. Fri 19th June
Just got back from visiting the slums. We go to dinner in an hour and tomorrow we leave early, so forgive the errors in this. I’ll write you a more organized article when I’m home, I just want to give you a splurge of words so you understand something of the day’s experience.
We started off going to Instituto Solidare. This was on the edge of the city and was a concrete building with big gates that locked. We could see teenagers playing football in a large covered area. We were taken upstairs, shown into a classroom and joined by about six of the workers. We all introduced ourselves – I got to use my Portuguese, very exciting! We then learned a little of their work. They began by having different projects, run by the church but then realised that actually there was a disconnect between what they believed and what they were doing. They needed to be part of the community, not just doing the odd project, they wanted the projects to BE the church. They see their worship as what they are doing.
They began with working with children, this extended to teenagers, then whole families and then the community. There is a huge problem with prostitution, drugs and the violent crime that goes with it. They aim to remove the kids from the streets, to occupy their time with lessons, sports, a proper meal, then they go to school in the afternoon and spend the evening with their parents. They are then hopefully, too tired to get into trouble.
We looked around the institute, then walked around the community. The houses were small, unmade roads, lots of dogs. The river was where all the toilets empty. In the rainy season ( June and July) the river floods, taking the sewage into the houses. Many of the houses had moved all their furniture upstairs. It was hot, lots of flies, lots of dogs wandering around. We saw young men strutting, with hard faces, appraising eyes. There were children, cute, smiling, wanting to be in photgraphs. Then the other teenagers, the ones with thin faces, dead eyes, wasted bodies. As a mother, it broke my heart to see them. They have mothers, somewhere. They are feeding their lives into hungry addictions, dead before they have known what it is to live.
We went to another favela. This one seemed much poorer, it felt unsafe walking around ( we were told to leave all our bags and cameras in the car. We just took our phones for pictures.)The homes were made of cardboard, hardboard, odd bits of wood and scaffold. It smelt, litter was everywhere. I photographed beautiful children sharing bags of crisps, giggling. They lived in the equvilant of a shack. It felt hopeless.
Yet there was hope. Tearfund are working with their partners to educate the people, to teach them about flood control, clearing up litter. They are teaching them skills so they can find work, things like making jewelry from discarded stuff, metal work. They are lobbying the government, trying to get better housing, more respect for the people.
It wasn’t a horrid day, though I feel exhausted by all we have seen. We laughed with children who were playing a game with David. Some teenaged girls had done a play about clearing up litter, which they had performed to their neighbours in the flavella. They were so proud of it, wanted to take us to where they had done it, sang us some of the songs. We chatted a bit and they laughed when I told them I have chickens and ducks. I wanted to scoop them up, bring them out of the favella to somewhere safe, somewhere that they wont probably end up as sex workers. I cant. All I can do is pray, support the work that Tearfund is doing. And tell you about it.
Will do a proper article with photos etc when I’m home.
A very moving letter