As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, many Brazilians hope that the country's extravagant beauty and cultural delights will overshadow its underbelly of inequity, poverty and violence
Vast percentages of the urban population, over 1 million people in Rio alone, live spread throughout the cities in historically unregulated slums known as favelas. In the largest of the favelas, Complexo do Alemao, a one square mile section of Rio with over 100,000 residents referred to by locals as "Faixa de Gaza" (the Gaza Strip), opportunity for the young presents itself more readily in drug trafficking than school, with fewer than 25% of students making it past the 4th grade. Barely 1% finish high school and illiteracy reaches 85 percent.
Across the country, grass roots organizations such as Complexo's "Communities in Action" have taken remarkable strides to educate and employ their communities through the arts, computer and literacy training, and programing aimed at building children's self-esteem and showing them an alternative to the life they witness daily. Recent attention on the "pacification" of the favelas has brought new resources and police presence, but it remains to be seen if such small local efforts can find the means to define a sustainable path forward.
Communities in Action and other similarly committed efforts believe that none are more invested or better equipped to improve the situation in the slums than the residents themselves. This reporting project will examine the efforts to build a coalition of organizations representing the favela communities, and to do so by allowing local youth to present their experience through their own documentation and story telling.
Elan Gepner was one of five winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Center YouTube Project Report contest.