Researchers say that there are four different levels of street life:
- Children spend their days on the street stealing and begging, but return home at night
- Children spend all of their days and most of their nights on the streets, rarely returning home.
- Children live permanently on the streets; either by choice or because they were abandoned by their families, never returning home.
- 2nd generation street child, babies being born to street children.
The life of a street child is not a happy one. They are robbed of their childhood and forced to become adult literally fighting for their lives and survival day in and day out. Many do not know how to read or write. They do not know how to play with toys. A grown child finds extreme joy in coloring a simple picture because it is something they have never been able to do. Violence is a way of life for them. They live in gangs as a way to protect themselves from others.
The life of a street girl is even grimmer. Many turn to prostitution at a very young age as a way to survive. They are raped by their peers and leaders. Some are even sold into prostitution by their families. They are robbed of any form of self-dignity by selling their bodies for pennies.
Life on the streets is an addiction. Street children become addicted to drugs, primarily as a way to numb the pains of hunger and life on the streets, and to the freedom of this lifestyle, thus making it nearly impossible to break this cycle and see their lives wholly restored. As a result, the primary focus of ESTHERS Children is prevention work with children living in at-risk situations in an effort to prevent them from becoming a level one street child or progressing beyond the first level of street life.
Official reports estimate there are half a million children in Brazil that have fallen victim to child prostitution, second only to Thailand. Brazil is a hot-spot for child prostitution – Recife specifically being known for its prostitution tourism. Girls are forced into a life of prostitution, often by family members, at ages as young as 8. For these families, prostitution is a lifestyle being passed down from one generation to another. Our goal is to break this cycle starting with this generation through community development and family intervention. At the Quiet Strength Community Center we educate the girls about the problem, and teach them a different way of life and how to re-write their own future as an independent girl in a dignified way.