Brazil: Children as the leaders for change

Children from Peixinhos, BrazilPeixinhos (meaning “little fish”) is a favela of almost 60,000 people built on the banks of the River Beberibe – a river once full of fish that fed the community. 

Now, it is rare to find anything living in the river, as it is so full of rubbish and waste – and every day this stinking pile is getting bigger, as the favela is on the outskirts of the historic city of Olinda (ironically renowned for its beauty by tourists).

Cariannie, aged just 11, tells me; “When children bathe in the river now they get really sick afterwards.” And, with winter just beginning, that means it has started raining … lots!!

The rubbish has a major negative effect on the water drainage systems in the community. Two days ago it rained so much the river burst its banks, leaving hundreds of homes in Peixinhos submerged in up to three feet of filthy water.

Many of the children have spent the last few days helping their parents to keep items in their home dry and protect chickens, pigs and dogs.

Grasinana, aged eight, tells me the water always goes in to her home when it rains – it pains me to think that these children are going home every day to damp, muddy houses.

No doubt this is why “Dia de Terra” (Earth Day) is celebrated so enthusiastically here – caring for the environment is a subject close to the children’s hearts. 

CAFOD partner Grupo Communidade Assumido Suas Crianças (GCASC) – the name means “Community Group Caring for your Children” – is working with local children to spread the message about the environment.

As part of Earth Day, the children illustrate how they will protect their local environment through beautiful drawings – correctly listing land, water, air and sun as the basis of all life and how we need to protect them.

Camilla, aged ten, says that water enters her home about three times a month when it rains. She promises not to pollute the river, not to throw rubbish in the street, to plant trees and recycle together with her friends.

Frances, aged 11, explains: “I am doing all that is possible, but it won’t work when just one person tries to save the earth while 10,000 people are destroying it, so we have to all come together to save the planet Earth.” I totally agree!

I desperately hope that the river does become less polluted, as this will lead to fewer floods because the water can drain away more effectively.

But, more than that, it will also mean these wonderful, bright, hard-working children will be less susceptible to the diseases and dangers that currently lurk in the river’s murky depths.

Posted by HannahC

1 Comment

Filed under CAFOD, Latin America and Carribean

One response to “Brazil: Children as the leaders for change

  1. Heather Vallely

    How very sad it makes me to read that things haven’t improved since I visited this community in 1990 – I remember we had to soak our feet in disinfectant after storms blocked drains, streets were flooded and covered in detritus and which could have spread Weils disease from rats.

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