Founder of Roupa Suja Project, a union of women who work to provide childcare, education, job training and assistance to people living in one of Rio’s largest slum, Marcia Ferreira da Costa is a fitting addition to our series on inspiring women…
“I was born in the favela of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, in the mid 1960s. I was one of four daughters and we, along with my parents, lived in a very very poor house. It was in front of an open ditch. Every time it rained a lot we would lose everything, and this is something I’ll never forget. The ditch would overflow and inundate my house bringing rats and garbage. We needed to sleep in other people’s houses and keep our clothes in bags etc. But despite this hard situation, I also remember we were always happy as a family. We were very close.
My mum used to work as cleaning lady in a private school and my dad was a shoemaker. My parents were both alcoholics but they were never violent. They were very kind and nice to us and I have them as an example of great parents.
I started to go to school at 6 years old. At that time there were no public pre-schools, but as my mum worked in a private one, my sister and I had the chance to start early. At that time, Rocinha was much poorer than today so we had an enormous privilege. My dad was also very attentive to us and always said that we were poor and black but if we had education we could make a difference. You always have to do your best!
My dad loved to read and even had a Greek mythology book collection that stayed on top of his wardrobe, just in case the rain was too strong. He always said that books are life as you can go wherever you want, get to know other cultures, live a character and he would always encourage us to read.
When I was 12 years old I started to teach other kids from the neighbourhood. Study and reading were things that we loved to do. But I had to leave school at 14 because I got pregnant. A few months after my daughter was born I got pregnant again, as I thought because I was breastfeeding I couldn’t get pregnant. Even though it was tough, I started night school, as I’d never wanted to leave school.
I waited for my children to grow so I could get back to study. I finished high school and graduated as a primary teacher. I am in college now, in the third year of pedagogy. After, I want to do a post-graduate degree in psychomotor.
The thing I am most proud of? I am very proud of having raised my kids. To raise kids in a place like Rocinha, which is very big and has a huge appeal for good and bad things, is not easy. I always told them how important education is. Be generous and always say the truth. Education without values doesn’t has much value. The words I always told them were please, thank you and sorry! I am very close friends with my children and I am very proud of the people they are today.”
Roupa Suja Project is improving the lives of the families living in the favela in the Roupa Suja neighbourhood, through education. The Intrepid Foundation is pleased to support this great organisation and your donations via the Foundation will be doubled* by Intrepid Travel.
* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.
Photo: © Roupa Suja Project