After months of preparation and vigorous dance rehearsals, the most anticipated annual event in Rio de Janeiro is here. But amidst all the celebrations and smiling faces, there is also a hidden side to Brazil that remains masked: a country rife with inequality, drug lords and crime.
Behind the scenes, the streets of Brazil are governed by drug lords and criminals that ruthlessly rip families apart. Children whose parents are victims of drug abuse or owe large sums of money to illegal debtors, often turn to the streets to escape conflict within their own homes.
Unfortunately, the streets offer little sanctuary and these children are soon targeted themselves by drug gangs. In an attempt to numb their pain and hunger, they have little option but to trust these gangs who lead them into further addiction.
The Rio Carnival is the one event of the year that these children can look forward to, but standing amongst the crowd, you can’t help but wonder how some of the world’s poorest people still have the motivation to perform such a fantastically happy show.
Perhaps it’s because these are the only few weeks in the year when people can break down social barriers and come together to enjoy themselves.
The ‘greatest party on Earth’ encourages amazing solidarity, between slum dwellers, upper class Brazilians and tourists from around the world. But as we reflect on these special moments and the evidence to suggest that social inequality and divisions are achievable, let’s not forget our struggle to make this last every day, to rule out social exclusion from the roots and create a world of inclusion and harmony.
By providing access to activities such as arts and crafts, sports, dance and music, we are working to stamp out social exclusion. Our Hope and Life centre in Recife offers deprived children a chance to escape the dangerous streets, coming together to reflect on their dreams and hopes as they can change their aspirations to believe in their own futures.
As the Carnival comes to an end, let us use it as a reminder of the challenging social issues that still face this enormous nation. We must continue to work together to break the cycle of abuse and neglect that feeds the crime and murder rates, which still remain some of the highest worldwide.