A chance for the kids of Rio de Janeiro
Around 100 boys and girls are currently benefiting from the care and education offered by the Bom Samaritano children’s day care center in the Ipanema district.
Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, with enchanting beaches, imposing mountains and modern shopping centers. But Rio is not just Sugar Loaf Mountain; the favelas are also just as much a part of the city. The word “favela” originally referred to a hill in Rio on which former mercenaries built an illegal shanty town in 1879. In the middle of the last century, the city became increasingly attractive for the impoverished rural population and more and more people were forced to take up quarters in the makeshift dwellings of one of the over 1,000 favelas that exist today. Poor education, high unemployment and low income affect the majority of the people who live there. Sometimes their meagre income is not even sufficient to pay for the staple rice and black beans, not to mention milk, fruit or medical care.
Most of the families in the favelas live in shacks made from wooden boards or bare brick walls. They often have to share their one or two rooms with their extended families. The power and water supply are poor and the sanitary conditions catastrophic. In addition, the favelas are ruled by drug gangs, and violence and shootings are commonplace.The men try to escape the harsh realities of daily life with drugs and alcohol. Violence directed at women and children is an everyday occurrence. Many women supplement their income through prostitution. Struggling with these hardships, families often lack direction and the strength to devote themselves to their children’s upbringing.
Achieving more together
These were the issues addressed by Father Braun when he founded Bom Samaritano in 1979. He set himself the task of alleviating the indescribable misery of the children as much as he could. As he came up against difficulties with the funding of his project, he asked Kinder in Not e.V. to provide ongoing support. The day care center is in Ipanema, next to the deprived Cantalego district.
Around 100 boys and girls from age two to six are looked after there every day from 8 am to 5 pm. The smallest ones attend a kindergarten group, and the older children one of the three preschool groups to prepare them for primary school. At least while they are in the center, they are safe from the violence and terror of the drug gangs and are provided with a decent shelter. They receive some of the things that are missing in the misery of their own homes: fresh drinking water and nutritious meals. A paediatrician carries out regular examinations, vaccinations and weight checks, and a dentist checks and treats the children’s teeth and instructs them in daily oral hygiene.
The importance of involving the mothers in the center’s work can be seen by the case of the brothers Kauan and Miguel. They have been attending the center for three years. Early this year they started to become increasingly solemn and introverted. Vilma, the director of Bom Samaratino, finally received the following letter from the mother: “I am writing this letter in desperation. I can see no other option than to take my life. Apart from the two boys I have an eight-month-old baby. My husband has been convicted for drug dealing and is in prison. As his wife I am branded, and no one will employ me. The house where I live with my children is not only a health risk but also full of rats. Sometimes we have no food, electricity, water or soap to wash our clothes.”
Vilma and her staff were horrified and visited the family immediately with a food package. Together they sought solutions and ensured that at least the most urgent bills were paid. The team did not rest until the mother had found a permanent job. She is now also receiving psychological therapy, and Kauan and Miguel can smile again.
Alleviate misery and offer a future
What prospects do the children in Bom Samaratino have today? The children from the favelas have no social skills and many are traumatized by the violence that surrounds them. As a result, most of them already come to grief at primary school. The newspaper O Globo reported on 29 February 2012 that of the 171,000 children who started school in 2010, 34,000 stopped going, and many had to repeat the year. Children who attend preschool have been shown to fare much better in primary school and are much less likely to drop out. Thanks to the work of Bom Samaratino and the support of Kinder in Not e.V. these children have better prospects for successful schooling and hence a more responsible, self-reliant life later on.
Without the support of Kinder in Not e.V., the day care center would have to close. What would become of these children?