Blog post Dutch crime reporter John van den Heuvel
John van den Heuvel wrote a column in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf about his visit to Estrela da Favela.
At the start of this month, I was on a holiday in Rio de Janeiro but I wasn’t able to shut me off of my work completely. The level of drug crime in this metropolis is huge. The magnitude of the violence is indescribable and takes place to a large extent in the neighborhoods far beyond the tourist attractions of Copacabana and Ipanema. In these so-called favelas, it is not the government who is in charge, but instead it’s the drug gangs. The neighborhoods are usually built on top of the hills. The bosses are literally on the top and determine what happens in the neighborhood. The favelas have their own informal rule of law. For outsiders, a visit to the neighborhoods is not without risk. Yet, I wanted to see myself how people can live with so much drug crime around them. I met Edwin Roodenburg from Amsterdam, who has lived in Rio for years and runs a school in a favela with a number of other volunteers, near the famous Maracaña Stadium. What a fantastic job these people do. In an environment where bullets are often flying around and the police only show themselves in armored cars, Edwin and some Brazilian teachers try to teach the children from the hood education and sports. “Shall we have a little walk in the favela?" Edwin suggested. I wondered if it was a good idea. But everyone smiled pleasantly at the Dutch people, surrounded by a bunch of school children. “The people here know we don’t cause any danger and instead want to give their children a better future," Edwin explained. Estrela da Favela is a commendable project that is exists thanks to donations from Dutch private individuals and companies. It would be great if readers want to make a financial contribution to brave attempts like these that keep dozens of street children away from a life in crime. More info about this project: www.estreladafavela.com