I must admit that sometimes my posts seem to be a little erratic. I share about our interactions with some particular child or teenager and then the following weeks there is hardly any news about them.
I do not mean to be erratic. However, this is the nature of the work. Some days we have meaningful interactions with a particular child and then he or she just disappears, not literally of course. The center covers a wide geographic area. The children and teens do not usually stay at one place. They do sleep at the same place every night but they like to wander during the day. The young ones think that life is an adventure. They go from place to place seeking food and frequently causing some mischief along the way; nothing really sinister. They just want to see how much they can get away with in the streets. The older teens don’t like to be in open spaces during the day. They are susceptible to police’s scrutiny. They feel safer if they move around to avoid any suspicion. We have to wander around as well in order to find them and when we do, they are usually high from sniffing paint thinner or another form of drugs. We have to wait for the right moment to speak with them. Usually we get this chance perhaps with at least one child or teen almost everyday but not always with the same child or teen. This is why there is not always a follow-up story in my posts. However, this time I am going to do something different. Something new is happening. We are excited but at the same time we are cautious. We don’t want our excitement to rush things or create unrealistic expectations. We are excited about a young man named Igor. I want to share his story but it is impossible to do so in one post. It is a story of a relationship that has been slowly developing over the past year. It is not just Igor’s story but it is also our story.
I mentioned Igor before. Actually I have mentioned several Igors. It was a popular name in São Paulo twenty years ago. Consequently, there are several different Igors about the same age in the streets. This particular one came to the streets when he was 8 years old. It was the tragic death of his mother that drove to the streets. She was killed over a trivial argument and the life of her son was changed forever. Igor’s father had died in prison a few years before and he was all alone in this world. His aunt took him in out of obligation and Igor sensed this strongly. As an eight year old child, he made a decision which no child of this age should ever make in an ideal world. However, he did not live in an ideal world and he ended up in the streets. Crime and drugs are part of the street life so is incarceration and Igor experienced all of these. By the time he was eighteen, he had been incarcerated fifteen times. He told us that he never cared for anything or anybody. He would leave the detention center and go back to the streets to rob. He did not believe that life had anything to offer him. Then he fell in love with another homeless teen, Ana Paula. She is four years older than him with a similar background. The two orphans found solace in each other. It did not take long before Ana Paula was pregnant and Igor was incarcerated for the last time as a minor during her pregnancy. Igor told us that it was the first time he seriously thought about changing his life. This time when he left the detention center, he was determined not to return.
When we first met Igor, we did not know much about him. Only thing we knew was that he was interested in languages. He had memorized some French phrases just from hearing some Africans speaking to each other. He told us that he always wanted to speak in English and French. We asked him if he was interested in learning English. He said that he was willing to learn anything if he was given the chance. This was the beginning of a series of English lessons with Igor.