot oil on them. Following over ten years in care they were recently sent to live with their aunty and are struggling to adapt to this new environment. Many of these children have been sheltered in care institutions when young and as they transition to adult hood they have to deal with the reality that they have no family and they suffer severe psychological damage. Jubilee Action has been working with Viva a Vida for the last year to help extend their after care programme which provides vital care and support for street children that have been reintegrated with a family member. We are also working in local schools running a prevention programme that tries to tackle the drug and violence programme at its roots; aiming to stop the vicious cycle of poverty which has led to an ever-increasing number of young street children.

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