A former street child who took part in the inaugural Street Child World Cup in 2010 visited Brazil this week, representing his country, meeting Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr and inspiring children at the Safe Space, Rio de Janeiro. His story is a testament to the change that can happen when at-risk children are protected, respected and supported to reach their full potential.
Street Child United ‘alumnus’ Roberto Orlandez Jr represented Team Philippines in 2010 at the inaugural Street Child World Cup in Durban, South Africa. He continued his participation in the 2014 Street Child World Cup in Rio as a coach for Team Philippines. Now 21, Roberto, this week, represented his country at the Red Bull Neymar Fives tournament in São Paulo, meeting the Brazilian football star and receiving a signed jersey.
Following the tournament Roberto took time to visit the Safe Space soccer programme which was created by Street Child United Brazil (SCUB) following the Street Child World Cup in 2014. The visit proved inspirational for the children at Safe Space, and also Roberto, who said this:
“I’m so proud and blessed to have represented the Philippines here in Brazil, meeting the legendary Neymar and then to attend the inspirational Safe Space program with SCUB. I was proud to talk to the children about my journey, they remind me of myself as a child. Step by step they will have a better future and SCUB is helping them with this. Street Child United changes people’s lives from nobodies to somebodies and I’m so happy to see Jessica and Drika as coaches of Safe Space now.
The Street Child World Cup 2010 had a huge impact on my life, it helped me see the positive and the potential in my life. I know how hard life is but I am here now, still fighting and knowing that I am somebody. When I got my full scholarship in the International School in Manila, I knew this was my opportunity. This was my chance to change the mindset that society has about us as street children. We have dreams and we can achieve that by showing our talents and love for the people around us. Street Child World Cup inspired me to be something I never imagined before. Now I am here and I will never stop inspiring street children until the last child achieves their dreams. Yes, I am somebody.”
Roberto achieved a full scholarship to the International School in Manila where he currently receives 4 years of education, board, lodging, and football. He has represented the national team at under 21 level and is now having trials for the under 23 national team.
SCUB CEO Adam Reid said:
“Roberto is an example of how the Street Child World Cup can impact some of the most at-risk young people. Now he’s representing his nation and meeting Neymar Jr. Roberto’s hard work, focus and success since 2010 mean he is a true Ambassador to the children we serve. We’re delighted to welcome him to the Safe Space to play football and more importantly, to inspire our children.” The Safe Space programme is attended by an average of 40 children per day and is available to 300 children. It operates seven days a week for children at risk of the streets. For more information, click here.
The third Street Child World Cup will kick-off in Moscow ahead of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 in May, next year. Over two hundred street-connected children from across the world will come together in Moscow for their own international football tournament, a festival of arts and Congress for their rights. For more information, click here.