The capital of Brazil is Brasilia and the population is 177,062.044. The Brazilians are very diverse with many races and cultures represented. A survey listed 55% white, 38% missed, 6% black, 1% other. According to the last census, about three-fourths of the Brazilian population, 73.6%, is classified as being Roman Catholic. Other denominations include Protestant, 15.4%; Spiritualist, 1.3%; Bantu (African), 0.3%; other 1.8%; unspecified 0.2%; and none 7.4%. Portuguese is the official language while most people understand Spanish.
Two of the world's fifteen largest cities are in Brazil: Sao Paulo (17 million) and Rio de Janeiro (10.1 million), and are only about 250 miles (400 km) apart. Rio de Janeiro's status also suffered when it was replaced by Brasilia as the capital in 1960, a position Rio de Janeiro had held since 1763. However, Rio de Janeiro is still the undisputed cultural capital (and major international transportation hub) of Brazil.
The state of Sao Paulo is responsible for about half of Brazil's Gross Domestic Product as well as about two-thirds of it manufacturing. While only about five percent of the land is cultivated, Brazil leads the world in coffee production (about 30% of the global total). Brazil also produces 26% of the world citrus, have 12% of the cattle supply, and produce 19% of the iron ore. Most of Brazil's sugar cane production (12% of the world total) is used to create gasohol that powers a portion of Brazilian automobiles. The key industry of the country is automobile production.
After my vacation in Fernando de Noronha, I spent a few days in Recife. It was then when I became familiar with the hardships that most Brazilians had to go through since their childhood. In particular, I came to know the widespread poverty to which children are constantly subject to in their lives. In Recife, I had the opportunity to observe a countless number of poorly dressed and barefoot children who were begging on the streets, working as car windshield cleaners, shinning shoes and selling newspapers or other goods.
At the very end of my visit to Brazil, an event happened that resulted in a complete change in my life. Right on the return plane to New York, I met my husband to be. Odd as it may be, I began a conversation with this person sitting next to me because I was trying to understand an article from a Recife's newspaper that carried on pictures of children. As we began our conversation, he pointed out that the article referred to street kids who were sniffing glue to get high and the chat developed into discussions about social related matters in Brazil and, finally, to personal issues. (You just never know where you will find love!)
As far as the stories I covered in Brazil; it was about life in Brazil for the poor and forgotten children and the amazing NGO's that are trying to make a difference in their lives. My first job was for UMCOR, in Recife photographing street children. It was my first insight into the lives that so many of these children live. Being on the streets is their daily job. Some of the children just beg desperately at stopped cars at the traffic lights. Others wash the car windshield, sell newspapers, drinks or even shine shoes. It is a hard life, but they seem to all travel in groups, perhaps watching each other's back.
Which NGO’s (non-government agencies) was I representing?
Between 1999 and 2002 I traveled to Brazil to document the lives of the children and the work of NGO's. While working with many small and large NGO's there were two NGO's that I focused my work on. They included the work of PLAN USA (known then as Childreach) and UMCOR. Within UMCOR's umbrella of work they supported two NGO's that I became very attached to: Associacao Methodista de Acao Social (AMAS) and INSTITUTO CENTRO DO POVO (ICP).
PLAN USA/ Childreach
INSTITUTO CENTRO DO POVO (ICP) is located in the North of Brazil in Niteroi. ICP was founded in 1906, as the first community center in Brazil. ICP's mission was to help families keep their children in school. To date (2000) there are 500 children that range from 2months to 15 years old. They are dropped off at 7am and picked up at 5pm. The entire day includes classes, prayers, napping, eating, bathing and of course playing!! The grade level structure is far off from the American system. The average fourth grader is fourteen years old, instead on nine. In general the children are not orphans. They usually have one parent, the father may be alive, but has been absent throughout their lives, and the mother may be a drug "watchman" or a cleaning lady. Sixty percent of the children at ICP live in the neighborhood area of Gamboaia, while the other forty percent travel far, some by train early in the morning so that they can arrive by 7am. The Director of ICP is an amazing man called Marion Way.
Marion Way and his wife Anita are missionaries that came to Brazil via Nashville in 1962. After working in Africa, they were sent by the board and appointed to the ICP by the Brazilian Bishop. The Unites States sends the missionaries, but the Bishop decides where they are to go. Marion started at the ICP as a worker, and when the Brazilian Director retired, Marion was offered the position as Director at ICP in 1972. In 1982 he left to go to back to the Unites States for one year to visit family, and meet his grandchildren. Upon his return to Brazil, and ICP, he had lost his position as Director, so was made Vice- Director.
There is an immense amount of respect for Marion from the teachers, and all the children. He is simply adored, as well as Anita. Rightfully so!! The two of them are amazing people that have dedicated their lives to helping children. Their voices and demeanor are as soft as kitten's purrs, but their achievements and presence roars like a pack of lions!! Their sincerity, courage, dedication, intense drive and love for their work are something I was honored and proud to witness. Marion is still heavily involved on a daily basis with ICP, and Anita visits from time to time.
ASSOCIACAO METHODISTA DE ACAO SOCIAL (AMAS)
To date (2000) there are 180 children in the school, and 50 of them of housed in their "boarding" homes. One is for boys, and one for girls. The children in these homes are orphans, or have been separated from their parents to protect their well-being. The children come in at 8:00am and leave at 5:00pm. The little ones stay a full day and the older children go to public school after lunch. There is no guarantee of the attendance. Cleonice and the teachers are only hopeful that each child will return the next day to school. Some children have been there a few days, a few months, others maybe up to 10 years. The older boys who live in the house work and contribute to a portion of the rent. The waiting list for the school and the "boarding homes" is very long and growing. There are some children with disabilities, such as blindness, and cerebral palsy. The AMAS program offers special therapy sessions for these children. The age group ranges from 4 years to 15 years, but there is a high percentage around 6 years old.
When I work with the children I always do a Q&A of five questions and then allow them to ask me anything in return. (They always seem to ask me .." Are you married ?" and .... Do you have children?!). There was one boy Jorge who left a real impact with me during his Q&A. Jorge had run away from his family at the age of four years to run free of the constant beatings. He was "taken in" by a family that he thought would "rescue" him but they were a beggar family and soon put him to work on the streets. If he did not return with enough supplies they would burn him with cigarette burns. At the age of six, he ran away again and was found sleeping in the street by a Social Worker from AMAS. Ten years later I met him.
When I asked him, "What do you want to be when you grew up?"--. He said, "A football player".
And when I asked him, " What do you love?"... He laughed at me (as if it was a stupid question)..and answered...."Of course...I love life". It is moments like these that I had with Jorge that fill my heart so completely and remind me of the simplicity, yet value of all of this work I do.These children all are the same. They all want the same. They want love, education, play and a safe place to call home. This is what they all want. And Jorge's history of so much pain is not what he thinks of daily. He thinks of how happy he is to have AMAS and his school, his friends, his home. And yes for all this... he loves life!!!