Tony Sheen writes>>
I met Ninha and Tata, two primary school-aged girls when I visited Maua. They told me about their lives…
Ninha: I live with my mum, my sister Catarina and my brother Wesley. Before I lived here, I lived in another occupation. My mother works as a teacher at a homeless shelter and my brother delivers pizza. I go to school at 1.30 pm and come home at 5.45 pm. My favourite subject is maths. I like doing sums. My sister Catarina is 17. She had to leave school because she was mugged and cut, but she is hoping to return after the holidays. My home has a living room with a sofa. A curtain divides the living room from the bedroom. We have a fridge and an oven and a bathroom. On Saturdays and Sundays, I take part in activities at Maua. At the moment we are doing rehearsals for a dance and a play for the 23 July party. I go to church on Sundays. I am also learning capoeira dance. Here in Maua the children have groups just like the adults and young people. I am one of the coordinators. If there are new children, we introduce them to the rest of the group. And in our meetings we talk about our behaviour and mistakes. We talk about what’s important to us. I want to tell children of my age in England and Wales that there is a difference between occupying building and invading a building. People say that we are robbers and thieves and that is not true. My dream for the future is to be a dancer because I like dancing – Brazilian dancing.
Tata: I have lived in Maua for four years. I live with my mum, my two brothers and my three cousins. One of my cousins who is fourteen years old is blind. So there are six children living in my home with my mum. My mum supports us by working in a crèche, looking after other children. She also gets a small grant to support my blind cousin. I go to two schools, one is called Prudente and the other is called Don Bosco. I start at Prudente school at 7am and finish there at 11 o’clock and then go to Don Bosco, a Catholic school, from 12 midday to 4pm. The reason I get to go to Don Bosco is because my mum needs extra support. My favourite subject is also maths. I like doing sums. Our home has one bedroom. We have a mattress on the floor and two bunk beds. There are seven of us and we share one bedroom. I get up at 5am, brush my teeth, have my breakfast of bread and beans and go to school. In the evening I throw down my rucksack, wash, have dinner, watch TV and go to sleep at 10 o’clock. I want to tell kids in England and Wales that I like living here in the occupation. My dream is to be a teacher in a primary school.