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Some Of Brazil's Children Surfing For A Better Life
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Story By: Larry Stine



  Originally Published on: 7/13/2014

For decades, football (soccer) has helped lift many out of poverty in Brazil. But the dream of escaping the slums and making it big, can also be found beyond the football pitches. Isa Soares hits the beach to find out how one surf school is changing children's lives by teaching them the value of hard work, perseverance and dedication. At the gate of Rio's most populous favela lies an opportunity for change. Here, inside the Rochinha Surf School, children are learning to ride the waves, the sea, and whatever life throws at them. "Entao beleza. Enta vamos la? Set up by favela resident and qualified surfer, Bocao, as he is known here, and supported by famous U.S. musician and surfer, Jack Johnson, the school offers children and opportunity to get off the streets and into the water. The school started because in Rochinha there was no one to teach the kids to surf and I saw that need in the community, a community that is very close to Saint Coronado Beach," says Ricardo "Bocão" Ramos, Rocinha Surf Instructor. "So I decided to collect old surf boards that were thrown into the rubbish on the beach and so I fixed them and gathered a group of five kids and began to teach them how to surf." Despite the financial challenges of keeping the school afloat, he continues to teach. So far, more than 1,000 children from the local favelas have sought training and advice from Bocao. Two of them have become professional surfers, competing around the world. A moment of pride for the instructor, and a dream of a better life for students like 10-year-old Marcos Paulo, who tells me he wants to be a surfer and a hard-working man when he grows up. He adds: "I like surfing because I want to have a good future to help my mum, to help my family, to help "Bocao" my teacher," says Marcos Paulo, a Rochinha surf student. "So, I have to work hard to help my family." "Any child from the neighboring favelas can learn how to surf for free, but they have to prove to the teacher they have 100 percent attendance at school and good grades," says CNN's Isa Soares. "It's all about teaching them the value of hard work and discipline." In doing so, the school is also offering them an alternative to the crime and drug trafficking that tempts so many young people across Rio's favelas. No one knows this better than this teacher, who escaped it through surfing. "Surfing changed my life and is changing theirs. It's a past time, but sports can bring about major change, it can be transformative," Ramos says. "They wake up, go to school. After their houses, the surf school and the beach is their second home. So we're joining work and pleasure. Instead of them being on the streets doing things they shouldn't be doing, they're playing sports and being happy." For these children, it matters little how much water they swallow, or how many tumbles they take. Like in life, this is about learning to get back up, time and time again.

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