Today, we spent time in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro where some of Brazil’s poorest civilians live. In these areas, grinding poverty and suffering has led to significant levels of violence. In fact, Brazil has one of the world highest homicide rates with over 60,000 murders last year. Many of these murders occur in Favelas where gangs rule the streets and police are often hesitant to enter.
We started off at a trash sorting facility where some people from the Favelas work in order to try and make a living. Many of these people also rely on Bolsa Família, one aspect of Brazil’s social welfare system. Initiated by Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is currently in jail for corruption, Bolsa Família is one of the worlds largest cash transfer welfare systems.
The program was initiated in 2003 and following its inception, Brazil saw a sharp decrease in its poverty levels. In fact, over 20 million Brazil citizens were drawn out of poverty as a result of Bolsa Família. Unfortunately, due to many factors including significant government corruption, the program is quickly running out of funding. Many of the families that initially benefited from the program are once again falling below the poverty line.
Despite their hardships, the citizens of the Favela that we visited were both welcoming and warm. Children followed us around, showing off to try and get on camera. In this tight-knit community, neighbors care for each other like family and when asked whether or not they wanted to leave the favela, the resounding answer was, “No.”