From Canada to the Vila Torres Favela

Nick Holt is Professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada. Originally from Wales, he has lived for many years in Canada. To coincide with the World Cup in Brazil, he helped set up a 2 week course for Canadian and Brazilian students here in Curitiba. They also gathered up loads of football tops, balls and boots in Canada to donate to the children of the Vila Torres favela through the  #CheerForPeace campaign. As part of the course, both the students and Nick had to do a blog of their experiences during their time here in Curitiba. Here is Nicks reflections after participating in the Give & Game event, where the tops were donated on Sunday June 15th. Links to the students blogs appear at the end. Amazing photos from the day found here.

Nick’s World Cup Brazil 2014 : June 15: Vila Torres Favela 

Today we visited the Vila Torres Favela in Curitiba. We were helping out with an event organized by a group called Cheer For Peace. It was a day of music, food, street art, and soccer in one of the poorest areas of the city.

Below is a photo I took during the event. I labelled it ‘classic favela scene.’

It was a great event. We gave out the shirts and balls we brought from Canada, and every kid got something.

None of us are under the illusion that providing a really good day for these kids is going to change their lives. In fact, I am personally quite critical of the claims made by many ‘sport-for-development’ types of organizations. The community has problems with lack of funding, drugs, and violence that a day playing soccer is never going to solve. But a good day is probably a break from the stress of living in this community. Check out this link for a good article on some of these challenges and the potential for positive change in Brazil. It’s written by Duncan Crowley, one of the guys I’ve met out here.

Anyway, back to my day at the favela. I have not really ‘processed’ the things I saw, so what follows is just a random list of observations. Make of them what you will.

Today was the only time since I have been in Brazil I felt concerned for my safety and the safety of my students. Nothing bad happened at all, but I guarantee there is no way I would walk around that neighborhood on my own, night or day.

Many of these kids have absolutely nothing. When we went to the ‘nice’ favela last week, a couple of kids played soccer (on their nice turf field with their British volunteer coaches) barefoot. I was told this was just a matter of choice, that these kids preferred playing barefoot. Today kids were playing barefoot on a dirty road full of litter and glass. This wasn’t their choice – lots of them only had flip flops, which come flying off when you try to kick. So playing barefoot was a necessity.

A man told me that although he had no education, his daughter was studying at PUC (a private university) to be an engineer. She had received some funding through a government program. PUC is about 2 blocks from the favela, but in reality it could be a million miles away for most of these kids.

I was playing soccer with one kid when we arrived. Just kicking the ball back and forth, like I (very occasionally) do with Josie. I can’t explain why – it was something to do with how we were interacting – but I just kept thinking that this boy doesn’t have many male ‘role models’ in his life. I’m no role model of course.

I loved watching my students interact with the kids. The women seems to attract lots of little girls (and, I noticed, one gentlemen in search of romance). The men were often ‘covered’ in children hanging off them and, on several occasions, simply punching them (all in good fun, but I did hear one of our students say “I don’t know how to make them stop”). Pretty great. I prefer to stay on the sidelines at these types of things, and it was a joy to see the students getting stuck in.

Which brings me back to the point that going to a favela for a day won’t change these kids lives. But you know what? It might change some of our lives, some of the things we do, and maybe we go on to do good things we wouldn’t have done otherwise.


Day 9: The Students’ First Blogs

The students in my class have to write a weekly blog as part of the course assignment. They are really good. Please check them out. Links below.

Link to Christina’s blog

Link to Jessie’s blog

Link to Annalise’s blog

Link to Mark’s blog

Link to Mike’s blog

Link to Shalla’s blog

nick and gang

Nick (4th from left) and his students from Canada


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