As often history shows, even the most difficult disputes can be defeated through unthinkable means just based on the own sense of humanity.
This has happened in the case of Sandro Soares, the Brazilian guy who, fond of skateboarding, has made his favourite sports the special weapon to beat the São Paulo underworld without using any form of violence.
His inspirational battle began in the first years of the new millennium, in the company of a dear friend, at the time they worked as a volunteers in one of the most dangerous and violent juvenile prisons in Brazil: “We realised that 90% of the young offenders were just like us.”
Sandro, nicknamed “Testinha” by his connections, had got the same social background of the imprisoned youngsters which he used to help: the skateboard used to be his inseparable partner since he was 14-years-old, but the basic difference was represented by the fact that, fortunately, skateboarding was such a powerful passion to let him escape from the shallows of his own neighborhood.
“We understood that skateboarding saved us from a life of crime” as he commented to BBC reporters.
Hence, getting aware of the fact he could have been a witness of hope, he thought to start a street activity in Poá in 2011, in the extreme east of São Paulo, without any state or private funding.
However, at that time the main obstacle was represented by the incapacity to find a suitable place in which implement the skateboarding activities with the young: in fact, all the ideal location (mostly abandoned courtyards) for riding are used for drug dealing.
“This project only exists because the state fails to reach poor areas: the drug dealers are there and independent project as ours are there to meet the huge need. ”
In the end, something really unexpected happened: Soares and his crew decided to talk to the dealers of a precise drug dealing spot, finding out that the guy who used to manage the sales there was a Testinha’s pupil when he was a teacher in the years of volunteering in the juvenile prison.
The following days the drug sellers vacated the abandoned court, allowing Sandro to develop the project. Soares told simply that “from that Saturday they stopped selling drugs there”.
It was certainly a turning point for the start of the dream: the NGO Social Skate, carrying out a project with very high expectations, stated as its main proposal to create a sort of social house aimed to fight vulnerability through sports, cultural activities in order to promote the social inclusion and avoid the risks to slide into criminality contexts.
“We took over that space that was abandoned very dirty – and still is. But something cheers me up every time I go there and I’m with the kids.”
Considering the social context of the city of São Paulo, with a remarkable peak of teenage arrests of 23.000 in 2015, Sandro Soares’s brave actions have been the unique occasion through sport to give the opportunity to lead a normal life to kids in dangerous situation: the skateboard is a mean of real freedom, as Soares’s words explained.
“I remember the words of a Brazilian song: have faith because flowers blossom even in the dump. So amidst that dump, those kids are our flowers“.
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