Monday, August 20, 2018

Last Conversation...

Credit: Gregory J.Smith
Surviving the streets was no easy task for 11- and 12-year old brothers, Roney and Claudiney, who were always well aware of the dangers they faced...

I recall my last conversation with Roney just before he died, as if it were only yesterday. It was over the phone, almost four years ago, monumental memories of a beloved child.....

...a continuation of my story on street kids Roney and Claudiney, Surviving The Streets of Brazil....

Roney and his brother Claudiney had just successfully finished a 30-day hospital internment ordered by the juvenile judge, to recover them from a serious drug relapse. Now they were ready to take a short holiday break together with me, my son and some of the other kids in our street migration prevention programme. It would have been an ideal week to re-strengthen our relationship after them both having lost some time to this drug relapse so we were preparing to go to Hummingbird’s small-holding down by the coast, but were still waiting for the boy's discharge from hospital.

To my surprise, on the day of their release, the juvenile courts had decided to detain them for a further period in some overcrowded drug recuperation centre, where they were the only two kids amidst a hoard of unstable, adult men trying to get off drugs and booze. As it was the main summer holiday season, the judge wanted to be on the “safe side” and had therefore left a court order to detain the boys on leaving the hospital, until further notice. There was no discussing the matter as long as the judge was not available to decide otherwise, so they were immediately transported directly from the hospital to the only recuperation centre with a vacancy at the time. In my judgement, a highly unsuitable place for two young street kids such as Roney and Claudiney. The entire medical team who had treated them at the hospital was also against the move and meant that they would be much better off going back to Hummingbird now and getting on with their lives. After all, we already had five years of relationships with the brothers, through thick and through thin!

This was doomed to go wrong . . . .

After a couple of days at the shelter, Roney called me over the phone. He was irritated and frustrated and asked me why he and his brother had been put there. They were feeling much better after the hospital internment and simply wanted to get back to being kids again, get back to playing football and Capoeira at Hummingbird. He asked if I couldn’t just come and pick them up. I explained that as long as there was a court order and the judge was not available until after the holidays were over, there would be no chance of moving them, so we would just have to make best out of the situation until I could arrange for an audience with the judge to discuss their case.

I promised the boys to come on the next visiting day, as soon as I got back from my trip with the other kids at the end of the week, at which Roney asked me to bring along a football, shorts and some soccer boots, because there was absolutely nothing for them to play with at the shelter and he was already feeling bored to the point of wanting to run away from it all as soon as the first opportunity arose. I pleaded with him to just hang on until I could come and visit the following weekend so we could sit down and discuss the matter, maybe find a solution together. I was really worried about their situation, because I knew only too well, that to hold on to street kids like Roney and Claudiney without having the necessary infra-structure, was like trying to keep wild tigers in a dog’s kennel. But there was nothing more I could do at that moment . . . . . . . .

Since Roney’s brutal killing, I have often reflected over that telephone conversation and asked myself if things would have been different if I had given up the other kid’s holidays and instead gone straight to the shelter and tried to calm the distressed brother’s confused minds. I knew from experience, that we could ride this one out together. I knew that I could probably override the judges authority with my own and get away with it, but I didn’t. I had the other kids waiting with great expectations for their holidays. I still regret that decision....

A few days later they had ran away and it was during the night on that decisive day, that Roney and his street colleague at the time, 11-year old Júlio César, were attacked by cold-blooded, street kid killers, who cowardly beat them up, strangled them to death and dumped them in the woods. At that time, nobody other than the killers knew about the killing.

Can you imagine my uncomfortable feeling when the police also called me at the end of that same week, in their attempts to identify the bodies of two young boys who had been murdered and dumped into the woods close to our Hummingbird Rehabilitation Centre a couple of days earlier. I had already planned my visit to Roney and Claudiney the next day and felt pretty sure I would find them waiting for me, so I dared not even think about the possibility of a connection here (even though the police inquiry had made me pretty nervous).

Well, Sunday was visiting day, so my son and I started off early in the morning and drove off on the long trip out of the city, to find the shelter where Roney and Claudiney had been interned by the judge. I didn’t bother to announce my visit beforehand, because I thought it would be nice to surprise the boys as we were bringing along with us two pairs of shining soccer boots and some really nice football socks sent over from a donor in Canada. Also, a new football from our supporting football team and Norwegian Cup Winners, BRANN. But on our arrival, there was no Roney or Claudiney to receive either us or the gifts. They had run away only a few days earlier and nobody knew their whereabouts.

Ohhhh God! You can imagine my reaction of panic; first like an iceberg melting from top to toe, then a heat wave attacking my entire body. I couldn’t return fast enough to Hummingbird, only to discover that the murdered boys had been identified; one of them was Roney.

Claudiney had escaped, so that’s an entirely different story, but one that also ended in tragedy five months later.

Sometimes I ask myself if it’s all worthwhile. . . . . . . . .

About the Writer

Gregory John Smith is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on Last Conversation...

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By Uttam Gill on December 09, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Oh! Gregory its really painful to know of what has happened to those kids...Brutally they were murdered...I understand your state of mind...Certainly system is rotten...Life has become so cheap...Why isn’t the judge apply their mind...why is that kids are dying like this...what the he hell is going on...why we are not able to address such issues...Yes, I agree with you those kid would have been saved...judiciary is certainly proved very insensitive......They could have lived longer... Too late for those kids...

peace my friend....

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By Gregory John Smith on December 17, 2011 at 08:27 pm

Please read the follow-up on this story: How...? Who...? Why...?

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