By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In spite of social and economic distance, an exciting new relationship has emerged, linking a class of schoolboys from the Richard Hale School in Hertfordshire, England, to a group of children at the Casa Jovem adolescent facility in Rocinha, considered Rio’s largest favela community.
The connection was made thanks to the actions of an expatriate and member of the International Club Rio (InC) member, Catherine Bruce, when she first wrote an article for the InC newsletter championing the work done by Casa Jovem.
As a former teacher at the Richard Hale School, it captured the attention of her ex-colleague, James McAleese, and his class of thirty students who have since taken it upon themselves to help the children of Casa Jovem by raising awareness and funds.
In January, their hard work paid off and they were able to donate an impressive R$3,100 which has allowed the Casa Jovem NGO director Barbara Olivi to purchase vital educational materials for the facility.
Olivi established Casa Jovem after it became clear that adolescent education was distinctly lacking in Rocinha. Prior to this, she had been successful in creating Il Sorriso dei miei Bimbi a pre-school which helps care for and school young children in the Rocinha.
As with any charity, the organization relies heavily on donations and the assistance of Richard Hale staff and pupils has been hugely appreciated. McAleese states, “my aim in all of this is to embed the charity within the psyche of the school so that we pay more than lip service to what we raise and donate.”
The amount of support shown has left Bruce feeling overwhelmed yet extremely proud. “It has been very gratifying to know that my initial article has generated such a phenomenal response from Richard Hale School,” she told the Rio Times.
“It was such a pleasure to write about someone as special and heroic as Barbara and to document the work that she does. Without doubt [James McAleese] is responsible for inspiring legions of students and staff to become so generously involved in helping the lives of people oceans apart in Rocinha,” she added.
In addition to the fund raising activities, the boys from Casa Jovem and Richard Hale have kept in regular contact, with the former sending updates and thanking their new friends for the kind support.
McAleese confirms, “My year eleven class love their Friday catch-up from Rocinha. They are very aware of the gulf between themselves and the children they are helping and see it as their charity in a way.”
Olivi is equally as proud of the new relationship, adding, “I am so glad we could create this link. In a world that is getting more and more individual and selfish we may be the example of friendship and human relations based on culture and staff effort.”
As for future projects between the two schools, plans are afoot to bring a group of Richard Hale students and their families to Brazil during the 2014 World Cup, giving them the opportunity to play football (soccer) with their Brazilian friends and learn more about the favela, first hand, from the students at Casa Jovem.
With ambitious yet attainable goals in mind, Richard Hale deputy headmaster, Huw Davies, is also looking at the project on a wider scale, stating “It is so important for us, and particularly for our students, to lift up our heads from our day to day lives and appreciate the bigger picture, be it local, national or global.”