Thursday, August 25, 2005

Please answer our cry!

Please answer our cry!, originally uploaded by carf.

We would very much appreciate your feedback in our simple, ten question Children At Risk – Charity Participation Survey, which will help us to implement more effective public participation and support for our programmes with at-risk children in Brazil.

Thank you for your co-operation!

Saturday, August 20, 2005


The War of the Silent
The War of the Silent, originally uploaded by carf.

It’s been exactly a year now since the night slaughter of innocent street dwellers took place in the city centre of São Paulo.

Seven people who lived on the streets were finally put out of their misery, using the most disgusting means ever by their unidentified attackers. The motivations for these brutal killings have still not been identified.

At the time, the Secretary of Public Security, Saulo de Castro Abreu Filho, promised that the case would be resolved within thirty days (Hah! That was a good one!!!)
More than 110 witnesses have since been heard and the only three real suspects have already been released for lack of evidence, according to the Public Ministry’s office.

Those sordid acts against our street dwellers happened between the 19th and 22nd of August, 2004. The seven who died were all slain with heavy blows to the head, whilst another eight were seriously wounded.

The police suspected that the massacre had some connection with drug trafficking in the central region of the city and over territorial disputes, but this theory was never confirmed.

There was even strong enough evidence that the police themselves were involved, even to the stage of two of them being held prison, together with a colleague, only later to be released. In November, the Public Ministry’s office considered that the evidence was insufficient to hold them and they were subsequently released.

The Public Ministry realises that such a long delay in getting this case resolved only makes things worse for the entire investigation. "Time is always the best friend of the criminal", said District Attorney, Carlos Cardoso yesterday, representing the Human Rights Office of the Chief Procurator of Justice.

So whilst we pressure for a solution for this case, suddenly there comes to light the assasination of yet another street dweller in March this year, this time it was one of those who had witnessed the second attack on his street colleagues in August 2004.

Four policemen are being held, accused of committing this crime in March, and, according to investigations, this case has surely something to do with the massacre in August last year.

According to chief inspector, Luiz Fernando Lopes Teixeira, there have so far been six suspects identified for the attacks, who probably acted together with the policemen and a security guard. Teixeira confirms that the six suspects are all part of a group involved in drug trafficking, extortion and homicide in the city centre.

14-year old Elton (above), was not on the streets at the time, although he was in the process of leaving the streets. As with most street kids he was found a pest and a plague to some people, but I just won’t accept that was enough to justify his senseless death, shot at close range in the chest. The image of his dead body on the grass banks of the peaceful reservoir, close-by to our Hummingbird Centre, is still branded in my mind. His and all the others who have followed him during these last few years.
The above image, even though I have done my best to disguise its ugliness, is a shocking testimony of the fact that they still shoot kids in Brazil.

They still carry on murdering innocent human beings with their deranged reasons, and as long as there is no justice this image will repeat itself, time and time again!

We know who shot Elton, they know who killed the seven street dwellers in the city centre... - but do they really care?????

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Saturday, August 06, 2005


Our socio-cultural partners from Rio de Janeiro, Grupo Cultural AfroReggae during a rehearsal for Globo Television’s mega show, ChildHope.

Hopefully we will overcome this traumatic experience and carry on believing that our social investment in them is all worth our efforts.

I’m writing this in a moment of utter despair, disappointment and embarrassment on behalf of not only the kids of Hummingbird but also all the other children at risk in this country.

If you have been following recent developments at Hummingbird you will have noticed that our cultural group is supposed to be participating in the mega television show, Criança Esperança (ChildHope), which goes live on TVGlobo tonight.
The show, now in its 20th year running and supported by UNESCO, unites some of the most well known television artists and social entities in Brazil in an effort to raise funds for children’s social development programmes throughout the country.

Our participation was fundamental to the further development of our objectives in the Brazilian socio-cultural arena. A major door opener to say the least!

Until the general rehearsals yesterday, everything was going as planned. Thousands of dollars invested by TVGlobo to secure the necessary infrastructure and quality of our mini-spectacular. Visits by their TV crew to make the video documentary to be shown just before our live appearance. Thousands invested by us in terms of equipment and very hard work during the more than 50 rehearsals these last few weeks.

Criança Esperança - ChildHope IV   Criança Esperança - ChildHope XI
TVGlobo’s filmtake for their video clip during a capoeira session and a rehearsal of our mini musical spectacular, which was supposed to be part of tonight’s mega show.

Being collected by the luxury coach contracted by TVGlobo was a most uplifting experience, raising the self-esteem even higher of our kids, who were full of energy and expectations on their way to the grand stage where the event is to take place. Even though we thought it a little luxurious for such a short trip, money that could have been spent better in our own programme, as we were already very accustomed to a simpler means of transport.

Then on arrival, VIP treatment and checking in for our ID-cards, quite necessary in a show that involves nearly 800 people alone on the production side and more than 300 children and young people making appearances during the show. We were 53 of those!
I was then shown the costumes prepared by Globo’s costume department for our Band and Breakdance group. Very nice too!

Arriving at Criança Esperança - ChildHope
Our group of happy children and young people arriving at the premises of the Criança Esperança (ChildHope), ready for the mega show in São Paulo.

Then began the waiting, hours and hours of waiting, quite normal in most mega events of this nature and we were all prepared for that. We thought we were waiting for something good and judging from the immensity of everything surrounding the event, we would be in for something really great!
We were in for a surprise, a very big surprise indeed!!!

To make good use of waiting time we decided to get the kids prepared for their last rehearsal so that we would be ready on the moment our turn arrived. We noticed that the effective use of time was essential to get through all the details of this mega event. Rehearsals for the rest of the show had been going on for three days already and now it was our big day.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, comes the artistic director and calls me aside to tell me that due to some harsh disagreements between their production team and their production director, we would no longer be presenting our musical mini-spectacular, which had been timed in to four minutes exactly and neatly fitting the space reserved for our participation. Also our 6 drummers, who were supposed to be backing the next vocal artist, Marcelo Yuka, to present after us would not be taking place. The only interest for the director at this moment was that I do a live interview with Chico Pinheiro connected to our video clip.

My reaction ofcourse was total distress!

I couldn’t believe my ears. Gladly I am not weak at heart; otherwise I would have had a heart attack there and then!
I needed an explanation but nobody could or would give me one. We were simply left in the blue by the entire production team of this event, which is supposed to be the most prestigious public fundraising event to benefit at-risk children in this country. I was suddenly in the middle of a traumatic experience, which I knew would have dramatic consequences for some of our kids. This event was about to neglect the realization of their dreams. An incredible socially irresponsible action was about to be comitted by the people who are supposed to represent exactly the opposite.

Then began the tiring and frustrating work to discover what was actually going on and why we would not even have the chance to put our foot on that magnificent stage to test the results of our efforts and to share the same space with mega stars such as the likes of Sandy and Junior, Xuxa, Roberto Carlos, Renato Arragão, Zeca Pagodinho and many more.
Why had we suddenly, without warning, been cut-off??? Our last rehearsal for the programme’s Artistic Director at Hummingbird had been highly praised by her, as it also was by Globo’s famous newscaster and programme presenter, Chico Pinheiro, who was responsible for Hummingbird’s video clip. For the sake of all those patiently waiting kids of mine I desperately needed to turn this situation round.

TVGlobo’s Chico Pinheiro and Criança Esperança’s Artistic Director, Emília Silveira
Globo Television’s journalist and news presenter (newscaster), Chico Pinheiro and Criança Esperança’s (ChildHope) Artistic Director, Emília Silveira, check through the latest itinerary details regarding our participation in the programme during a rehearsal at the Hummingbird Activity Centre.

It seemed there was total caos between the people involved in this production and we had been suddenly removed because there was either no time left for our participation or our content matter was too politically disturbing for the likes of this most politically powerful TV station in Brazil, or the fact that the production director, incredibly enough, seemed uninformed of our existence.

Attempts to convince him otherwise by members of the production team and other influential people involved in the programme and the chance for us to at least present our spectacular on stage in a single rehearsal, even if it still meant cancelling our participation for whatever reason he decided was best, failed, one after the other. The guy running this joint was a total dictator and unfortunately hierarchical governance is pretty well imbedded in this society, which still leaves its kids abandoned on the streets and more than half the population destitute in utmost poverty!

Well, several hours later we got his final conclusion; he knew nothing of our participation and there was no room any longer for a four-minute spectacular, no matter who was presenting.
Did I believe this was really happening to us? My kids were all sitting in the grandstand still awaiting their rehearsal; they had already sensed there was something wrong.
My God! Can you imagine their faces when I broke the final decision by the production director, who was coward enough to not stand in front of them to explain exactly why they had wasted weeks of their time investing in a magnificent music spectacular that only they can put enough soul into to make it hit rock bottom in the hearts of every single one of those 65 million TV spectators who will be watching the show tonight.

AfroReggae in Action - ChildHope   AfroReggae in Action - ChildHope
Youth members of the Banda AfroReggae from Rio de Janeiro rehearse for tonight’s performance on Globo TV’s mega show, ChildHope.

I can assure you that I have seldom felt greater frustration than this moment in my 52-year lifespan and I have cried most of the night trying to figure out what went wrong. Nothing ever surprises me anymore regarding the negligence of the Brazilian people shown towards their children. I suppose that’s why we still have thousands and thousands of street kids in this country.

Today I have spent most of my day in long meetings with all the kids involved together with their families to begin the difficult job of treating a most unexpected trauma caused by the irresponsibility of a programme supposed to help at-risk kids believe in a better future. If this is the future Brazil is creating for its children, then God help us!

The images shown here are among the few I took during rehearsals (I lost my appetite entirely!), and were only taken because they represent the kids we believe in so much and who have been role models for our own kids at Hummingbird. The youth of the AfroReggae Cultural Group, our socio-cultural partners in Rio, have managed to come a long way during their 12 years of fighting for a better future for Rio’s favela kids.
When we left the premises in utter dispair, the kids of AfroReggae came in full strength to comfort our kids who were completely dejected by what had just happened. They will be well represented during the mega show tonight, where undoubtably their presence represents the best of Brazilian socio-culture.

AfroReggae in Action at ChildHope

“Hold your heads high kids!” said their lead guitarist, “because you are mightier than these people!”
“Don’t let them destroy you because you have so much going for you!”
“Stay strong and fight for everything you believe in because it is the only way we will change this mad world to become a better place for all of us!”

Thank you friends for that valuable moment, it is only people like you, who have shared the same suffering as my kids have who understand how damaging such an experience can be. It is thanks to you guys that they will hopefully overcome this traumatic experience and carry on believing in our social investment in them.

I finish off this rather long text with some words from the chorus line of our spectacular that didn’t quite find a stage:

Wake up my Brazil... Wake up my Brazil... Wake up my Brazil, the people need some hope.
Wake up my Brazil... Fighting to achieve some change.

(Acorda meu Brasil... Acorda meu Brasil... Acorda meu Brasil, o povo está precisando de esperança.
Acorda meu Brasil... Lutando se consegue uma mudança.)

Criança Esperança - ChildHope V
From one of our many rehearsals for the mega show commemorating 20 years of Criança Esperança (ChildHope) on Globo Television.

See the slide show from our photo series about Criança Esperança (ChildHope)

Incredibly, at 4pm today, yet another luxury coach arrived at Hummingbird to transport our kids to the show they are no longer to participate in. TVGlobo had obviously forgotten to cancel the coach, which wasted yet another 300 dollars of donor’s money, reaped in from all the innocent believing tele spectators of this gigantic farce.

Basic Scholarships – USD$40.00 - $50.00 per month

Aimed at impoverished younger children participating in our Street Migration Prevention Programme, normally aged between 11 and 14 years of age. This scholarship guarantees their active participation at the Hummingbird Activity Center alongside their essential attendance in public schools. The scholarship helps combat child labor in high-risk families by preventing these children becoming new victims. The scholarship is awarded to those in particularly difficult life situations where survival often becomes a more important factor than the child’s educational needs and mental and physical health. As a regular sponsor you will have the opportunity to stay in contact with your scholarship holder and to follow the changes your sponsorship will be making in this child's life.

Intermediate Scholarships - USD$60.00 - $70.00 per month

This youth scholarship is aimed at developing vocational interests in young people as they grow with our programme, guaranteeing their commitment and eventually leading them on towards an advanced scholarship. A firmer step towards their personal life project. As a regular sponsor you will have the opportunity to stay in contact with your scholarship holder and to follow the changes your sponsorship will be making in this young person's life.

Advanced Scholarship - USD$80.00 - $100.00 per month

Aimed to inspire older youth reach their potential in whatever area they are developing natural or acquired abilities in programmes at the Hummingbird Activity Centre. The scholarship can be used to cover costs for supplementary, external educational courses or for extra training sessions and materials. Such funds would otherwise be an impossible priority for them to obtain within an impoverished family situation. As a regular sponsor you will have the opportunity to stay in contact with your scholarship holder and to follow the changes your sponsorship will be making in this young person's life.