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Friday, March 24, 2017

Gregory John Smith's Profile

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The Legacy of a Street Kid – Part I.

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The Legacy of a Street Kid – Part I.

A word about Gregory John Smith:

Gregory J. Smith came to Norway for the first time in 1971 as an exchange student. He enjoyed it so much and after finding a girlfriend in Bergen, he decided to stay. He followed a variety of different careers, such as production designer for theatre and film, as an Arts and Antiques restorer, as an Art educator and social worker and as an Art dealer, dealing with some of the world's major auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's. After a few years he moved to the countryside in Os, near Bergen, with his wife and children. There he bought an old school building which he renovated impressively and transformed into his family home. In 1992 he realised an old dream: to use his resources and work experience to help children in another part of the world. After 22 years he decided to leave Norway to start a so-called recuperation centre for homeless children living on the streets of Brazil's largest city, São Paulo. In 1992 Gregory established the Children at Risk Foundation (CARF) in Norway, and took drastic measures to ensure it had enough money by selling his wonderful house and auctioned off all his furniture and belongings. The idea and the auction generated much media interest through-out the country, and Gregory’s was soon a well-known name in Norway. A short while later Gregory invited fifty of the best-known artists in Norway to donate quality works of art for yet another successful auction in aid of the foundation. In 1993 Gregory moved to Brazil to start the project. He came to São Paulo with his son Marcus and started the search for a good place to establish CARF's recuperation centre for street children. A benevolent and committed lawyer from the city left him as a legacy a smallholding with a large house and out-buildings, as well as enough land for football and other sports, near a reservoir in the neighbouring community of Diadema, one of São Paulo’s suburbs. But the property had to be completely restored, and Gregory’s original training as an architect stood him in good stead. And of course there were the usual bureaucratic difficulties, but Gregory succeeded in getting permission to stay in Brazil, and CARF's Brazilian sister organisation soon became a reality. Gregory started by offering shelter to a small group of street children in the Praça da Sé, the old cathedral square where many of the city's street children lived. He soon came to know the brutal lives of Brazilian street children, where drugs like crack and glue, sexual abuse and police violence are all part of the lives of children even as young as three. But many children survived the streets and have since grown up to become responsible citizens thanks to the organisation’s efforts. In 1999, Gregory became a fellow of Ashoka's global network of Social Entrepreneurs (www.ashoka.org) and the following year he was also awarded the Lion's Club Melvin Jones Award for his social commitment for children's rights. Today, almost 20 years later, the organisation in Brazil, the RCBF - Rede Cultural Beija-Flor, operates four different centres with a focus on prevention programmes involving the Arts, Culture and Sports to diminish street migration, attending an average of 2000 children each year. Visit our official page on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rcbeijaflor

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