Modern Brazil, following a long lasting political, economic and social crisis, is still a country teetering between great potential and extreme poverty.

6% of the entire Brazilian population, 11,4 million people, lives in a record number of 6,329 favelas. On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro children grow up in dramatic conditions of marginalisation, violence and social distress.

Drug dealers and paramilitary groups have taken over the streets. The waters are polluted with industrial waste. There’s no electricity. This is Manguinhos, a complex of 13 favelas on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where 55.000 people live, in degradation and poverty. For the children who are born here there is no present and no future either: shut out of schooling, they quickly become victims of street life and wars between rival gangs.

That’s why Cesvi chose to intervene more than 20 years ago here, in the country and in those cities able to host the football world cup and the Olympic Games. Collaborating with the local partner, REDECAPP, Cesvi set up a House of Smiles, a place for meeting and providing refuge that has become a reference point and an oasis of sheer serenity for all the children and kids who every day undergo violence and brutality.

Cesvi offers training courses, artistic laboratories, social and educational support activities to all the children from 6 to 20 years old, to offer them an alternative to street life. In this special gathering place dreams come true through dance, music, drawing, painting, reading and sport. In this way Brazilian children and kids learn that what matters is not simply to survive, but above all to study and build a future far away from the favela and violence.

Music of a new life

Music of a new life

Robson was born 13 years ago in one of the Manguinhos favelas. As he grew up, he saw many friends and peers recruited into criminality, become drug victims or die in frequent shoot-outs which are a feature of life on the edge. Nevertheless he said no to all this. And he did it on the day he started to hang out in the House of Smiles, finding in one go the chance to be a kid and a safe place to play, to learn and grow up.

Cesvi’s House of Smiles grew up in a building called “Rancho”, from the name of the now closed disc-producing factory which had its headquarters there. And it was music that left its mark in Robson’s heart who, thanks to the courses he followed at the House of Smiles, found his great passion in percussion becoming one of the most artistically talented kids.

Robson recounts: “This is a place which gives a bit of light to the children and kids from my background, a landmark for the whole community. In the House of Smiles we make music, study, act, read and…  get a life.”