Favela Fighters

 - a Brazilian shack or shanty town; a slum.

My good friend, Diogo, is a black belt in the martial art Luta Livre Esportiva. His father was shot and killed by a gang member when he was just two years old. This forced his mother, who suffered from schizophrenia, to raise him alone in a Brazilian favela. 

He found guidance in learning martial arts, giving him an outlet to keep away from gang violence. 

He’s spent the last 6 years volunteering his time to do the same for other children in the favelas. The average age of kids pulled away from gangs is 14 years old. Today, he’s used martial arts to help over 50 kids find direction and opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Today, $1.00 USD is worth approximately $5.00 Brazilian Real. The average income in a favela is under $5 USD per day, per person. Just one American Dollar will make a huge impact in the lives of these kids. 

We know that we don’t have the answers. Butwe’re continually inspired by the work that Diogo does, and want to empower him to make a difference in the community that he grew up in.

Where Your Money Goes: 

100% of the funds go to instructors.

Like Diogo, they all have day jobs, and on average  earn less than $1.50 per hour. The average income in a favela is about US$170 per month, or about US$5.6 per day (https://rioonwatch.org). The estimated cost of a healthy diet is US$142 per month, and that’s on top of rent. 

Funds raised will be in a bank account accessible only by the instructors, with wages paid out from this account. Our goal is to help to cover living expenses, so that instructors will be able to dedicate themselves to helping the kids through martial arts. We want them to not have to worry about other things on top of the dangerous work that they do, unpaid, day in and day out.

I asked Diogo what he felt the kids needed most. I had assumed things like food and clothes, but this was his reply: 

“A uniform. They need something to make them feel like they are on a team, a part of something bigger.” 

At first, Diogo was buying jersey’s one at a time with the spare cash that he had. He was paying upwards of US$20 for a single jersey, on a salary that paid him less than US$1.50 an hour.

About the Instructors: 

-Each instructor is a Black Belt 
-They’ll be assisting Diogo, or teaching satellite classes 
-They also advertise for their classes to get more kids involved 
-Expand to new favelas 
-Teach a combined 10 classes per day 
-Each instructor can train approximately 200 kids

I’ve been living in the Favela for the past month

I moved from Hawaii to a Brazilian Slum, honestly it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. I struggle with the feeling of scarcity. Working with children who are in true scarcity has taught me more about abundance than any personal development class or podcast I’d ever listened to.

It’s been an amazing yet incredibly raw experience. I’ve been escorted by armed gang members, and experienced the death of a student in Diogo’s class. It’s a dangerous environment - but the true danger begins when you become involved with gangs. This is why it’s so important to keep the kids out and away from gangs. 

For my birthday, the best gift that I could give to myself was to raise money for these kids.

How I met Diogo: I went to the slums of Rio, Brazil and it changed my life…

I visited Rio because the girl I was dating was from there and we had visited her family. 

At the end of the trip, I begged her totake me to the slums (I’d later learn that they are called “favelas”). She kept saying how dangerous it was and finally asked, “Why do you want to go?” 

I told her, “If I can’t see the problem, then I can’t fix it.”. After going back and forth for hours, she agreed to ask the husband of her friend if he could take me. 

My girlfriend at the time ordered me an Uber and AirDropped me a photo of a guy and says “This is Diogo, you’ll meet him outside of a restaurant near the favela, and he will show you around.” 

I ride the Uber for about 30-minutes and I get dropped off, by myself, in front of a random restaurant. At this point, it’s raining, and a hooded man walks up to me.

“Tim?” He asks, to which I reply “Are you Diogo?”, he looks nothing like the guy in the photo. He hands me a sweatshirt and says in a heavy accent, “We are going to train the kids, do you want to come?” After I say yes, he tells me to put the sweatshirt on to blend in. “We may walk by cartel, they most likely will have drugs and guns. If they do, just keep walking and do not look at them”. 

Within 5-minutes, I see what looks like a picnic table covered with bags of cocaine and guns. 

I keep my hood up and my head down. 

We turn a corner and proceed to climb several hundred stairs, at which point Diogo begins to tell me about his mission. He’s a black belt who teaches self-defense to kids in the favela. The area is too dangerous for the police to go, so violence with gangs is commonplace. 

This is the environment where Diogo was raised. He’s now one of about half a dozen black belts that teach the kids. 

Donations (167)

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  • Florie Vincent
    • $20 
    • 2 hrs
  • Tony & Neka Colin & Torreiro
    • $30 
    • 4 hrs
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  • Benjamin Crémieux
    • $20 
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    • $100 
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Tom Burden
Columbus, OH

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