The neighbourhoods of all three Projects felt very similar, at least to me. I felt eyes on me wherever we went. There was sewage running down the streets, people lying in doorways, houses were covered in bars and padlocks, putting anything of value on display was a no-no. And yet having said all that, the kids just laughed, chatted and skipped all the way along.
The common status symbol on the streets seemed to be unnecessarily massive speakers which were put on the back of motor bikes or on top of cars, and pumped up way PAST 11 on the volume dial, so periodically we’d walking or talking and we’d receive a cerebral blast of Portuguese something-or-other. Having made their point, whatever it was, the car or motor bike in question would proudly move along.
We were a motley crew: me, Isabela, Ezir (Project staff member), the 4 girls, Andressa and an older boy from the Project. Every so often I would look around and just laugh to myself about the absurdity of where I had found myself. I never imagined in my wildest dreams I would be walking the streets of
First stop was Pamella's house. Pamella 9 years old, and was clearly the leader of the four-girl pack. She is also a larger girl, and I believe this has an effect on the way she sees herself. She is an absolute sweetheart and never short of a word, but what really stood out to me was a massive need for affirmation, approval and love. Her emotional tank seemed so empty and her insecurity shone like a beacon. When she was painting something for me, she started again three or four times because it "wasn't good enough". She even made random negative comments to Isabela about her own body and personality. This made my heart ache for her.
Pamella lives with her godmother and godfather who appear to care for her very much. She does have parents and siblings, but they live somewhere else. The reason for this wasn't mentioned. The godparents have a daughter who Pamella calls her sister.
The sister is 18 and is off "working" in Portugal (it's presumed in some sort of sex-related job). She periodically sends money back to the family, and for this reason, certain parts of Pamella's house are nicer and more modern than many of the other houses in the area. However, because the money being sent is not regular, the family still falls under Compassion's economic profile. The godfather is a taxi driver, and popped in while we were visiting to say hello.
Next stop, not too far away, was Alice's house. Alice was sort of stuck in the middle of the group. Personality-wise she is sweet but quiet, and I get the feeling she is easily overshadowed. Living in a household of 9 will do that to you I guess. There were an assortment of siblings and cousins around the place, and we noticed they sport a healthy devotion to a TV show called "Rebelde". There were posters and pictures up on walls and in frames, and Alice was able to rattle of the characters like a pro.
I was told there was a possibility Taina may be released from the Compassion program, but is still in it because of her home situation. Her father left the family for a while, but now he has returned. He works in construction and makes enough to help the family without Compassion's assistance. However he is quite volatile and is apparently sometimes prone to physical violence. So because Compassion is holistic in their care of the child, a child will not be released from the program simply because their family makes enough money. The Compassion staff look at all areas of their life, and if one area is at risk, they prefer to look after them.