Last winter I worked for a while at an orphanage on a remote mountain in Brazil (down the dirt road from the Buddhist temple where I also stayed).
I was particularly impressed with Leo and Vanderson, two staffers at the orphanage, so I wanted to find out why they chose to dedicate their lives to working with kids. They both live full-time at the orphanage. In addition to taking care of the daily needs of the almost 60 kids, Leo teaches music, and Vanderson teaches capoeira.
A friend, Francine Assis, helped me translate them into English:
Leo: I like music too much. It’s very important to me. If it’s important to me, it’s important to children too because I like to teach them. And when I do, I know more too, I learn more. So I love music, I love children too.
Vanderson: My objective is to rebuild the life that they (the children) didn’t have outside, to change their way of thinking. Their way of thinking is very sad. It’s bad how they live on streets, and using capoeira I can modify this history, using the energy they have to do bad things so they use the same energy to do aerobatics, mortal jumps, to show some abilities they have.”
Interviewer: Who are these children?
Vanderson: They are children who have a lot of potential. I just encourage them to know they are capable. There are many things they don’t know they can do because there isn’t a qualified person to show them what they can do. The energy and force they use to break a window or the thoughts they have to steal something from someone, they have to focus those and use their creativity to do good capoeira movements, to do good aerobatics, using that same force they use to break a window or something else in this cottage. This is the objective of all capoeristas here in Brazil. The best capoeristas came from the low and middle classes. It’s rare to see good capoeristas from rich families.
There are a few people who are born with this gift. Generally they suffer in learning; they have difficulty in studies and their family relationships are difficult too. So with a sport like this, they are going to live side by side with good people. They’ll have a good capoeira family. Because the majority of capoeristas have so many good things to teach, positive things, like to stop smoking if you are going to be a good capoerista because you need to have endurance and cigarettes cause tiredness. The fewer bad things you do with your body, the more you’ll be a good player and be able to have a better day. And when you wake up well, you can do such cool things. I believe the objective of capoeira is this.