“When the police come ‘pow, pow, pow’. You get down. Everyone runs into the corridors!”
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but this is the every day reality for children who go to school in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.
With members from rival drug gangs manning every street corner, and a military campaign adamant on stamping out drug related violence, navigating these slums has become a matter of life and death for most residents. In 2017 alone, 6,731 people lost their lives to violent crimes in Rio.
13 years ago, Rene Silva founded his community newspaper, Voz das Comunidades (VOZ). Once a small-time paper operating from Rene’s home, the young journalists working for VOZ now have deep ties in local communities, and often serve as a point of reference for the larger Brazilian press.
Kitted out in VOZ polos, the reporters use their smartphones and social media to give voice to parents like Fabio and Paloma Morre, who lost their son, Benjamin, to the crossfire between local police and drug traffickers. He was just shy of two years old.
His father, Fabio, waves his phone – with a video of a toddler laughing playing on the screen - at the young journalist interviewing him.
“This is one of the last pictures I took with him – this is a video of him dancing!”
It’s a scene journalist Luana Melo has seen all too many times before.
“It’s important for us to tell the story of the day Benjamin died. So these incidents won’t happen inside the favelas, with such violence.”
Watch Dateline’s Children Caught in the Crossfire, Tuesday 9.30PM on SBS.