The “City of God” community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is famous for its daily realities: violence, drug trafficking and prostitution. Felipe was a skinny little boy from the City of God who used to sit in front of his development center, waiting for his father.
Sometimes Felipe was the only boy left waiting to be picked up. His teacher would take his hand and tell him he could stay the night.
Felipe lived with his parents in an unfinished home. His mother worked as a manicurist and his father as a guard, but their work wasn’t steady.
Sometimes Felipe’s father wouldn’t come home to bring money for food. Felipe and his mother would drink water with sugar so they would not to starve.
Felipe’s mother decided to separate from his father and the family’s life got worse because of her low income. She had to work hard to guarantee they could eat.
Thankfully, Felipe was enrolled at the center by that time, and there he received a good education and nurturing relationships with the teachers. He learned that he could dream, and work hard to reach his dreams.
Seeing his mother’s hard life and the sacrifices she made to put the bread on the table, Felipe decided to study and seize every opportunity that God put in front of him. When he was a little older, Felipe learned of an English course. The fee was only about $10 per month, but his mother said they didn’t have the money.
“I don’t like English, but I knew the importance of this language to get a good job. When I realized that my mom hasn’t the view of the importance of study, I became upset.”
Ana Cristina has been working as monitor of INPAR Student Center for 17 years. She knows exactly what disappointed Felipe: the parents’ shortsighted view of the future.
“Here we teach children to see the future; to see beyond the current difficulties and limitations. The worst poverty is the soul’s poverty.”
When Compassion offered a vocational course, Felipe jumped at the opportunity and chose informatics (similar to Information Technology). During the classes, he devoted himself fully, and at the end of school, he received a job offer.
“It was my first job and my first salary as well — then I could afford my English class.”
His job was to get more students to attend that school through visits and by giving out pamphlets on the street.
In a few months, Felipe was promoted and started to teach classes about everything that he had learned when he was a student. After a time as a teacher, he was invited to work with educational coordination.
Ana Cristina is very proud of Felipe. Smiling, she says that he taught her how to use the computer. “I’m not of this generation!” she laughs.
Felipe graduated, and the center invited him to teach informatics to the children. He considers it an honor, and since then he has given his best.
Felipe is informatics monitor of INPAR and Projeto Social Acao Querer Bem, another center in the City of God. As he was taught, he teaches children to see beyond their current circumstances.
Thanks to everything Felipe learned about “seeing beyond” and setting goals for the future, he saved money from the time he got his first job, and finally he grabbed hold of one of his dreams: to study English abroad. Felipe chose to study English in South Africa because it was the cheaper option.
“My cash was counted, and neither I nor my mom had money to afford a U.S. or Canadian Visa.”
Felipe spent two months studying English in South Africa. His classmates there called him “Obama” because he was emphatic when defending his points of view.
Currently Felipe is in his first year studying law at a university in Rio de Janeiro. Felipe looks back and says, “What I’ve gotten and who I am is because of this center.”
Felipe’s income isn’t high; monthly, he earns around $600, but he knows how to manage and balance the needs and priorities.
His college costs around $250, without counting materials, food and transportation. With the remainder of the money, Felipe helps his mother maintain the house and also saves money for his future.
Just as artists on the stage have people working behind the scenes to make them shine, Felipe has a grateful heart toward one person who helped him shine: his sponsor, Barry.
“If it wasn’t for him, his love, his letters, and his sponsorship maintaining me in the center, I’m sure that I would not be who I am today.”
Barry was Felipe’s sponsor from the time he was 4 years old. In early 2010, Felipe received a great surprise: Although Felipe had already completed the Compassion program, Barry came to Rio de Janeiro to meet the boy whom he had supported for so many years.
“I became thrilled! Barry cried when he saw me – I was really thrilled. He helps me my whole life! It was fantastic to see that lovely and kind man in person!”
Ana Cristina remembers when Felipe was a little child, skinny, weak, excitedly asking if letters from his sponsor had arrived and sometimes sleeping at the center because his father didn’t come to pick him up. Her eyes fill with tears looking at this 19-year-old young man who has a brilliant future in front of him, without any trace of anger or bitterness due to his past.