Mundo Real’s New York team arrived in Rio de Janeiro from New York on February 13th with luggage stuffed full of donations. The very next week we began distributing these supplies, and as the photos illustrate, the wheel chair was put into immediate usage. On February 20th Mundo Real accompanied FUNLAR, a municipal government agency that attends to people with disabilities, on one of their outings. FUNLAR only arranged for the participation of one disabled resident of Rocinha to go on the outing. However, Mundo Real, on extremely short notice, was able to get eleven more disabled residents to come along. One by one we assisted with their transportation to the van, into the van, and then to the park. Among those were two elderly widows with severe amputations which prevent them from being able to walk at all. One of them, Dona Maria do Fortunato was the recipient of the wheel chair that George Contreras help secure for Mundo Real and she can be seen in the photos utilizing it.
The day was beautiful and sunny. Many of the community residents cried tears of joy. It is rare for most of them to leave their homes for anything other than medical emergencies or appointments. In fact, Dona Osório, a rather lively woman, who suffers from disabilities as a result of a stroke, proclaimed with her typical humor “this outing is much better than the ones I usually go on … to the hospital.” The most touching part of the day was completely unplanned. Another Dona Maria (very typical name in Brazil) who has both legs amputated up the hips asked everyone to join hands while she led a powerful and moving prayer. It was incredible to see this elderly women, a resident of a third world slum and with both legs amputated so full of thanksgiving and hope. It was truly moving to say the least.
The point of this story is to illustrate that without a committed Community Based Organization (CBO) the outing would have been a failure. FUNLAR only made arrangements for one resident to come and only because she did not need much help getting to the van because her teenage daughter assisted her. If we had not organized for the others to come FUNLAR would have had to cancel the outing. The point is clear, community leaders and organizations are essential in holding government and private entities accountable and assisting them in community matters.