By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Street Child World Cup (SCWC) officially launched in Rio last Tuesday, August 6th, at an event in Humaitá. The effort is attempting to help society’s most vulnerable members, homeless children, avoid a life on the streets, and is now building momentum towards SCWC’s big kick-off on March 27th, 2014.
Presentations and speeches were made as the charity continues to announce important ambassadors in its bid to gain support over the next eight months. The SCWC, known in Brazil as “Copa da Rua” (Street Cup), will take place just months before the 2014 FIFA World Cup brings international football (soccer) to the twelve cities across the country.
Famous Brazilian cartoonist Ziraldo, who has worked for media giant Globo for over forty years, is SCWC’s first Brazilian ambassador and has created a new piece of work to help raise awareness of the plight of street children in Brazil.
John Wroe, one of the co-founders of SCWC, said, “We’re delighted to welcome Ziraldo into the Street Child World Cup family. Ziraldo has spoken about the incredible potential of those children who live in the shadows of society and that is what the Street Child World Cup is all about.”
Next year two teams will represent Brazil in the SCWC; a female side from Rio, and a male team from Fortaleza, and members of both organizations spoke last week about the desperate need for the government and society as a whole to do more to tackle the problem of child homelessness in Brazil.
Manoel Torquato, who has worked for over two decades with the Fortaleza-based foundation O Pequeno Nazareno, told of the numerous difficulties faced. He recounted one particular incident in São Paulo, using a child actor to conduct a social experiment.
“We dressed the child in normal clothes, gave him a school bag and sat him down by the side of the road. In thirty seconds eight people stopped to ask him if he was alright and what he was doing alone by a busy road.”
“We then changed his clothes to make him look like a street child. In over an hour no one stopped to ask after his welfare. Why do some children deserve our attention and not others?”
Torquato is also part of the “Crianca não é da rua” (Children are not from the street) movement, backed by Rio organization IBISS, which works out of the Penha favela community in Rio. Two beneficiaries of IBISS, Claudete and Max, in turn told their stories of how the IBISS trust has transformed not only their lives but thousands of others like them.
Claudete is a former street child and Max a former drug trafficker who have both managed to turn their fortunes around with the help of IBISS. Now, they want more children to have the same opportunities through SCWC.
Father Nicholas Wheeler said, “The Street Child World Cup is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference for millions of street children who deserve a future free from fear, neglect and abuse. I hope it is a great celebration of life and hope.”