Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The kindness of strangers in Rocinha

Yesterday I was visiting my friend Zezinho in Rocinha.  We are putting the final touches on our Art & School supplies project for many child residents and especially for Tio Lino and his after school art studio/school.

It was a blisteringly hot day and I was drenched to the skin by the time I had lugged the bags of school supplies up to Zezinho’s new (very nice!) apartment.  We spent about an hour sorting through the supplies and then collating them into sets placed within the new string backpacks Zezinho found for an incredible R$7 each.

Each colorful, new backpack contains a spiral notebook, three pencils, a pen, a pencil sharpener, and eraser, several balloons and a set of finger paints (just for fun!)  We were able to supply items to fill 40 backpacks.

Anyway, I will come back to all this in a later post when we actually deliver the stuffed backpacks, as well as the art supplies, to Tio.  Say tuned, it should be in the first week of January.

The reason for this post is to relate an act of kindness I witnessed while folded into a van making my way down the hill to my bus back to Niterói in Gávea.

While waiting in traffic to get around a tight turn (Rocinha has just one winding main road and it is heavily used by vans, trucks, busses and a gazillion motorcycles) the driver of our van noticed that a man making his way up a wide pathway, carrying a small cabinet on his shoulders, had dropped something.  The driver called out to the resident.

The guy did not hear at first so the van driver beeped his horn and continued to yell: “Hey, guy, you dropped your wallet, or your cell phone, or something!”  When the guy did hear he did not understand what was being said so he turned and walked back down to get within earshot, passing his dropped item on the ground.

At this point several of the people in the van were trying to help him understand what had happened.  In the mean time a boy of about 8 years saw the wallet and picked it up.  He walked it over to the man still carrying the cabinet.  Situation resolved.

For the next couple of blocks everyone in the van broke into tales of when they had had their dropped wallets returned to them complete with documents and cash intact, and how great it is that people would know how important a moment like that can be.

The feeling of community right then, in that little corner of the Rocinha favela, was palpable.


Anonymous said...

Good to read some "good" news for a change. :-)

Too bad Brasilia doesn't have the same level of honesty. Brazil would be a different country

Gil and Ray said...


The sense of comunity makes all the difference, it is great to hear people are treating each other with honesty and they seem to be proud to maintain the good samaritan rule, which is very positive.
Thanks for sharing!


Rachel said...

Great story Jim! I find that you can have pretty good luck with honest Cariocas. I know you have your own story. My Brother-in-law always loses his wallet during carnaval and it always makes its way home. Sometimes via the video rental store, other times the department of motor vehicles. People really do try sometimes!

Nina said...

I left my ipod at a paper store once in brazil and the girl came running out after me. It was really touching, I almost cried. That's why we can't give up on people, no one is all good and no one is all bad.

lifeinrocinha said...

I <3 my Rocinha!