Danilo found me on Facebook and offered me help when I was looking for some sofa to sleep on in Rio. I didn’t accept but we started to talk more and eventually met. He is coming from Parada de Lucas, one of Rio’s many favelas (slums). Danilo is incredibly inspiring person – he is just 25, but for last 7 years he is constantly coming up with new ideas of how to help people in his neighbourhood. He studies pharmacy, spent a study year in Holland and since September last year he gives English lessons to the young people in his community, in his own house.
1) Let’s start with the place you are coming from – how has it changed from the time you were a child up till now?
Ten years ago, Parada de Lucas was very different from now. Now it is more developed neighbourhood, people have more financial resources, they can afford more things - Parada de Lucas grew with a growth of our economy.
Also in the past the place was more violent, because police simply didn’t come inside the favela but with the pacification process, the more policemen came. This changed dynamic of the community – nowadays there are still gangsters but you cannot see them on the street anymore, nowadays they are more hidden, the traffic of drugs is more hidden so now it is much safer here.
2) When you look back at your school days, what do you think about the quality of public education, available to young people from favela?
I’ve studied in local public schools whole my life and especially primary schools are not very good, because they do not receive much money from our government. The classes are hard and - I am talking about the past, as nowadays I am a bit far from this reality although I am in contact with some of the teachers and they say that the layout of the school buildings changed a little bit, now they have more playgrounds and better conditions to provide kids with food. But in past it wasn’t like that. I think this is something new we are experiencing thanks to the growth of the economy.
3) Why have you decided to continue in your studies and entered university?
I decided to enter university because I saw that the world is changing – now with the high-school diploma you cannot achieve anything, just a simple work and I feel like I have a potential to do something more … that’s why I went to uni.
4) How many of your friends actually study at a university? Who motivated you – your family or was it your initiative?
Only about ten percent of my friends study - from 20 friends only 2 are studying at a university. Half of my motivation comes from my family but half is mine own. In the technical high school where I studied, my teachers told me that I have a potential to enter university. I believed them and applied for the university.
5) You started your first community project when you were 18 – what was it and why did you start?
My first project was called FADAN – Fa is the first syllable of my friend’s name Fabio and Dan represents the first three letters of my name. We taught a karate class. We started because we felt we received a lot from life, even though we were born here in community. We thought “we are lucky youngsters, why should we watch other young people here in community to do nothing or become criminals”. We felt it’s not right so during our university studies we were teaching kids some sports and we thought that through sport we can help them to avoid a criminal path.
6) You continued with other projects – from being a clown to the English lesson, could you tell us more about it? What are your future plans in regards of social work?
I’ve started the clown volunteering project first in the hospital where I was doing an internship and later on in our community. But I felt that the gangsters didn’t like it, it was too much happiness for them, they didn’t believe someone is doing this and that it is not a foreigner. Normally, these things are done by foreigners but when they saw a local guy working as a clown, they thought “maybe he is drugged or drunk or oh my god, this is a crazy guy”. That’s why I stopped, I didn’t want to provoke them, it was too much for them. English lessons started later, after I spent a year in Holland.
I am a social visionary and I am open to anything – if I find that I can help some young people to learn English, I will continue with English lessons but if I find that I can bring a better change as a clown, I will return to being a clown. I hope to get more people crazy like me to do such work.
7) Let’s turn to the non-profits operating in your community – what do they do and what do you think about them?
There are three non-profits operating in the area. One is involved in religion, second has a similar idea as I had once – connecting local people to foreigners. People from all over the world are coming in and giving the community something of their skills. The third teaches music – violin, guitar, etc.
I know them well and they changed the dynamic of the community. But I also see that something is missing somehow. They are not reaching so many young people here, because I see how many young people and children are on the street doing nothing. Sometimes I ask myself why these children are not interested in the courses offered by the organisations. So there is something missing and I keep thinking how can I help them, what is actually missing – if it is a problem of organisation or us, as a community.
8) What are the biggest problems here in the community?
People are trying to change the way of life in community. Our challenge is to change people’s minds. To make them think what is best for their lives. Now people are not really able to decide what is better for them. So we want to show them that learning English is good, that when their children are learning to paint, it’s good, when they are playing football, it’s good. To show the parents through the kids, that they can dream. I’ve tried to talk to parents, to show them that all these activities are good for their children but parents are so narrow minded that I just gave up.
9) What do you like most here?
I like the daily life here, the way how people treat each other. I find it very cordial, educated and kind. I think every big city should be like this. You can ask your neighbour for a kilo of sugar and he gives it to you without expecting anything back. That’s something I would like to see in other places, not just in communities. That’s what I like most here, the kindness of people.
10) Is there anything you would like to add?