Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Street kids of Rio de Janeiro

I saw a street kid sleeping near the supermarket this morning when I was out running errands with the boys. It doesn't matter how many I see, it still breaks my heart every time. 

I would love to pull a Leigh Anne Tuohy and bring at least one of these kids home but it's just not safe.  In the movie, she wondered if Michael was going to steal something.  In the Rio de Janeiro reality, I have to wonder if the kid is going to leave my home, get his friends, come back with guns and clean us dry, possibly killing someone in the process.

Yes, I know, that's a slightly negative way at looking at things.  It is.  But Rio de Janeiro has a tendency of having some slightly negative things happen. I try to avoid bad things, that includes strangers in my house. Hell, if the phone company (in uniform and with van) show up without my marking an appointment, neither the doorman or I let them in.  That's just how it works here.

On my way back by, the kid had woken up and there were two adults talking to him. It's quite normal to see. I bet these kids get questioned by 50 people a day.  They ask where their parents are, why they aren't at school, if they have a home, etc.  I've even seen people go get public social workers and bring them back to where the kids are hanging out so they can talk to them about the help available. 

Sadly, some of these kids don't want help. They don't want limits, they don't want structure. Some are addicted to drugs, some spend days on the street and return home when they want, and some were born there.  I can't imagine anyone wanting to live on the street but it's been pointed out to me that, in some cases, home life is even worse. 

And then there's the violent breed. The street kids that band together to jump unsuspecting people.  The ones who find guns and use them.  Survival of the fittest gone bad.

You'd like to think the government would take an aggressive approach to this.  They'd take the kids and put them into foster care or group care facilities.  They'd force school attendance and employ therapists to help them adjust and overcome the traumas they've already faced in their young lives.  You'd love to see that happen.  Unfortunately, the government of Rio de Janeiro is spread a little thin right now. They have other crime issues, development concerns for the upcoming games, and already overflowing class rooms in most public schools. It'd take a lot of money, no corruption, and a hell of a lot of time. 

I found this link about helping street kids for those interested:
Help Street Children in Brazil

I volunteered briefly for this group:
Dreams Can Be

Here's a link to a horrible story of the Death squad.  I didn't realize that street kids have to worry about getting killed by police at night while they sleep.  It's an old article but I found other articles saying it still happens.  Candelaria Massacre

Overall, a sad post. Sorry for that but it's one of the sad realities of living down here.  I just felt the need to share my feelings.  I guess misery loves company.


  1. www.bahiastreet.org is an amazing organization, too. A little farther north, however. I hope to get a chance to volunteer there one day.

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  3. "Sadly, some of these kids don't want help."
    Actually, I have never seen one that want help and I have been living here my whole life.

    I avoid them at all costs though.

  4. Every Brazilian I´ve talked to say the same thing as you! There must be some truth to it.

    I stay away from quite a few of them too

  5. The "I´ve" gives away that you're using the Brazilian layout keyboard.

  6. I know! It drives me crazy but "it`s" almost just as weird this way!

  7. Fortunately, as compared to 10 years ago, there seem to be a lot less kids and families living on the streets of Rio. I think it's due to a number of factors, including world attention brought to the issue from films such as 'City of God', an ever improving economy, and results of Da Silva's 'Bolsa Familia', and other social initiatives. Let's hope the trend continues!

  8. I know this post is from 2010, but what does the Brazilian governmetn do about the state of children in their own country? I thought kids were the future!

  9. I think kids are the future as well. Unforgivably, there are some large cracks in the system down here...

    They do have some programs where street kids can go into certain places to get cleaned up, have a meal, and get help if they need to.