An escape from violence: using sports as a tool for social good

28 March 2017 - Opened in 2011, the Estrutural Olympic and Paralympic Centre offers members of this impoverished and vulnerable community built around a landfill on the outskirts of Brasilia a safe and healthy space. With UNODC's own programme using sports to help prevent youth from becoming involved in crime and drugs now underway, we visited this centre to speak some of the people there and hear their story.

Tatiana, 28, has two children both of whom come to the centre. She says that it offers a safe space, away from street violence and gives them an opportunity to do something positive.

Why did you decide to bring your children to the centre?

In the morning my two children go to school but in the afternoon they don't have any activities to do. In the past they have wanted to play outside but because we have a lot of violence in the street I think it's dangerous to leave them so I would rather bring them here. It is also an opportunity for them to learn a sport.

In your neighbourhood, are there problems with drugs or anything?

Yes. There are many teenagers in my area that are involved with drugs. There are a lot of adults who sell drugs to these teenagers and the situation is bad.

Do you think that when the children are here they learn more and they are not a part of this violence?

Definitely. They go straight from school to here until 6pm. It's far better to be able to control things like this.

What are your expectations?

The children are both doing football, boxing and gymnastics and I hope that they can develop in sports.

Ana Julia, 11, has been coming to the Estrutural Olympic and Paralympic Centre for the past year. She says she has seen improvements in her life and her health.

Photo: UNODC Since you started coming to the centre a year ago what has changed?

Many things. The way I behave, the way I walk, improvements in my schoolwork. I am also learning new things in sports.

And for your health, do you think it is better?

I think I am much better because sports are good for health. And the sports I like the most is swimming

Before coming here, had you swam before?

No, I didn't know how to swim - I learnt it here.

Guilherme is 13 and loves to swim, box and play indoor football. He goes to the centre almost every day after school.

Photo: (C) Bruno Sellani / FAC / DA Press How long have you been coming to the centre?

I've been coming for about one year.

Since you've been coming, what has changed in your life?

Many things. My studies have improved and I am better in school. My health is also better. Many things have changed.

How do you feel?

I feel stronger because it has helped me a lot.

And before you came to the centre, what were you doing?

Before I stayed at home doing my homework and helping my mother. Here I can study, do sports and have more fun with my friends.

And finally, what makes it enjoyable for you here?

I think staying here is better because you are learning new things and are not just bored at home.

Romualdo is a teaching and learning manager at the Estrutural Olympic and Paralympic Centre . He says that in his view, sport is essential in building citizenship and learning key values in life.

Photo: UNODC Can you tell me a little bit about the reality of Estrutural and the public that you support here? What are the biggest problems being faced?

When we started, there were several drug selling points in front of the Estrutural Olympic and Paralympic Centre. We knew that some of the teenagers worked for them but this has changed over time. The police and health units that are partners of the centre and who are situated here have helped and sport has contributed to strengthening the citizenship of these students. Many of these are highly vulnerable and some children do not even have parents. Here we see the older children bringing the younger ones to be part of the centre as they know that this is a good place for them.

What about the system that you have here?

The programme that we have here is a little bit different from the Olympic Centre system as it offers a combination of things. As the parents need to work all day, the children can come to the centre after school. We offer some food as well as the ability for the children to learn new sports and take care of their health. We know that these topics are very important for the citizenship of the students and their growth. We use sports to help them understand and learn respect and other values that are important in society.