Finding Their Identity Outside the Slums of São Paulo, Brazil

Finding Their Identity Outside the Slums of São Paulo, Brazil

Kolibri-Children at Risk Foundation was originally created to help children on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil. Through the years its main focus has morphed into preventitive work by putting into place tools that will enable these children to take charge of their own lives within the social context they know.  

This project is aimed specifically at children who live in a world filled with poverty, violence, crime, substance abuse and the overall lack of any type of public services related to health and education.  These at-risk areas, with so much uncertainty and unpredictablitiy, are a harsh place to grow up.  

The Brazilian government estimates that nearly 24,000 children work or sleep on the streets of their country.

The Kolibri Project

The Kolibri Project works with children and adolescents at risk in the favelas of São Paulo, Brazil – poor areas where crime and drugs flourish, and where many children end up on the street.

Through the use of local art and culture The Kolibri Project aims for the children to develop knowledge and self-confidence, and to find their own identity.  

Gregory John Smith founded the organization Children At Risk in Norway in 1992. Feeling unsatisfied with his comfortable life, he sold all his belongings on his 40th birthday and moved to Brazil to live and work with street children. 

Today, 24 years later, nearly 2000 children and adolescents are taking part in the Kolibri Project’s activities. In order to participate they also have to attend public school. The Kolibri centers provides care and training and functions as a sources of inspiration in the local community. 

The Kolibri Activity Center

At the core of the Kolibri Activity Center there are three programs:

Sporting Activities: It is a proven fact that the involvement of a child in a sporting activity helps to not only promote corporal skills, spacial and bodily awareness, integration, team work, concentration, discipline and the cultivation of a competitive spirit but also the skills learned foster social interaction, living together and personal health care. All things vital for integration into everyday society.

Artistic and Cultural Development:  Through art the children are given permission to explore their potential. The cultural, artistic and aesthetic qualities of life are nurtured with an emphasis on development of the creative potential, awakening skills and talents that, when used with free expression, can become useful instruments of self-development, communication and training.

Vocational Training:  Training is conducted through constructive and interactive work, awakening vocations and talents through guidance and access to specialist spheres, dynamics and techniques as well as encouraging the use of professional equipment and material.

In his own words, Gregory John Smith sums up the positive effect of having a touchstone like Kolibri-Children at Risk for vulnerable children growing up in harsh environments, " If children and young people, with sometimes very traumatic and difficult living conditions, should have the chance to change their own lives and even change their outlook, then all good forces contribute - even the physical environment. Thus it is not only the socio-pedagogical and educational conditions that should be of the highest quality. If children, who grow up in abject poverty, are met with environments that communicate quality, beauty and aesthetics, this will release reactions in them. It seems that the children are affected mentally. They become calmer and more concentrated. They observe more, take more time. The noise level drops drastically. If it's beautiful around them, they will not only strive to preserve the beautiful environment, they will also behave according to the surroundings."

Take a moment to view the beatiful faces of Kolibri-Children at Risk on Flickr

If you would like to learn more about how you can help the children of São Paulo, Brazil served by this outstanding organization or to donate, please visit The Children At Risk Foundation-Kolibri-Children at Risk 

All photos courtesy of Gregory John Smith