From London to Rio
(Day 13th February)
The prospect of escaping the endless grey skies and the damp and cold of an English February for the potential of 30 C. degree sunshine is quite uplifting. Only the M25 crawl and machine-gunned squaddies at London's Heathrow International Airport appear to stand in the way. With a warm glow of expectation I am off to Brazil for my second trip there. This vast country always conjures up images of a massive swirling Amazon, piranha, amazingly colourful and noisy Carnavals, dancing, and the best football in the world. And now I am headed to Rio de Janeiro, a destination to die for, since every lifetime should include just one glimpse of this most beautiful of cities with its Sugar Loaf mountain and statue of Christ high up overlooking the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.
Since most travel throughout Brazil is easy going, calm and relaxed, I have packed little more than T-shirts and shorts for most of the visit. I have also purchased an internal transfer which is easily available, especially if one books in advance with British Airways or Varig, the Brazilian airline. Anyone with a view to some internal travel would be wise to buy one (at $360 for five flights) before they arrive in Brazil. This facilitates seeing something of the country at a tremendous value.
My journey to Brazil takes about 12 hours from Heathrow. São Paulo, which is one of the biggest cities in the world with nearly 20 million people, is my first port of call. Just a transfer landing. Then on to Rioanother 45 minutes by plane. The skyline is a mixture of modern high rise buildings incongruously set against the chaotic anarchy of the favela (shanty town) structures hugging the mountainous terrain. The cities of São Paulo and Rio act as magnets for impoverished Brazilians from the Northeast and the rural hinterland, and many start their lives in these cities building their humble homes from whatever they can find at hand. Over time these neighbourhoods become more established with (if you are really lucky) some sewage facilities, electricity andthis is real luxurypaved roads and street lighting.
Upon arrival at Antônio Carlos Jobim International in Rio, I start my stay with a delicious breakfast inside the airport consisting of scrambled eggs, cheese, freshly squeezed orange juice, rolls, cakes and succulent looking watermelon, washed down with coffeeall for about £2.70 ($4.3). This is really enough to keep me going for a whole day. And, there is a real joy upon discovering that I can use my mobile telephone, so I start madly texting people while I wait for my connecting flight. The exchange rate has stabilized at just under R$6 to the pound, which means that a few pounds can go a very long way indeed. This bodes well for a UK registered charity wishing to support work with children in Brazil. It is the reason why I am here. Let me back up a little
Brazila country of contrasts
Looking beyond the tourist treats of Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ statue, one finds a grim poverty existing within an excluded majority. Brazil is a vast landmass, 35 times larger than the UK, but with a population only three times as large, at 175 million. This is a country of extreme social contrasts hosting the biggest gap in the world between the wealthy and poormost markedly seen within its own north/south divide.
The developed southern portion of the country has more prosperity and has; in many places, a southern Mediterranean feel although still gaping social inequalities exist. The Northeast is notorious for its poverty and is home to a third of the Brazilian population. Many millions migrate out of the region looking to improve their lot in the more populated southeast. Some key facts include:
- 55 million Brazilians live on £48 or less per month; this means that a third of the population lives on less than a US$1 per day
- The average income of 10 percent of the population is 32 times higher than that of the poorest 40 percent
- One in 16 children dies before the age of five
- Over 40 percent of children up to two years-old suffer from malnutrition.
Brazil's children at risk
Millions of children find themselves living or working on the streets of Brazil. Unicef estimates that number at seven to eight million.
Also, according to Unicef, 36 percent of Brazil's children are poor. This means almost 21 million children under the age of 17 live with families considered 'miserable', their monthly income corresponding to half the minimum wage, which comes to about R$100 (approximately £20 or $32).
Only a minority, estimated at 450,000are totally on their ownorphaned, abandoned or without any contact with their parents. The majority try to maintain some contact with their family, however tenuous. Most try to supplement the incomes of their families by doing whatever they can to make just a little money. They may not have a home, good education or good nutrition but they surely have a great creativity to earn even a small amount of money, such as by selling things or juggling at traffic lights .
Helpfully, Unicef has classified street children into the following categories:
Children On the streetthis is the largest group, consisting of children who work on the street.
Children Of the streetthis includes runaways, abused, and alienated children from deprived and poverty-stricken families who are unable to maintain 'normal' family units.
Children In the streetthe smallest group consisting of orphans and abandoned children whose parents have died of illness, are on drugs, or simply unable to look after them due to family circumstance.
There can be a callous indifference to their plight, with the wealthy elite somehow reluctant to take concerted action to improve the children's lives. Often there is real hostility to the children. Typical ideas were received in a recent email sent to ABC (Action for Brazil's Children Trust's) from the infamous Clean the Streets campaign:
"I can see those children from my window everyday .sleeping, sniffing glue, begging, fighting, shitting, stealing, and ambushing old ladies ."
They want them out of the way. Often the children are not viewed as children at all, but as a threat to their property and even a threat to their lives. Death squad activity and police complicity have been documentedbest remembered from 1993 following a worldwide furor when five members of Rio's state police force opened fire on 50 sleeping street children. Eight were killed. It is conservatively estimated, that in Rio alone, two children a day are assassinated on the streets.
What, why, how ABC.
Which brings me back to why I am here...
The charity's main aims are to raise awareness and funds to help disadvantaged children and adolescents in Brazil, focusing on empowering them to transform and improve their own lives. As well as ensuring their basic needs, safety and well-being, ABC offers positive education and training opportunities through several community-based projects.
Patrons include Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, whose partner, Jimena Gomez-Paratcha, founded the charity, and Brazilian soccer stars Pelé and Silvinho.
ABC has some truly inspired benefactors. Apart from raising funds from individual donations and events ABC has major corporate supporters: Hunter Hall Investment Management, Carlton TV, Gibson Guitars and Barclays. Two trade unionsUSDAW and UNISON are also providing support along with grant-making trusts.
ABC also has supporters in the United States and dynamic volunteers helping to raise funds for projects.
So this is what ABC is all abouthelping projects which work with street children and those at risk.
But let me continue on...
(Days 14th & 16th February)
From Rio I take a short two-hour flight to the Bahian capital of Salvador. The swish and breezy airport of Salvador is much geared up to the visitor with everything available from the usual tourist information, car hire, and even a post office. Bahiathe size of Franceis a major tourist destination.
On Friday I meet with Alberto Lee, a charming Brazilian man who is a tourist guide, runs a travel agency, and teaches tourism management courses at the University in the evenings. Attaining a more middle class of existence often means having at least three jobs. I stay in a wonderful apartment owned by one of ABC's Brazilian trustees (Graça Fish) which has a stunning view of the bay.
Abrigo da Mãe Preta
The next morning we meet about a potential new project for ABCAbrigo da Mãe Preta, just down the road from the tourist centre of the Pelourinho on Ladeira da Montanha. This is one of the poorest places I have ever been to. The 'house' is no more than a hole in the wall, though nearly 40 children are living within it. Electric cables are everywhere and chaotic. Water is dripping, or rather running, in the toilet area.
I have been asked by Friends of Maria, a small UK-based charity, as to how ABC can assist the project in a more strategic way by finding out what Maria's needs are, and seeing how the children are getting on. The local council, via the Mayor's office, gave her the property some 10 years ago. That is all they have ever done for the project, besides make a few well-meaning promises that came to nothing. Interestingly, neither they nor the police do anything to hinder Maria and her work with the children.
Although Maria is 79 years old, she certainly has more energy than many half her age. A deeply religious woman, she has had 15 children herself, and after leading a very hard life, still wants to help as many children as she can. She used to live in the heart of the old citythe Pelourinhobefore the authorities moved people out and restored it. There are 39 children and teenagers living in her home at the moment. I meet about half of them, and then the rest as they return from school.
I can't understand where they all sleep as the place is so rickety and appallingly dirty. Maria explains that many of the children sleep on the floor and in the rafters, since, when it rains, the water pours through the myriad of gaps in the deficient roofing. The place is very dark, gloomy and damp. It reminds me of Fagin's den and the word Dickensian springs to mind. Most of the children had lived here from an early age. Maria has adopted a firm and disciplined approach so that they respond to her commands and display great respect for her.
Apart from schooling the children receive medical attention. Few of the children have ever really known their parents. Others had mothers who are still very actively making a living as prostitutes. The project desperately needs a new structure to rent. Maria wants a new building to accommodate the younger children, and then to refurbish the current location for use by the teenagers.
And one of Maria's main priorities is to get a new fridge, or even better a freezer, to keep the food which local market vendors can't sell and therefore donate to her. Today she is cooking up a massive cauldron of chicken feet. Rather unappetizing, but at least food. This lunchtime meal appears to consist of everything that anyone else would have simply discarded as noxious rubbish. Bubbling away in the cauldron, it is like a scene from medieval times.
With Alberto, I go and buy one week's worth of food supplies for all the children. I spend just under R$400 (or £75 - $120) for two massive shopping trolley loads of sustenance: fruit, vegetables, rice, beans, milk, meat and other basic foodstuffs. The Brazilian government recently did some research showing that a family of four could purchase R$28 of basic foodstuffs a month and survive.
We buy one of these bags of food. I doubt whether a family of four could really survive off this. Maria greets our offers of help and arrival with practical assistance, as if they are gifts from God; she weeping in gratitude and clasping her hands together as if to pray. It was somewhat overwhelming. How can some people have so much and then others so little?
Maria has managed to hook up with some electricity and water supplies. They term it 'borrowing'. To call the arrangement adequate would be stretching the point, but at least they have these things. They possess a fridge and an old black and white TV, though neither of them work. The environment is ghastly, but safe. Many of the children suffer from ailments and sickness, although remarkably many of them appear very well and high spirited. So the children receive food, but they were not well-nourished, and many still bear the scars of abuse and illness.
What would a UK Social Services department make of all this? I guess all the children would be immediately rounded up and shunted off into care, and there would be calls for a Royal Commission to be set up but in Brazil there is a lack of funds for these kinds of social interventions and social welfare programmes to grapple with the immensity of the problems for its impoverished children; Thus, this is better for them. Instead of the hardness and danger of sleeping in the streets, here they are being provided with a degree of care, love and a collective sense of working together.
I speak to Paulo, nearly 18 now, who has lived with Maria for almost five years in place of sleeping on the streets. I leave a camera for them to take pictures of their lives and send to me. I leave pens, pencils and some sweets I have bought. The pens and pencils have been donated by Denny Bros and Trendextwo local companies back in Bury St. Edmunds. I have balloons and bags from the Bury Free Press. The children relish the colour of the pencils and eagerly (but very politely) take the sweets I have bought as a treat.
So we resolve that apart from the new building, the most pressing priority for Maria is to get a new freezer so that donated food can be kept longer than one day. We dash off to a modern middle-class shopping centre in the Barra neighbourhoodcouldn't have been a greater contrastto purchase one. We succeed in getting one for R$880 including a two-year warranty. This will be delivered the next day.
We try to get an appointment with the local authorities to find about renting a new house, the costs etc, but this is not possible until the following week. At least a meeting is arranged, and Alberto is prepared to escort Maria and try to negotiate terms. He commits to taking photographs of the prospective new building and we discuss the proposal of employing a social workerthere are many unemployed graduates from the universitywho would be prepared to work with Maria and develop the project.
Some observations .
In the taxi on the way to the Recife airport, later on my journey, I will think back to this place and how you couldn't have a clearer sign of the wealth disparity of people sitting in their latest model cars, contrasted by people with children begging and selling at traffic lights. Could a more dangerous job exist? Three disabled people in wheelchairs begging, and swerving around the traffic is a desperately demeaning sight, but an everyday reality for a society with little social welfare provision.
The flip side is that many of Brazil's middle class live within fortress complexes with guards, porters and high railings. These gated communities are common in the wealthy neighbourhoods. Great big apartment blocks with underground car parking. Many families employ maids from the favelas, which, for me, has somewhat embarrassing overtones from the days of slavery. The wealthy of Brazil inhabit a completely different social reality with their modern shopping malls, the latest in mobile phone technology and designer clothes.
In the afternoon, I head off with Alberto toward the beaches in the south of the city to visit ABC project Circo Picolino. This is a children's circus that brings together around 200 children and young people. Last year ABC had given funds to provide for the training of 10 circus skills instructors. We have a bid from them to assist again, but this time for 20 of the young people to become instructors; the cost is R$40,000 (£7000 - $11,000).
The circus is based at Pituaçu and fronts right on to the beach. It is an impressive project. Everyone I mention it to in Salvador knew of it and their work. I am greeted by the project coordinator, Ana Maria Bourscheid, and meet with six of the instructors whose one-year course is due for completion in late March. I request that they return a standard application form and an account, written by the young people themselves, of what difference the circus skills have made in their lives.
I see and meet other younger children who were there receiving circus skills tuition. These childrenmainly girlsare from very poor backgrounds. Many come from orphanages. The program is doing all it can to encourage the children's attendance at the project allied to regular attendance at school. The program also has a computer roomthree computersand a small library which functions like a sort of homework club for the children by providing them with access to books and materials which most of them would not have available to them at home.
The workers are proud of their achievements and the project has developed considerably since it started in 1985. Most of them work part-time (some as little as five hours per week). Some are actually paid, if and when, there are funds to do so. The project is experiencing very real difficulties securing donations from other financial partners. Two months into the year, they are surviving off just the little that they've managed to bring forward from the last year.
Financial constraints mean that they can offer fewer public performances, thus further undermining income potential. The Brazilian authorities have very little to distribute to social endeavors and the Circo Picolino project further suffers, especially since it has as its core objective highlighting a cultural dimension which thus further undermines their priority status.
On Saturday morning, I take a taxi into the Pelourinho to meet with an ABC contact, Julia McNaught. She is the Brazilian-based coordinator for UK-based charity Estrela. This charity seeks to develop people to people links between northeast Brazil and northeast England (their UK base is in Gateshead), to broaden understanding mainly utilizing community arts activities.
We meet for the first time at the Filhos de Bimba Capoeira School, just off the Largo de Pelourinho. They work with disadvantaged children from across the city. The importance of capoeira to the northeast cannot be understated; it links the people to their past lives as slaves and their African heritage. It emanates from Angola, where most of Salvador's black population came from, thanks to the Portuguese colonists who brought them over to work on the vast sugar cane plantations.
Capoeira is like a ritualised fight which has evolved into a graceful semi-balletic art form somewhere between fighting and dancing. It is accompanied by the rhythmic twang of the unusual berimbau. As a martial arts dance form it develops a child's discipline and self-esteem, appealing especially to boys, although girls participate as well. I meet with the director Manual Nascimento Machado and observe more than 200 young children in their clean white capoeira T-shirts performing and loving every minute of it.
There is always something to look at and enjoy in the Pelourinho, as throughout the district there are music bands, capoeira demonstrations, street vendors and women in gorgeous traditional African clothes. Pelourinho is an attractive and touristed area with wonderful Portuguese colonial architecture, restored to its original glory, to where lots of pastel blues, greens and pinks predominate. Most of the original residentslike Mariawere moved out to undertake all the work.
Restaurants serve delicious sea food meals and moquecas, so that you can while away a few hours in the numerous cafés in the public squares and dreamily gaze at the wonderful buildings and churches. The street life is endearing but the street vendors sometimes become a little too friendly and overzealous. A Bahian breakfast is a must, including a plate of all the regional fruits: mango, pineapple, passion fruit, watermelon and others unknown to the UK traveller. A sumptuous breakfast for one costs less than £3 ($5). My whole family would have struggled to eat it all!
I had hoped to visit ABC-supported Buscapé project but simply ran out of time. This is a project for street children and young people with disabilities which aims to involve them in the design and making of costumes, music, song and dance for the Salvador Carnaval and other events. As it is the run up to Carnaval, the group, under the direction of Damien Hazard, is very busy indeed. ABC has supported the costs of a new roof, staircase and decoration for their facility. Their building looks most impressive from the outside and is situated in the heart of the Pelourinho.
Stop the War demonstration
Before visiting another Estrela supported project there was the small matter of attending the Stop the War demonstration being held in central Salvador that afternoon. It is a demonstration Brazilian-style, occurring under clear blue skies with rhythmic drumming and some of the most colourful flags I have ever seen. Such a joy to behold! Electrifying and hypnotic, with Júlia, on stilts, wearing a symbolic headdress saying Paz (peace), leading the march right into the heart of the Pelourinho.
The speeches are passionate, anti-imperialist, and very anti- George Bush. The anti-Americanism is driven by different forces which also drive feeling back in London, involving the disproportionate economic might and influence that America brings to bear on its southern Latin American neighbours. Since U.S. economic and cultural imperialism is despised by the left in Brazil, the U.S. flag is burnt by the demonstrators with great relish and enthusiasm.
ICasa Teatro Popular
Later in the afternoon, I meet with the coordinator, Kuka Matos, of Casa Teatro Popular who only a few hours earlier that day had been an enthusiastic demonstration participant dressed as a massive puppet. The project was formerly called Projeto Ativação, a Childhope UK-funded group, and is based in Rua Carlos Gomes.
This enterprise brings together community-based theatre groups, consisting of children and young people from the favelas, and tries to assert their cultural heritage through gaining their full civil participation. There is a strong focus on citizenship. They offer training programmes, workshops, and organize colourful and participative events and activities to raise public awareness about social and health issues in the poorest and most marginalized communities in Salvador. Street theatre activity involves use of performance along with the utilization of giant puppets.
This year Childhope UK has not managed to raise any funds for the project, and they have not overall managed to raise any money to pay for their project over-head, equipment and rent. All the project's committed 'staff' work on a volunteer basis.
Lençóis & Rural Bahia
(Days16th, 17th, 18th & 19th February)
The journey there .
On Sunday, I go to the Salvador airport to meet up with ABC volunteer, Ritchie Tennant. He is a teacher of excluded children in Suffolk. We hire a basic car for the journey via Feira de Santana, and then on, through the dry Sertão, to Lençóis where two ABC projects are situated.
This 450-km drive from Salvador takes us a little more than five hours with only two of the briefest stops to buy coconuts and fruit (jaca) from a road side vendor. There is something wonderfully timeless about stopping at a bar in the middle of nowhere for a cool, refreshing beer and gazing out at the deserted road and other beer drinker's horses tied up under the trees.
You can travel overland by bus as well. A bus leaves Salvador every night at 23.30 and takes about six to seven hours and costs about R$60 ($17) with return. There is also one plane a week leaving Salvador. For the adventurous traveller, Lençóis is certainly worth all the effort of getting there. Last time, when I went with my family, my children really enjoyed the ride and the little excitements along the way.
The last 40 minutes of the journey were especially hairy because, as darkness falls, we have to swerve to miss the profoundly deep potholesmissing the traffic coming the other way trying to equally miss their potholes. This is an essential driving skill in Brazil! Driving at night is not something recommended outside of the cities! Children running into the middle of road throwing sand is something else which you need to learn to miss. The children are trying to get motorists to slow down and give them a few loose coins. In return for this, they will continue to fill in the potholes with sand, and you can always buy some of the fruit they have collected.
The sertão is very dry and desert-like. Rural poverty shouts out to you. Outside the more established settlementswhich are few and far betweensome people are living in mud-hut style, or even worse, black plastic bag accommodations. You can't receive any radio stations until you get nearer to Lençóis where you can pick up the station run by young people at ABC project Avante Lençóis. The radio is operative every day from 8am to 2pm.
Lençóis is a former diamond-mining town and acts as the main tourist center of the beautifully uplifting Chapada Diamantina, an area of magnificent mountains, rivers, and water pools which are great for the adventurous trekker. It has some fine old buildings dating back to the days of its former mining predominance. I love this place with its rivers and surrounding greenness. It receives about 80,000 visitors each year, though a maximum of 3,000 tourists can be accommodated at any one time.
Tourism is very important to the local economy and there is a distinct focus on eco-tourism and long-term sustainability. We manage one trip out to see the mountain range, and get into the heart of the Chapada. I enjoy a great lunch of feijão, arroz and frango at a restaurant near to the river. Here, there is nothing more delicious than an after lunch dip, with lizards scuttling away as you take the path down to its edge.
We agree to visit a village some 45 kms from Lençóis called Assentamento Padre Cícero. This is located about 2 km down a bone-dry dust track from the main road. About 25 families live here with between 6-8 people in each unit. Their houses had been built by the government a year ago, since, previously, residents were living in mud-hut style dwellings by the side of the road. They draw water from a well. Water, that essential ingredient for all life, is such a precious resource that much of the project work centers on mãe água (mother water). It is as scarce as food often is. The environment is very harsh and every household has constructed elaborate systems to try and capture any rain water that comes their way. It hasn't rained for nearly two months and most of the local rivers are very low in water. They plant beans and corn, and I am shown large maniocs that are co-operatively grown.
On Mondays there is a typical small town market scene, with the addition of children hurriedly and determinedly ferrying around wheelbarrows full of groceries, delivering them throughout the town in order to earn one Real (20p). This is extremely hard work in very hot conditions. I meet one boy, who suffers from epilepsy, pushing a fully loaded wheelbarrow of water containers. He is really struggling with tears running down his face.
I am told by the Avante project staff that this boy doesn't go to school, his family life is chaotic, and that they have tried to involve him in their project on several occasions. His deep and palpable sadness really moves me, as he displays autistic behaviour. I give him an ABC whistle. He grasps it and looks at it like it's the first thing that anyone has ever given him in his life.
Rural life is not all toil. Although of course there is plenty of good honest outdoor work to do, there is also plenty of time for just sitting and talking, watching and soaking up the pleasure of just being! City dwellers would be amazed by the amount of spare time people in rural areas have, as they often like to think that rural life is a kind of hellish place full of tedious backbreaking work, thus leaving them feeling better and somewhat superior about their urban lives.
These outlying people want to continue to carve out a life from themselves in rural Bahia rather than forsake it for the disconnectedness and social misery found in the big city favelas. Work with these communities is vital (being that their needs are often overlooked) so that their children and young people have the necessary skills and confidence to remain in their villages, being able to contribute just as well as the others who have priorly fled to the cities. Although street children comprise an urban problem, the roots can be traced to the rural poverty, neglect and the enforced, even violent, displacement of large numbers of people from this and other rural land.
There are many laws about child labour in Brazil, but necessity, and lack of enforcement, mean that many children work long hours to supplement the family income. Seasonal employmentfruit picking, for exampletakes children away from their schooling in order that they can work for their families. While some reasons for the existence of street children can be blamed on family breakdown, conversely one can see that many other families, though faced by severe economic problems, remain very functional and cohesive.
Children are motivated by home ties and personal strengths to where they are willing to go out to work to sustain them. Research has consistently shown that the quality of the family, along with its resilience to poverty and hostility, have proven to be the most effective elements in keeping such children from living on the streets.
Grãos de Luz
ABC's project, Grãos de Luz (Seeds of Light), is its oldest and is very well established in the town of Lençóis where it is very highly thought of. The project provides extra curricular education, craft workshops, co-operatives and educational outreach to about 120 children per week. The project leaders have developed an excellent outreach program which extends out to the impoverished surrounding rural communities, such as the one we have just passed through, where they encounter children at risk
I meet with all the staff to discuss their budget for this year and their plans for the future. We talk with 12 young children (under age 7) to get their views of the project and determine what they feel the benefits are. This information is captured by Ritchie and will be reported upon separately. Also, in the afternoon we get together with 10 teenagers, who again tell us about what a difference the project is making in their lives, many having been with the project for several years. We give them a camera provided by BFP and they take photographs of each other, mostly with the products that they have made out of recycled paper and embroidery. Many of their wares can be seen, and are for sale, throughout the town in restaurants, hotels and shops.
The people here, and their children, greatly appreciate the outreach work undertaken by Grãos. I distribute some BFP balloons and yet more pencils.
Grãos wishes to purchase the land that the project is based on, and expand even further. We discuss how ABC would be able to assist them in achieving this. We agree to refine a bid to the UK National Lottery's program for international development. We also conclude that the project staff will compose a one-page summary of why buying the land and developing the building infrastructure is a good idea and worthy of external funding support.
The project has real difficulties with lack of access to modern IT (their computer isn't working while we are here), and Internet access remains very expensive as they have to hook up to a line to Salvador. We agree that the project should be encouraged to produce materials that we can use for educational work in the UK. For this, they will need a digital camera/video. Also, the project is keen to develop their own web site. I explain that ABC has support from Barclay's plc to undertake this work.
There also exist no local facilities for photocopying. Any significant purchase has to be brought from Salvador, so the project staff makes a trip there twice or three times a year. It is clear to me that few people get the opportunity to leave Lençóis from one year to the next. While ABC remains the key fundermeeting the costs of core salariesthe project staff is keen to develop more autonomy and hopes that by 2006 they can be fully independent. This is a mature and very successful project. I find that it is an admirable example of good practice, and I am keen to ensure that we assist them in disseminating this good practice to other projects in the Northeast.
In the evening we go to visit Francisco Souza Rodrigues and his family on the outskirts of the town. His daughter Vera has been attending the project for several years. I also encounter his son Reinaldo, aged six, who would very much like to attend despite the fact that there are not sufficient spaces. The project has 50 children on its waiting list at the moment. They all live in a sparely furnished two-roomed house without electricity or running water. It is a humble but well ordered home. The family of five survives on the father's income as an odd job man (gardener, caretaker) which pays less than the minimum wage.
Also this evening we meet all the other partners involved in supporting Grãos de Luz, and have a meal at Hotel Canto das Águas. This pousada helps with the project's rental costs. Other partners include Friends of Switzerland, local council, Venturas e Aventuras, and several other pousadas and restaurants. I also encounter two teachers who help with the project's rural outreach work.
I also meet Gabi de Mello. She lives in Jimena's house in Lençóis and has committed to providing us with translated materials from earlier interviews conducted by Ritchie with the children. Interestingly she has done research on indigenous Indians in Brazil (Índios na visão dos índios) and has produced materials collected in Pernambuco and Bahia.
On Tuesday, we spend the entire day with the Avante Lençóis staff and up to 20 young people. The project includes a community centre housing a newspaper and radio station with additional workshop facilities (literacy, paper recycling, dance, art, music) and a library. The centre also runs sports programmes. More than 70 children and young people are involved each week and 250 local families in the favela also benefit.
The project has developed a solid track-record and is doing very well indeed. Their new mission statement is:
Avante is a civil society organization with a mission to unite and mobilize the community of Lençóis through citizenship, communication and education aimed at creating a better future for children, adolescents and families in at risk situations; in effect diminishing social inequalities.
To assist with translation, local tourist guide, Wagner Fernandes, helps us. Ritchie speaks to all the young people and will be presenting his findings. We are gifted with a wonderful recycled account of the project, and asked whether we could copy this for them and send it. The document was composed by workshop participants Francisco Bispo dos Anjos and Silvio Marques da Silva (both 17 years).
Again, we discuss future plans, budgets, and especially the new building plans which ABC is already seeking funding support for. I now have architects' drawings to assist this process. We have also completed another application to fund youth leaders' training, a bid to Zurich. Avante is to resubmit their funding bid to ABC as reelected during our discussions.
The radio station is still going strong and is run by half a dozen young people, and the newspaper is now on its 36th edition. The young people decide co-operatively what goes in each edition, which consists of articles on economics, politics, social and community issues, culture and concerns pertaining to the environment. The whole editorial team poses proudly outside the community center with a copy of their newspaper along with the copy of the East Anglian Daily Times which I've brought over.
There is a real sense of dependence on ABC with Avante Lençóis, who has not managed to secure any partnerships from the private sector or other funders. The only other secure funding that they have is from the Carlson Family Trust based in the U.S.. All local monies and government support are one-off, and for comparatively small amounts. Again, salary requests are based on rather high levels. Everyone I speak to outside of the projects thinks that R$400-500 per month is a very good local salary. ABC needs to decide what level of salaries we should pay or make a contribution to.
Teenager, Wilson Santos Pereira, presents me with a proposal for help with some football kits. This request comes out of our earlier discussions in the morning about what they want to do and their desire to avoid getting involved in drugs. I decide to use a small sum of ABC money (£92 - $147) to purchase several of the kitsto be used by two Avante teams, male and femaleso that they could participate in the local league. They agree to send me regular reports of their soccer successes and a photo of the team. In return, I promise to send these on to ABC Patron, Pelé.
Avante is based in the favela of Tomba. The neighbourhood is expanding with the building of new houses (one room for a family of six), and people continuing to arrive from the rural hinterland. The project staff is ambitious to expand in order to meet social need. They even have plans to start growing their own food! I am shown the pitiful play area that doesn't actually have any working play equipment. All the swings have gone. They want to create new spaces for relaxation and community theatre. The project has worked hard with their local community to improve basic services, such as getting running water and sewerage.
The journey back .
We leave for Salvador, just a little too late in the day, having said goodbye to Grãos staff members Suzy and Lillian (they are making their own way back to Lençóis). Scorching heat and empty roads lay ahead until we hit the main road to Salvador with its thundering massive trucks, potholes and somehow the truck drivers just forgot to put their headlights on when it is really rather dark. Driving at night, unless you know the roads extremely well, is not recommended, and we certainly have our fair share of near misses.
We stop in the middle of nowhere at a garage with a few houses. We are thirsty and very hungry as we'd skipped lunchnever a good idea in Brazil. We are asked for a lift by an old man, and are surrounded by young boys selling small bags of cashew nuts for R$1 each. We buy a bag from each boy! The boys break open our finished coconuts, after we've drunk the delicious juice, so that they could scrap out anything inside to eat. The food I had bought prior to the stopa pasty and two doughnutssuddenly doesn't appeal. What a luxurious arrogance! I offer them to the boys and they eagerly grasp them, quickly sharing it out and pushing it ravenously into their mouths, obviously relishing every morsel.
They are so hungry that it strikes me how badly they need to eat the small bags of cashew nuts that they are trying to sell. We have a better and more secure idea of where our next meal is coming from, without having to sell a few bags of nuts to travellers. These boys don't. They spend every afternoon in the soaring heat, each day after schoolif they go to school at allselling a few peanuts . Can you imagine this reality for your child?
When we eventually make it back to Salvadorsix hours laterwe head for our meal of beans, rice and shrimps in the Pelourinho. We are continually interrupted by street vendors, children begging, and propositions from prostitutes. I am somewhat overwhelmed by the sight of a street child I had seen six months beforethis time with no shoes or T-shirt. Tears stain his dirty face, and he is continually moved on from one bar or restaurant to the next by stern looking bouncers. He moves quickly, but appears to not know where he is actually going. A boy of about 11 years old, he seems worn out, exasperated, totally unwanted and unloved.
There is a sharp mental anguish written into his face and distracted eyes that continually look for an opportunity of finding something to eat or a few coins. I ask him whether he wants to go to school, but the barriers are several: no home, no books, and no clean clothes. He washes himself in the nearby fountain in the main square of the Pelourinho. On the taxi ride back to our apartment, we see a dozen children laid out on cardboard boxes and assorted rags .theirs is another restless and fitful night living on the streets. I am reminded of street boy, Marcelo's words:
" I can't really sleep well on the street. You close your eyes and you never know if someone will come to light a match and set you on fire while you are sleeping. Sometimes I don't sleep at night. I prefer to sleep during the day when everybody is watching out."
Recife & Olinda
(Days20th & 21st February)
My early meeting with Alberto gets completely messed up, and I have a stressful journey to the airport, getting there very late for my flight... But the flight had been cancelled anyway! Taxi drivers You always can find lots of stories to tell. Some are helpful. Some very cheerful. There are the young ones who drive at breakneck speed when it isn't necessary. And the others, usually older and grumpier, who keep their foot on the brake all the way to the airport, especially when you are really running late. Also one can't help noticing that many of the taxi driversstruggling themselves to survivedrive on nearly empty (or it seems below empty at times), so I guess that they will buy just enough petrol from their current fare to cover the same costs of their next.
I am met at the Recife airport by ABC supporter and Brazilian teacher Carmita Galvão. She is committed to helping her country develop socially and to seeing that its children flourish. She works in a public (state) school teaching English. I had visited various projects with her previously. She tells me about one of the coordinators sons who had been shot dead by mistake in his favela at the age of 22. She is keen to assist with the collection of case studies, help with translation, and with developing any exchanges. Like in Salvador, preparations for Carnaval in Olinda are well advanced. Wow. They take their Carnivals seriously with wonderfully colourful bunting lining criss-crossing the streets.
However, make sure you don't book a room fronting the street! I am kept awake most of the night by singing, dancing and drumming. And Carnaval hasn't even started!
Olinda (and some ramblings)
Olinda, situated next to Recife, consists of old crumbling colonial buildings with cobbled streets brimming with life. The warmth encourages people to be out in them, and there is a great sociability and ease of pace. The rhythm is one of calmness and friendliness. Shorts and T-shirts predominant. Every other house is an art gallery whereby you can just walk in and view art and chat with the artist. The prices are incredibly accessible.
There are two charming pousadas on Rua do Amparo that have strong artistic presence. Just across from my pousada (Pousada do Amparo) is Bodega do Véio, which consists of a mix of old style grocer shops with shelves up to the ceiling, and a lively bar selling great beer (Brahma). A gigantic bottle of ice-cold brew sets you back a mere R$2 (40p - 60 cents). People spill out onto the streets. There is energy but at the same moment, timelessness resonates.
Few people need, want, or can possibly afford cars. Often this conjures up an earlier era whereby streets can be full of life, since you don't feel that some speeding automobile will mow you down at any moment. Like in Lençóis, children in Olinda, can be seen running around late into the night playing games like hide and seek. Yes, they do seem to have something very special that we have lost to our crazy car culture, leading us often to over-control our children and young people. There is a leveling effect whereby everyone regardless of age has an absolute right to exist and enjoy public space.
Most nights of the week in the UK, our streets and public spaces are bereft of people and communal life, only cars, and most people are reluctant to be out in the streets, fearful of a media-induced hysteria of the, thankfully very rare, lone predatory criminal or lairy gang of alcohol-induced unsavory young males. What do we do to our children? It seems we have arrived at an impasse... We want them to be expressive and liberated, but we don't allow them the public space to develop the necessary skills to exert their rights and act in a responsible and community-spirited manner.
The old part of the town is relatively small, and the town, or rather city, belies vast sprawling favelas. Where the paved roads run out, there are no streetlights, and unless you know exactly what you are doing, you'd be wise not to venture into it.
Reflections on Politics, and Lula
Yes, life is tough for most. And there are violent and dangerous neighbourhoods. But there are also a hope and expectation of being able to escape the poverty, and create a better life. For most people I talk to, the biggest issue is the gap between those that have nothing and those at the top. Many women told me of their disappointment with Brazilian men and their propensity toward alcoholism and domestic violence. Like women throughout the world, Brazilian women are not prepared to tolerate this. They leave violent and unhealthy domestic situations and try to make their own way, despite all the many difficulties and poverty.
Brazilians seem genuinely optimistic, with their new president, Lula, now installed. The desire is for food, education, better health care and other basics, though the aspiration for improved education stands out. Instead of a quality education (especially higher) being only accessible to a small privileged minority, it needs to be more easily available and at no, or minimal, cost. Everyone I meet in the favelas has voted for their new president, who they see as one of their own.
He, too, had experienced hardship in his home state of Pernambuco before leaving for the opportunities offered by the southward city of São Paulo. Now, with very little formal education, he has become 'O Presidente'. They find hope in many ways from Lula's story since he fought through four presidential elections before becoming successful without, rather stubbornly, giving up. This is the story many people relate to me.
Can Lula deliver the kinds of social improvements which are so desperately required by his people, with national debt hanging around their necks like a dead weight? This sum is estimated at $250 billion, or almost 60 percent, of Brazil's GDP. This all limits Lula's ability to spend on welfare, education, health, policing, and the other public services he promised to improve. The people who voted for him hope so. But they also have an understanding of the enormity of the problems.
He will try his best, and they know they can't expect more than that. Can he avoid the political corruption and nepotism of his forerunners and the wealthy political elite? His fairly modest political agenda includes a pledge to see his people have enough food to eat. Project Hunger (Fome Zero) has already been launched in the Northeast.
Patronato, Pina, Recife
Friday is the most emotionally exhausting day of my life. Trying to capture these emotions and thoughts isn't easy.
I visit Patronato with Carmita. Patronato had been introduced to ABC as a potential new project, via gap year student, Leo Earle. They have applied for £6000 ($ 9,600) to help pay for basic materials and salaries. The project coordinator, Maria Conceição Costa, has picked me up from the Pousada and has taken me to the project in the favela of Pina. I am greeted by several dozen children and young people from the favela. I distribute pens and whistles, which they adore. One girl, Jéssica, has made me a presenta mask made from recycled paper. She is very proud of it, and it is of high quality. I give her one of the cameras that had been donated by the Woolwich. I later visit her family in the favela.
They cater to upwards of 160 children (aged up to 15). There are two sessionsmorning from 8 to 12 and afternoon from 2 to 6where the children receive a meal of rice and beans. They play music for us and dance traditional dances. Our visit is treated as a special occasion. All the children are very excited and act warmly to us.
The project has very good building facilities provided by the church. Their problems center on paying staff and buying materials. They lack most of the basics for working with the children. Imagine trying to deliver an art class without materials! They have some paper donated by a local business, but this is just the outside packaging from reams of paper, a few pencils, and ineffective scissorsall of which they guard preciously. I ask them to produce a list of materials that they need in order to see whether we can secure UK business sponsorship. This list is ready for me by the time I am ready to leave! To the shopkeeper's obvious delight I pop over to a shop nearby and buy all they carry in terms of paper and colouring pencils.
The project also provides a facility to recycle clothes to children and families living in the favelashirts, T-shirts, shoes etc. They are desperately keen to receive donations of any clothing items.
The staff is skilled and completely dedicated, although some months go by when they aren't paid, thus, of course, causing problems with staff continuity. Their annual budget has never exceeded R$50,000 (£9000 - $ 14,000) in any recent year. Half of their funds are supposed to come from the city and state governments, although this is never guaranteed.
The staff has firm ideas on how to transform the children's lives and provide them opportunities, as, also, do the children themselves. They speak with me about their lifestyles of poverty, drugs and the resultant constant deaths, unemployment, lack of opportunities to go to college, and having to live with relatives ad mist over crowded conditions. But still, there is an optimism that always shines through. Many children are very bright and engaging. With the right mix of opportunities they could do so well. And they can dream their dreams! Some boys spoke of their ambitions of becoming a teacher (Jobson), a footballer (Weidson), a vet (Rafael), a policeman (Davison), a doctor (Raoni)aspirations like any other child's. But I wonder whether they will have the means to realize them.
I visit the favela to meet the families. Absolute squalor. Houses made of boxes and pieces of wood on stilts (palafitas) in the most polluted water imaginable admist the smell and stench. But it isn't in any way scary. The people are friendly, receptive, responsive and anxious to talk about their lives. Around each corner, and down some very squalid alleyways, people are cleaning their homes or preparing shellfish to eat.
Everyone says good afternoon and asks how I am. Many families exist on incomes way below the monthly minimum. The miserably poor. A large number are living on R$90 (£17 - $27) per month. I meet and chat with Maria Messias da Silva (aged 60with no front teeth!), a long-standing community leader. She has had eight children herself; now with 22 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They all live in the favela! I meet one of her sons, Sergio and he proudly stands with his daughter Veril who attends the project. And they even have a few books in their home. Maria, as a community leader, is doing all she can to improve the quality of life for local residents. Lots of major improvements are required.
I don't feel like white man cometh! I don't feel that I am resented in anyway. They know I am there to try and help support their local project, which they greatly value.
One woman of 26, who has a girl attending the project meets us in the favela and, after chatting for about 30 seconds, offers us her baby. She says she can't cope. She is a grandmother left with her 7-month-old granddaughter. Her own daughter is a crack addict and unable to look after her own baby.
Alessandra Bellini, an Italian-American, joins us at the project. She wishes to do some volunteer work for ABC by actually interacting with the children, especially the abused girls, using music and dance. Both Alessandra and Carmita commit to writing up and sending me their observations on the day's visit.
Added note: Kurt Shaw, Director of US-based Shine a Light has been working with the project, and he has since e-mailed me a letter of support, writing:
"One can barely imagine the conditions in the favela, a motley collection of shacks built on stilts over a mangrove swamp. Trash and sewerage wash under broken floors where children play. There is no running water or sewage, and electricity is robbed from passing power lines."
Sobe e Desce
Our visit runs over time by several hours, making us very late to get to Sobe e Desce, a half hour drive back to Olinda. I have visited this project, which works with street children and very disadvantaged young people, in the past when I was on holiday some six months ago in the company of my family. I had previously worked for Lloyds TSB Foundation and had organized a small grant of £2500 for basic equipment and materials for the project.
There, they are all getting prepared to dance and perform for us. I feel so bad about being so late. As I am trying to quickly refresh myself at the Pousada, the young people from Sobe e Desce came and find me. They present me with this wonderful box covered with photocopied photographs of both the project and the children. Inside the box they have made my family some T-shirts, jewellery and letters. I cry!
One ex-street boy, Robson, had written to me following my previous visit. He once more commits to keeping in touch with ABC. Again, they are very interested in getting some funds to buy football kits and competing locally. They also gave me two new funding proposals: one to improve their project building costing just over £3,000 ($ 4,800), the other for £3600 ($ 5,700) to pay for all the food and four staff members' salaries for one year!
We discuss their lives on the streets and whether three of the teenagers could possibly come across to the UK and make a presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children in the late autumn. They are very positive about this, but will need travel costs met, warmer clothes, spending money, and even passports! Carmita offers to assist.
After the meeting I am having a cold beer outside my Pousada when a young boy, of no more than age nine, comes up to me begging. I give him R$5 on the condition that he goes directly opposite to buy some food and a drink. It is midnight and he says that he hasn't eaten that day. Every day he goes out begging and trying to get money to help his family. There are 10 people in his small house in an Olinda favela. He is so very tired, with his eyes drooping, that he has difficulty talking or expressing himself.
(Days22nd & 23rd February)
On to Fortaleza, a city of skyscrapers right up to the beaches and two million people. This is the capital of Cearáa very poor state in the Northeast. Flying over the baking, barren and arid northeastern sertão with its dry river beds, you are suddenly enlivened by the sight of flowing rivers and lush greenery. Although the Amazon is still some way off, it beckons from the horizons beyond.
The airport is modern and airy. Although I am running two hours latecourtesy of ailing national airline company VarigJani, my local contact and Children in Hunger trustee, is still patiently waiting for me.
I am in Fortaleza to visit another potentially new ABC projectCriancas Famintas (Children in Hunger). This project provides up to 60 young children a day with food and some limited educational opportunities. All the participants come from a favela called 31 de Março, near Praia do Futuro, where about 400 families live.
I stay near the main city beach of Iracema with its long line of hotels, beach bars, restaurants and craft market. It feels very much off the mainstream tourist trail and most of the tourism is generated from Brazilians from other parts of the country. Everyone warns you not to stray too far away from the lit up Avenida Beira Mar, as robberies are commonplace. Fortaleza gets almost a daily tropical rain shower, which is very refreshing and enlivening.
Jani, Graham Townsend, and other trustees have helped develop the project for several years, where they try to provide R$18.000 (£3250 - $ 5,200)) per year to meet the costs of basic foodstuffs. Regular visits to the project include 'hands on' buying of the food from the cheapest city markets. The project is run by local women, many mothers, and is firmly rooted in the community. The building is provided by the church. A German donor has helped with some of the refurbishment, which includes new toilets. They wish to expand to a neighbouring plot of vacant land so that they can help even more children in the favela.
Here are some teachers working almost for nothing, like in Patronato. There are only a handful of books and pencils. They have no paper. Again I arrive with paper, pencils and crayons. The children have produced some wonderful drawings as a gift to my family and me. On the day I visit, more than 80 children arrive! The project tries to provide a safe environment so that their mothers and caregivers can do some work, opening at 7.30 am and closing at 6 pm.
A large proportion of the children go to school after they have left the project. But many others work full-time, and many of the girls are compelled to look after younger brothers and sisters while their mothers go out to work. Glaciane is nine years old, and does not go to school as she has to look after two younger siblings. She tells me how much she'd love to go to school. The government has initiated a program that gives families up to R$40 (£8 - $13) per month for food as long as their children stay in school. But the scheme is patchy and tends to only help one child in a large family.
There is an almost complete lack of formal employment. Few men are employed, and there is an endemic problem of alcoholism. Malnutrition is commonplace, and I saw many examples of sickly children. I went to the homes of some of the children, many of which were very poor indeed. One woman I spoke to told me of her poverty and the daily struggle to survive. Four of her seven children had died in their infancy, and her youngest son is very undernourished and doing poorly. Her husband is old and unwell, but he receives a pension of R$200 ($58) per month which they combine with her R$120 ($35) earned by cleaning clothes and doing other domestic work. Their condition is so bad that I feel compelled to make an immediate donation!
Another family, composed of a woman in her early 30s plus her eight children, is so poor that they are living in her mother's small house (two rooms) with three of her children having gone to live with an aunt. Her husband, Julio, is a builder, but has been without work for several months. He gives me the impression that he's simply given up on looking, and even on hope itself.
Rio de Janeiro
(Days 24th & 25th February)
Children of the Drug Trade
Time has progressed and I am on my way back through Rio to return home. I have finished meeting up with Luke Dowdney who works for Viva Rio. He has set up a boxing club for at risk young people in the local favela of Maré. He explained to me his groundbreaking research, which was funded by Save the Children Sweden, DFID and UNESCO, among others, on children living in the favelas and their involvement in organized violence and drug trafficking. According to Luke, the ferocity of the award winning film City of God (Cidade de Deus), and the control of favelas by drug gangs, was not an exaggeration of the daily deaths and extreme violence found in some of Rio's 600 favelas.
Approximately 6,000 to 10,000 young people, nearly half under the age of 18, belong and work for the three main drug gangs. They are made responsible for the security and defense of their favela, receiving a fixed salary for their work as lookouts against the police and/or rival gangs.
Often their weapons are better then those of the police and the military. They are involved in armed combat with them along with that between rival drug gangs, resulting in an average of 300 under 18 olds dying from gun related injuries in Rio every year. In fact, more children and young people are perishing from small arms related deaths in Rio than in other places in the world which we would traditionally define as being 'at war'. Of course, Rio is not in a state of declared war, but just consider, that from 1987 to 2001 467 Israeli and Palestinian minors were killed, while during the same period just less than 4,000 minors in Rio.
Although children working for the drug gangs cannot be defined as street children, since they continue to live in favela communities in which they labor, they may be viewed as working in the street one of the most 'dangerous working environments' for child labourers in the world. This is a real 'kill or be killed' social reality. Children enter the drug trafficking world, as for many, it is the 'best alternative among limited options'. Endemic poverty, no help from the state, a lack of access to the formal employment market, and the prior involvement of other family members or role models translates into the children finding drug trafficking the most 'attractive' way of living readily available to them.
Added note: Just to drum these points home to me, my contact in Rio subsequently ends up writing to me about high profile bomb, arson and other attacks by the armed drug gangs of Rio during the period leading up to Carnaval. The drug faction (Comando Vermelho or Red Command) set fire to buses (nearly 40 were either burnt up or shot out throughout the city); attacked police stations and threw bombs into middle-class neighbourhoods, such as Ipanema, and ordered businesses and shops to close or face retaliation. Even schools shut down. A public statement was issued by the gang criticizing the policing of favelas and accusing politicians of violence against the poor.
Luke also has stated that he would like Viva Rio to become more involved with ABC in the future and asked whether we could promote his research and bring this to the attention of MPs at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children when ABC goes to Westminster.
Also, prior to my arrival in Rio, I was in contact with Debora Carrari, who was originally put in touch with me through Sonia Gomez-Paratcha, via e-mail. Debora lives in Florida and has offered to undertake some volunteer work for ABC since she is currently undertaking her Masters' research into conflict resolution and doing a five-week placement at Viva Rio. We meet to discuss possibilities, resulting in me agreeing to forward a range of ABC information.
All this reminds me that I forget to mention that, when I was previously in Rio, I visited ABC's sister charityTaskBrasilwhich works exclusively there, based in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood. They manage a refuge for abandoned young children, babies and their teenage mothers. The refuge is called Casa Jimmy, after Jimmy Page, ABC's founder Patron, who gave a large sum to buy a vacant building to set the refuge up. There are now planning to further construct and extend the refuge. One of ABC's supporters, businessman Jon Maquire (Sway plc Chief Executive), has just arranged for two builders to go over and help. ABC has made recent donations to assist in this development as well.
(Day- 3 March)
The days in Brazil have all passed too quickly and now, alas, I find myself back in the office ready to return to my duties behind the desk. But what I have seen and experienced has only served to make me even more determined to continue the work ABC has begun and the difference it is making.
The above diary is an account written by England-based Action for Brazil's Children Trust's (ABC) Chief Executive, Mark Ereira, during his two-week visit to Brazil. The purpose for the visit was to meet with contacts and identify volunteers in connection with the following 11 ABC projects helping Brazilian children at risk:
Salvador: Abrigo da Mãe Preta (Friends of Maria), Circo Picolino, Estrela, Filhos de Bimba Capoeira, Buscapé, Casa Teatro Popular
Lençóis: Grãos de Luz, Avante Lençóis
Olinda: Sobe e Desce
Fortaleza: Crianças Famintas (Children in Hunger)
Mark Pereira is Chief Executive of ABC Trust which was one of the organizations featured in the article "Helping Hand's" in Brazzil's November 2002 edition. He actively oversees the operations of the Trust and maintenance of its philanthropical projects benefitting disadvantaged youth in Brazil. More information on ABC is also available at www.abctrust.org.uk or you may e-mail Mark directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Grant, a regular contributor to Brazzil, collaborated with Mark in putting the diary into final form.