Street kids of Brazil

During the month of the Fifa tournament I’ll be blogging about the issues surrounding the world cup, homelessness and poverty.

In my last post I talked about the true cost of football. The topic of this week’s blog is one of the groups adversely affected by the Fifa World Cup: street children.

According to the Brazilian charity ‘Children of Bahia’, estimates of the number of street children in Brazil range from 200,000 to 8 million (it’s difficult to get exact figures). Some studies claim almost half of all children in Latin America are homelessThere are many causes of children living on the streets including poverty, abuse, orphanhood, or displacement by war. These children are undernourished, receive no education or medical care, are vulnerable to sexual assault, and often turn to drug misuse, such as glue sniffing, to escape the horror of their situation. In order to have enough money for food they have to steal, sell drugs, or turn to prostitution.They are also often targets of victimization and hostility because they are forced to engage in illegal activity to survive. They are in danger of being arrested, beaten or killed. In Brazil street children are being murdered by vigilante ‘death squads’ who consider the children pests and are aided by the police.

It’s dangerous for anyone to live on the streets, but children are the most vulnerable group. Children on the streets have a very low life expectancy. As Ximena de la Barra, senior urban advisor for UNICEF has said, “Being poor is in itself a health hazard; worse, however, is being urban and poor. Much worse is being poor, urban, and a child. But worse of all is being a street child in an urban environment.”

Unfortunately, the Fifa World Cup has forced thousands more children into this position. This is because many homes and neighbourhoods have been destroyed to make room for ‘World Cup related structures’ such as roads and public facilities. People are sleeping in the rubble of their former homes, in order to make way for costly facilities that will probably go unused after the month long sporting event ends. For those families who have managed to keep their houses, the cost of living has increased by many hundreds of dollars, leaving them in poverty. This is short sighted in the extreme. Once the world cup ends and the visitors have left, the people who have been uprooted and left without any means of supporting themselves will not be celebrating.

However, this situation has not gone unnoticed. In April, to shed light on the issue of street children and show how football can be used as a positive opportunity, the Street Child World Cup was hosted in Rio de Janeiro. Over 230 former street children from around the world, who were helped by local football teams to get off the streets, participated in the tournament as well as a conference on children’s rights. While it was on a smaller scale than Fifa, the overriding message of the Street Child World Cup was that it was more than just a game. The aim was to expose and challenge the negative perceptions and hostile treatment of street children in all countries.

The Street Child World Cup gives former and current street children a voice. They are doing this through the campaign ‘I Am Somebody’. You can follow the link to learn more about the campaign, and the great work that the SCWC are doing in conjunction with Save the Children. The campaign, and the tournament itself, demonstrate that you don’t have to be powerful or famous to be important.

The campaign slogan, ‘I am Somebody’ is based on a poem inspired by the pastor and civil rights campaigner William Holmes Borders:

I Am Somebody
I May Be Poor
But I Am Somebody
I May Be Young
But I Am Somebody
I May Be On the Street
But I Am Somebody
I May Be Small
But I Am Somebody
 

 

I May Make A Mistake
But I Am Somebody
My Clothes Are Different, My Face Is Different, My Hair Is Different
But I Am Somebody
I Am Black, Brown, White, I Speak A Different Language
But I Must Be Respected, Protected, Never Rejected
I Am A Child
I Am Somebody.

Alex Charlton