In Brazil, Fight for Peace works in Complexo da Maré, one of the biggest group of favelas in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Encompassing 800,000m2, Complexo da Maré is divided into 17 favela communities – Baixa do Sapateiro, Marcílio Dias, Morro do Timbau, Nova Holanda, Parque Maré, Parque União, Praia de Ramos, Roquete Pinto, Rubens Vaz, Nova Maré, Conjunto Pinheiros, Conjunto Novo Pinheiro (Salsa e Merengue), Bento Ribeiro Dantas, Conjunto Esperança, Vila do Pinheiro and Vila do João.
Currently Complexo da Maré is home to 132,000 residents (CEASM, 2011) – over half of which are children, adolescents and young people. Notable for high levels of poverty, social and economic exclusion and by a scarcity of public services, Maré suffers from a lack of options as well as from the situations of violence, crime and drugs that residents still regularly face. Three different drug factions have dominated the area over a long period of time, exposing the young people to almost daily confrontations between themselves and the police.
More recent figures state that, between 1998 – 2008 alone, 200,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were killed (90% firearm-related) in Brazil – and 30,000 of them in the city of Rio de Janeiro. A 2010 census by IBGE registered the deaths of 80 young people in Complexo da Maré during that year. It was within this climate of young people being exposed so often to violence that Fight for Peace began its work in 2000, looking to offer more possibilities through its activities as well as making sure that young people from all over Maré had access to these opportunities.
The Fight for Peace Rio de Janeiro headquarters is based in the favela community of Nova Holanda, in a three-storey building with sports facilities, classrooms and an IT room. The large range of activities on offer, as well as accessibility for those with specific needs, make the space a well-used and varied community centre. Aside from the headquarters, in 2011 two satellite academies were opened in the favela communities of Marcílio Dias and Bento Ribeiro Dantas, replicating Fight for Peace’s applied methodology from the headquarters and spreading the project to new horizons within the group of Maré favelas.
In November 2007 the Fight for Peace London Academy was established in the borough of Newham, East London. Newham was chosen because in 2007, gun and knife crime affected young people collectively more than anywhere else in the city. The borough’s Youth Offending Team also had a caseload which was 52% above the average caseload for other boroughs in London. Furthermore, the presence of a problematic gang culture had set in, leading to more young people becoming involved in crime or becoming the victims of youth violence.
The Fight for Peace London Academy provides an important resource to the local community and its value has been recognised through awards and robust external evaluations as well as a growing number of young people joining the Academy. In 2008, 881 young people. In 2009 this had grown to 1094 and in January 2012, 2115 had joined since the opening day. The Fight for Peace London Academy offers its activities and services to young people between the age of 11 and 25, using the same Five Pillars methodology as in Rio de Janeiro.
Fight for Peace actively targets the hardest to reach young people. These are those most adversely affected by or involved in crime, gangs or violence; ex-offenders; those not in education, training or employment (NEET) or those have been excluded from school. Most young people come to the London Academy by word of mouth. Others are accessed by street outreach, work in schools and referrals from other agencies like the Youth Offending Team. Fight for Peace is open to all young people from the local community and other boroughs in London, regardless of background, befitting the charity’s ‘embracing’ value.