During the delicate phase of motivating children to leave the streets for good, their worries become our worries. Will they survive the time they will need to reach this important turning point in their lives? Each individual child hides an anonymous history, with debts that some day will need to be paid. For a child trying to survive the mean streets of the big cities in Brazil, he would be much safer riding a wild bull at rodeo.
Their involvement with the underworld and its multiple criminal activities guarantees that sooner or later these kids will end up spending a good part of their childhood in one of the infamous reform institutions or youth detention centres called Fundação CASA (earlier called FEBEM), or better known as “schools” for developing young, aspiring criminals! That is, if they don’t reach heaven’s doors first, as many of their colleagues inevitably will or already have done.
For any loving parent, who lives to protect and provide for their own kin, trying to comprehend what these kids go through on the streets becomes an impossible, surrealistic task. Trying to understand how anyone is capable of inflicting such terrible pain or even killing a child abandoned to the streets, is beyond any normal, caring citizen’s imagination.
Only a month after the incident and on observing the multiple scars left on his frail body, I could only imagine the intense battle Roney must have fought to avoid getting stabbed in a more “strategic” place by that butcher’s knife held in the hands of somebody far worse than any butcher you or I might happen to know. Had it not been for his well-trained agility, something most kids on the street possess as part of their survival game, I’m quite sure that the outcome of that situation would have ended up in the butcher’s favour. This time he went free, but alas, Roney’s luck would one day run out...
On listening to Roney tell his incredible stories would often make me question how on earth could any child, who knows and feels the pain inflicted by such episodes, still have the courage to carry on such a tormented lifestyle, especially when a positive alternative is close-at-hand. Then I would quickly remind myself of past experiences and realise the considerable amount of work that lies ahead of us if we are to counterbalance all that is negative in such a persecuted child’s young life.
To facilitate their own vision, I try to get street kids to visualize their own lives as a set of weighing scales. On the one side there is a dish; overflowing with negative experiences, which represents their accumulated past..., on the opposite side, a rather empty dish, with plenty of space for the unknown; representing the many positive things yet to come... These scales in whole represent the constant battle they are fighting, between the good and the bad, and it is our job to counterbalance all those antagonising experiences by providing security through the loving and caring that any decent human being is capable of giving, combined with positive activities and basic norms for living a dignified lifestyle with necessary consequences, either positive or negative, depending on their own attitudes and actions.
As time passes, the rather empty dish on the one side of our imaginary scale begins to outweigh the heavier dish on the other side, because, as with the bad memories in life, nobody can take away from us the positive experiences that will always be guarded safely in our hearts.
Little by little, the good will try to overcome the bad, if not only in the imagination, ploughing the way to begin the real work recuperating a street child. If they will succeed during that long journey is quite another question……