Richmond’s players in Rio de Janeiro have travelled well and truly off the tourist track to discover the other side of life in the Brazilian city.
A vibrant and diverse city, Rio has a population of more than 12 million people, with six million of those living in the poverty-stricken ‘favelas’ – the city’s slum communities.
Crime, violence and drugs are a major part of everyday life in the favelas.
After visiting some of the favela communities, Richmond player Matt Dea explained in his video diary that sport speaks all languages and, although the children living in the favelas have very few opportunities, some friendly games and interaction ensured meaningful connections with them.
“Although our Portuguese is far from great, sport breaks down all boundaries, and to be able to kick the soccer ball with the kids, and interact with them in that way, was completely uplifting and an amazing experience,” Dea said.
“It was great to have a laugh with these kids that have got next to nothing, and to share a moment like that was quite special.”
One organisation, which is trying to make a positive difference to people living in the favelas, is Instituto Brasileiro deb Inovações em Saúde Social (IBISS).
Nanko Van Buuren, who heads up IBISS, offers sports programs to the young people in the favelas, as a platform to build an ‘alternative future’ to falling into life working with the drug cartels that rule the slums’ social order.
“To witness that leadership is quite amazing. The patience that Nanko, himself, must have to set up these programs, is unbelievable,” Dea said.
After a day in the favelas, the Richmond group swapped cultural experiences with their local hosts, teaching them some of the traditional culture of Indigenous Australians.
Tiger player Shane Edwards, along with two young Indigenous men, Darren Alen and Derek Hayes, who have participated in the Korin Gamadji Institute’s programs, performed the war cry and played didgeridoo.
“Although I’m not Indigenous, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder to be an Australian. It was a really nice exchange with the community,” Dea said.
The project, called 'Changing the Score' is funded by RMIT University, Bluestone Edge, Richmond Football Club, Karoon Gas, Rio Tinto, Costa Foundation and Drapac Group.
For more articles and videos from Rio, click here.