Dinara is 14 years old and lives in a park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For the last two decades, there has been a huge reduction in the number of street children in Rio. But Dinara is part of a group of about 60 children who still survive on the streets.
“We sleep in a park. In the evening, we go inside the park before it closes. We feel safe there. Sometimes, we fight because we don’t have enough blankets or food, but the group is a family and if an outsider attacks us, we are united and we will protect each other,” she said.
During the day, these street children are helped by a drop-in centre run by a foundation in Rio called AMAR. The foundation has volunteers who cater for the needs of street children. “At AMAR, I can eat, wash my clothes, play football and basketball with the other kids, and I use the computer for facebook,” Dinara said.
Her mother, Gabriela, lived on the streets as a child too. After giving birth to Dinara, she was
able to buy a house, but the building collapsed when Dinara was nine. This incident left Dinara and her brothers without a mother to take care of them. They had no other option but to seek food and shelter on the streets.
On the streets of Rio de Janeiro, the children face great dangers and get little sympathy from
society. “Society does not look well on us. We are discriminated against and people are scared of us. If only they would help us as there are children with stories much worse than mine,” said Dinara.
Though she lives on the street, Dinara manages to go to school thanks to her elder brother. He ensures that she attends classes regularly. However, she will never forget the sad story of her younger brother Dennis, who was murdered in front of her in a drug affair.
There is no doubt that Dinara has experienced hardships in her childhood, yet she retains a smile and an extraordinary energy in pursuing her dreams. “I’m receiving social support, and AMAR foundation is helping me to join a basketball team. I believe that one day I will have a job, a family and a house,” she said.