A Young Man’s Dreams in Complexo do Alemão

Clique aqui para Português

For the original in Portuguese by Viviane Ribeiro, published in Jornal Alemão Notícias, click here

At 16 years of age a young man has many dreams and so much is happening all around him. As if that weren’t enough, this one’s existence is in the favela, or, as it is called in the mainstream media, “a pacified community” or “a high risk and violent area.” Living right in the middle of contradictions and prejudice, this young man and others do not stop dreaming.

His laugh and his freedom to dream are evident all over his face. His conversations and his eyes reflect an isolated world and a desire for things to happen quickly, a young man in search of forging a path. A path that many times he has considered leaving for an easier road, but the hope of reaching this goal never wanes. So, like many others, he stays on the path, and he follows it quickly, because he is young and in a hurry.

Haste is the enemy of perfection and many times when we are in a hurry we trip over our own two feet. The media has the power to transform the life of a human being and to become as responsible as the state itself and its policies, society and the family environment—all are responsible for the child’s future, certain or uncertain.

At the height of discussions surrounding reducing the age of criminal responsibility, violence and safety in the pacified favelas, education, health and the other hot topics, let us put all that aside for a moment to talk about dreams. The community newspaper Jornal Alemão Notícias met a young man who, amidst everything that has been going on recently in Complexo do Alemão, stood out because of his charisma, friendliness, and many talents.

And we have the responsibility to introduce him to our readers so that together we can help turn his dream into reality.

Marcelo da Conceição Berlamino, 16, an eighth grade student at João Barbalho Municipal School and resident of the Grota favela—one of the communities of Complexo do Alemão—has dreams and a huge desire to make them come true. We began our first meeting in one of the numerous places where he loves to look at the view.

Marcelo sits facing the enormous landscape where we can see the full scale of the hill, houses and the cable car, and we talk a bit to relax. He quickly points out a curious thing: “Look how big it [the community] is! Looking at it from here it doesn’t seem like there are millions of alleys and paths running through. It looks like it is all just houses!”

Marcelo under the cable car

We continue to talk about dreams and, to my surprise, he talks at full speed. His dreams are too many to count and at some moments he even gets emotional, and loses himself at the same time, emitting a sense of despair. But he manages to catch himself.

Marcelo shares his dreams: “I had a dream of saving lives because on TV I once saw a man save a child from inside a bus and I cried. He got burnt. So I wanted to be a fireman. My second dream was to be a parachutist, to jump from high places with a parachute. I think it would be so cool. You know I have never even been on a plane, it must be cool. My dream is still to go high up in a plane and see everything from above, and to travel to many places, I don’t know, like Argentina, Paris and the whole world.

“The third dream, which I really want, is to be a photo journalist, to travel all over and do a lot of work, to be known for the photos I take. But I don’t know. I know that life is bad because I live in a favela, but it is what I want, it’s a dream you know!”

And how do you intend to make this dream of becoming a photo journalist come true?

“I am thinking, I should work for you!” He laughs. “But it’s difficult, I don’t have a camera. I once did a course but I stopped in the middle because everybody had a camera and I didn’t. So I asked my father, but he said to wait because there are other expenses, you know. I didn’t want to keep asking, I wanted to have my own job and money to buy a camera myself. And if you let me, I can be your photographer. I could start working for Jornal Alemão Notícias!”

Marcelo poses for the camera

Laughing, I say: “Yes, of course!”

The humility of this young man is enchanting, as is his intelligence, in his simple way of talking and his ever-present smile. We walk through the favela, getting to know each other and observing every detail of the favela. I keep my cell phone in my hand and let him take my camera, and he has a ball.

Marcelo smiles to the camera with the cable car in the distance

At several moments I stopped to watch the happiness of this young man with the possibility of his dream coming true, the courage to face everything around him while still thinking of helping others, like all kids at his age. He likes many things—music, dancing, his friends and family, and soccer.

Marcelo takes a photo

Marcelo, if you won either a camera or a trip to go somewhere and you had to choose, which would you pick?

“The camera, obviously, hey! I am going to be able to work and take many photos, practice and do courses, and one day I am going to be able to travel all over.”

Marcelo looks over the hill

How do you see the problems of the favela today?

“Wow, there are many, it’s full of problems everywhere, but there are also a lot of people who are trying to help the Complexo in all kinds of ways, which I want to do too. The little I do makes a difference.”

And you are not afraid of the life of a photo journalist?

“I am not—it’s a dream and it’s what I want to do!”

Marcelo looks into the distance

I tell him that this life is difficult and demands a lot of sacrifice. I explain some situations and he smiles, looks at the favela in front of him and goes quickly to the edge to photograph the scenery.

This happiness surely comes from doing what makes him feel good, and I am happy for him, believing he can do what his dream requires and that he will move forward.

Cable car at Complexo do Allemão

I alone cannot make Marcelo’s dream come true and I do not have the resources to buy him a camera so he can start working, but what I can do is show all our readers the importance of being involved in the life of a young person. With some motivation, attention, a gesture, help, in any form we can offer, we can change the destiny of many young people, for all those at this same age who are in a hurry to dream. Let us not see them get lost to drug trafficking or the violence that surrounds them. My contribution is in not giving up Jornal Alemão Notícias, which, without resources or support and without professionals, is taking in this young man to be our intern, to learn to use a camera and enroll in courses that will move him forward. I invite anyone who is able to, to give a donation, which can be done by emailing alemaonoticiasrj@gmail.com, and to submit suggestions or information for what else we can do to make Marcelo’s dream come true. Any help at all is welcome.

Let’s help, people! It will be worth it to be one who makes dreams come true! Photos by Marcelo can be found on the Jornal Alemão Noticias Facebook page—he has talent and so much determination!

Catalytic Communities, the US 501[c][3] nonprofit that runs RioOnWatch, can act as fiscal sponsor for those who would like to make a donation in English online here. Simply message donate@catcomm.org informing us that your contribution is earmarked for “Alemão Notícias-Marcelo da Conceição.”