Tuesday, November 24, 2009
AN EDUCATIONAL FIELDTRIP
Marko and I decided to pull the kids out of school yesterday to spend the day at a favela in Belo Horizonte. While researching our move to Brazil, we came into contact with an American by the name of Laura Bookout who was living in Belo Horizonte. Laura works for YWAM (Youth with a mission). She recently married a Brazilian and is in Brasil to stay. By the way, the locals spell Brasil with an "s". In America we use a "z", so now I tend to use both! Anyways, Laura invited us to spend the day at the YWAM base so we skipped school and hopped on the onibus to Belo.
We took the one hour bus ride into downtown Belo and then had to walk several blocks to catch another bus. All of our kids have a heart for the homeless (especially Noah) so it took us a while to get to the second bus. Noah insisted that we give money to every homeless person along the way. We even had to buy a hamburger and a juice for one of them! It was precious and we are thankful that the kids care about the homeless of which there are many in Brasil.
We caught the second bus which then took us to the base of the favela where we grabbed a taxi for the remainder of the drive. We arrived at the YWAM base just in time for a delicious Brazilian lunch of rice, beans, salad, and carne. We had the opportunity to talk with the YWAM staff and find out a little more about the history of YWAM itself and of the favelas.
YWAM is in the Luzeiros Flavela and has been there for 17 years. The ministry was started by the Dutch and there are bases around the world. These bases reach out to the local community and share the gospel with the children of those communities. They also have many athletic activities for the kids to be involved in. This base had a pool, playground, and a sports court. The children come to YWAM for after school programs. YWAM has plans to reach out to the adult population as well. In Brasil, YWAM is strategically located at the base of one of the largest flavelas in Belo Horizonte.
The flavelas consist of houses and shacks stacked on top of each other in the hillsides of Brasil. They have existed since the end of the 19th century and are increasing in number. About half of the population of Brasil's large cities live in flavelas. Flavelas are run by drug lords who sadly are often teenage boys. The drug lords are in complete control of these communities and they run a tight operation. Apparently they are good to the people within their communities. They do not tolerate crime within their flavela whatsoever and will punish anyone who steels or kills violently-often by death. They protect their own, and for this reason, the members of the community do not have to fear assault or robbery within their flavela. Killing is only allowed by the drug lords themselves and is only allowed outside of the community walls. Unfortunately, crime and violence between favelas is an enormous problem and there are thousands of deaths every month, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where we just learned that there are about 26,000 murders per month!
The Drug lord's are very accepting of the YWAM base and its staff. They support what YWAM is doing for their youth even though they do not live the lifestyle that is being promoted. Often times youth that have come out of the YWAM base are the ones who end up being sought after as Drug lord's because they have the education and intelligence to do well in the drug business. It is quite an interesting arrangement!
After lunch the children played while Marko and I took a tour of the base which sits atop a hillside and overlooks the city of Belo. It was quite pretty actually. At 2:00 the children arrived and we joined the staff for a few minutes as they explained to the children that we were going on a fieldtrip to get ice cream! The kids were beside themselves and could hardly sit still long enough to be introduced to our family!
We left the base and began our walk down the steep (and I mean steep) hills of the favela. I have to say that I have never felt my age so much as when we were carefully descending that hill. I had no idea how far it was to the ice cream shop and Marko and I were both aching by the time we sat down to enjoy our refreshing treat! Ice cream never tasted so good (actually, it truly was the best ice cream I have ever had-just like homemade). We loved hanging out with these children and their teachers. The kids devoured their ice cream and were loving every bite. We finished (dare I admit that I went back for seconds?!) and took a deep breath for the climb back up the hill to the flavela.
By the time we reached the YWAM base we were steaming hot and exhausted. It was time for us to say goodbye since we had other errands to run in the city. We hugged the children goodbye and regretfully climbed into the taxi which would take us back down to the other side of Brasil: the hustling, bustling city with its skyscrapers and parks. It was a short, but good afternoon, and a fieldtrip to remember.
We spent the evening running our errands and eating dinner in Belo. We then caught a 7:00 bus back to Santa Luzia on which we had to stand for the entire hour trip home. I took a picture of the bus so you could see how full they cram the city buses. There were about 100 people on that bus(I am pretty sure the capacity is around 60!) So much for safety limits! Welcome to Brasil!