Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt shared a moment with 52 children from some of Brazil’s most dangerous communities (favelas) yesterday in an experience that is hoped will encourage positive attitudes.
The children, who were between 11 and 18 years old, are all participants in a social outreach programme organised by Centro de EducaÁ„o Fisica Almirante Adalberto Nunes (CEFAN) – the naval base that is being used as Jamaica’s athletics training camp ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
More than 200 students spend their afternoons at the camp and away from the city’s harsh ghettoes and are exposed to sporting and personal development programmes with a view to discourage them from drugs, violence and creating positive opportunities.
Navy Captain Luiz Serrano, who is in charge of institutional relations at the base, noted that the children requested to meet Bolt, and he believes that the experience will go a long way in helping them to meet their goals.
“We have several social programmes here with children who live in favelas around this centre. This programme is a good opportunity for the children to get involved in sports,” said Serrano.
“Getting to take this photo and sharing this time with Usain (Bolt) was a good opportunity for them to meet him, because nowadays in Brazil he is considered a hero, and remember in Brazil, our sport is football,” Serrano added.
“But they wanted the picture, and to them, it’s a good opportunity and a reminder to them that they can make something of their lives – that they can be like Bolt and that they have a positive figure to look up to,” said Serrano.
“This programme is important to grant them good behaviour and attitudes in their lives – some that they did not learn from their parents, such as the need to have focus and an objective in life; to pursue these dreams, to work together, and so on.
“So through this programme, we have the opportunity to teach them other things that we consider important to their development,” he said.
The programme has been in place since 2008 and has seen several of its participants go on to join the military, with others moving on to professional sports teams in Rio and across Brazil.