Raul
From lonely orphan to a family of friends

"We need to be visible"

School, sports and time with friends are what constitute a weekly routine for Raul. Although he still struggles with very little means and a simple roof over his head, things are finally getting better. Raul just turned 20, and life has been difficult for him.

Raul during physical education class
Raul during physical education class

Alice, our outreach worker, met Raul when he was sixteen. His mother had just died, leaving him and his brother orphans. And except for a small house, they had nothing left. No money, no water or electricity, no food. His brother left to find a job in South Africa, leaving Raul who was born with atrophied legs, alone and desperate. Only Antonietta, a neighbor, would cook for him out of her good heart.

Raul at his front door
Raul at his front door

Alice first asked if she could come and talk with him. Raul opened up about his feelings. He told her about his difficulties and how he felt trapped. His wheelchair couldn’t get in the house nor move around the neighbourhood, as it is too sandy. Without his mum, he could not go to school anymore and was hopeless.

Raul cleaning his house
Raul cleaning his house

Alice started at the beginning: arranging for a local association to get him a tricycle, so that Raul would be able to move around. To cover basic needs, she helped him register to the “basic basket,” a national social program dispensing food and basic goods for the most vulnerable people. Once they found a way to get him a school uniform, Raul enrolled in his neighbourhood high school.

Raul on his tricycle at the blackboard in class
Raul on his tricycle at the blackboard in class

In Raul’s public school, the pedagogical team is trained on inclusion of students with disabilities. It was then no issue when Raul asked to attend physical education class on Monday afternoon. And this year, Alice also referred him to an association organising sports events for children with disabilities. Raul goes every weekend. What started as an activity for children with disabilities became inclusive sports, as children without disabilities from the bairro also wanted to come and play with them.

Raul playing soccer with friends
Raul playing soccer with friends

Next year, Raul wants to study psychology at the university. And even if it is still tough, with no family support, getting out allowed Raul to recreate a family of friends of his own. His message: “We need to go out, if we stay hidden at home, nobody will come and help. We need to be visible!”

Raul on his tricycle being pushed by a friend
Raul on his tricycle being pushed by a friend

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