By Niall McNair
Well, it’s been just under a week since I returned from Rio de Janeiro, courtesy of Urban Uprising, to visit the C.E.U. Centro de Escalada Urbana and meet the youths that this climbing-based project is reaching out to. To say that that I was blown away by not only the local terrain but also the scale of the societal issues in this city would be an understatement.
Nestling in between the postcard scenery of the mountains, lagoons and beaches of Rio, lie some pretty stark contrasts in poverty and inequality. On one side of a road, luxury hotels reside by the beach whilst on the other, the shanty town favelas crowd and hug the contours on steep hills maximising the available space. I heard stories of the many examples of of the crime and gang warfare that blights these places as well as the authorities indifference to the inhabitants.
The CEU is never going to solve these huge, seemingly intractable issues in such a chaotic environment. But what it does offer is stable and structured activity, making full use of the frankly incredible mountainous landscape, for the youths to develop their self confidence, practical and other skills such as discipline that can be transferred to other areas of their lives. For example, one of the youth participants, Jonas, is looking to apply to the Fire & Lifeguard service, whilst another, Caio, is going to start training as a mountain guide.
I think most of here, in the UK, on Facebook etc. know how cosseted and privileged our western lives are but to see the evidence in front of your own eyes is sobering. CEU and Urban Uprising are niche solution that, at present, are limited to small numbers of participants. I look forward to seeing these charities, with the support of the climbing community and further afield, continuing to expand and reach out to larger numbers of youths in such places. Elevate and Inspire!
With thanks to C.E.U. Centro de Escalada Urbana, Urban Uprising, Cloudreach, British Airways and everyone else who has shown their support.
Outside the space that CEU has secured :
A lesson in Brazilian football stars :
The author :