My heart lies in Brasil. I traveled to Rio de Janeiro in 2006 and fell in love with the country and my future wife.
I’ve since had a natural curiosity of Brasilians—the way they live, the way they don’t live, and the many creative ways they get things done. I had read about and seen images of Rio’s favelas, street children, and the stark socio-economic divide between the haves and have-nots, but nothing could really prepare me for the encounters I had with these elements of Carioca society in the three times I’ve returned.
In 2007, I returned to Rio a second time as a cultural explorer. One of the things I wanted to know were the ways NGOs in Rio were filling in the cracks left by the government. This brought me to Crescer e Viver.
I chose to document them because they were representative of social circus, a growing movement which uses circus arts as a vehicle for social development in at-risk youth, as well as promoting citizenship and social change. The concept intrigued me and I wanted to see it in person. Also they were one of the few NGO’s in Rio that had an English-speaking staff member.
Under the tall blue-and-white striped circus tent they operated under, the reverberating laughter and chatter of children at play mixed with the rhythmic stamping of feet upon the cushioned mats was constant.
I got the sense that this was an environment where they could express themselves. In this environment they had strong positive role models—some former pupils of the program—to teach them not just circus arts, but their rights as members of society, their potentials, and the importance of community. In essence, they were giving these children a hope and confidence often absent from their lives.