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3 Aug, 2009 05:37

Breaking the vicious circle of poverty

Gangs rule the streets of the Brazilian slums. Youngsters are caught in a vicious cycle of crime and poor living conditions. But there are places in the country that give hope to young Brazilians.

The movie City of God won worldwide acclaim after its release in 2003. The crime drama drew a harsh but accurate picture of life in Brazilian Favelas, or slums. Saturated with gangs, drugs, and trafficking. Many of the films extras were genuine poor children, not professional actors.

And years later, although Brazil as a whole has been on the up, life for kids on the street has gone nowhere but down.

“People who are already living on the streets are considered lost. They are known as ‘the invisibles’,” says Demetrius Demetrios, a social worker from Recife, the largest metropolitan area in northern Brazil.

He is one of the few who does see them. Demetrius forced himself to live on the streets for a year before opening a special children’s center in Recife.

Going there, homeless kids get a chance to be kids: do art, dance and capoeira. Not to mention eat, learn to read and see doctors and psychologists.

“The government doesn’t think it’s possible to help build another life for these kids, but I know it’s possible,” Demetrius is convinced.

Death threats and attacks have become a common thing for Demetrius. Gangs and drug lords lose staff when kids decide to come to his center instead.

Edvania Da Silva is 20, and already the victim of violence and poverty: “I lost my husband after he was shot for robbing a house, and now I have given my two children away,” she said.

She lives on the streets at night, when the center is closed for safety reasons, but it's her sanctuary during the day. The only way to survive for now – for her and dozens others. Homeless, but maybe not hopeless any more.

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