Repairing a fractured relationshipLeonardo’s mother, Roseni, was at her wits-end, unable to cope with her volatile son. He used to hit his classmates, throw toys at the wall, swear at his teachers and break chairs. “He wouldn’t interact with the other children, or get involved in any activities,” says Luciene, his teacher. “Every time the others mocked him, he would get very angry and break things.” Eventually his mum had to stop going to work so that she was able to keep an eye on him, fearing he would join a gang or get arrested.
When SOS Children took over the running of the local community centre, things began to change for Leonardo and Roseni. With the right support in place and staff who were able to give Leonardo the special attention he needed, he gradually softened and began to deal with his emotions more constructively. The Social Centre also supported Roseni; “I learnt how to talk to him more softly and how to explain to him that we can’t get everything we want,” she says. “I was much too strict before. I no longer punish him.”
A different boy
Leonardo has flourished in the new environment. “Now he dances, sings and smiles,” says his teacher proudly. “The other children don’t bully him anymore and he always brings me flowers!” Roseni is also very proud of her son, every day on their way home from school he stops to pick her a flower. “He is such a sweet boy and he always hugs me now.”
Today, rather than dreaming of becoming the cartoon character the Hulk, Leonardo dreams of becoming a policeman so that he can make Vargem Grande a nicer place.
A tough place to be a child
Vargem Grande is one of the hardest places in the world to grow up. An incredibly poor neighbourhood several miles from Sao Paulo, life there is defined by high crime rate, youth violence and a high teenage pregnancy rate. The outlook for many children and young people there is bleak. SOS Children’s Villages is determined to change that.
Our Social Centre in Vargem Grande aims to help break the cycle of poverty, providing child-care for families so that parents are able to go out and work – currently we look after 107 children from the local area. The Social Centre also organises cultural visits and sports competitions and offers up to 20 teenagers support as they transition into adulthood, giving them guidance on job hunting, interview techniques and how to live independently.