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“After years crying at their stories – I’m seeing the reality first hand”


In April Meninadança’s UK coordinator Charlotte Piek and supporter care coordinator Chloe Ribeiro spent a week in Brazil visiting the five Pink Houses and meeting the girls and staff for the first time.

Here’s a report from both about their trip:



Rafainha – her eyes could write a story that no young girl should have to. Head down, eyes to the floor glancing up occasionally to see who is watching, shoulder’s hunched and standing alone – she stood out to me like she was the only one in the room. 

‘It’s like she had a soul that was much too big for her; it filled her to the brim till there was no more space, so it flowed out through her eyes.’ Nick Lake.

 I kept an eye on her as she hid in the photos and kept to herself. Her story is one that will stay with me. Her mother suffers from mental health problems and moves around from town to town worried about being killed – it’s all in her mind. The children, 4 siblings, have suffered socially, emotionally, mentally and physically and three of them have left home leaving Rafainha alone.

She has no friends, this is evident as she stands alone in a room of 50 girls, against the wall almost as if she is trying to be invisible. No one has ‘seen’ her for too long.

Drawing Ellen’s attention to her isn’t difficult as she has already been noticed. Ellen gives her personal number to her for her to stay in contact. She drops her cake while putting the number away, Ellen sweeps in, picks the cake up and throws it in the bin, returning instantly with a fresh slice of cake.



It’s the little things this team do that make each girl feel notice, loved and valued. When last did this young girl receive so much care? At this point I need to take a step outside of it all, gather myself and let the tears fall onto the rough cement patio.

My heart is feeling a little fragile. I’m accompanied shortly after by two of the girls that regularly attend the Pink House, joy and laughter evident as they run outside to the swing.  Noticing me, one of them gently puts her little hand on my shoulder, glances at me, acknowledging the moment then runs off to join her friend.



I don’t really know how to answer people when the ask me about the trip to Brazil. Some friends say – “It looks like you had a great time!”, others tell me – “From the photos, you seem to have had an amazing trip!” others tell me. I’m stuck for words. Those who know me, know how this is an infrequent occurrence. I’m not really sure where to start, how much should I tell people? Do I go into details about the girls’ stories? How else can I explain?

“The trip was intense, that’s for sure!” – is all I can really reply. Seeing the girls’ faces, their dancing still clearly in my mind. Hearing their laughter, the buzz in the Pink Houses, their words “Tia – can you speak Portuguese AND English?!”, “Tia – how cool is that!” still going round my head.

After years of hearing about the girls, crying at their stories, seeing their faces just in photos and videos, and my heart yearning for justice to be done – going to visit them and see their realities first hand was such a surreal experience.



When seeing the girls like this, happy, chatting away like any 12, 13, 14-year-olds, I start to wonder, why are we fighting so hard to keep donations coming in, and trying so hard to get new supporters? The girls are fine. They don’t seem upset, or like they need helping. Maybe the problem has gone away. Maybe we don’t need to worry so much anymore.

My mind is whirring. Maybe they’re like this because of the Pink House. I start to wonder what the reality would be like for them if the donations didn’t continue. If supporters began to drop off the radar. What if we had to close down the Pink House? What would happen to the girls then? What would their reality look like with no Pink House? What would the town of Padre Paraiso look like? We’d chatted to Mara and her family on Sunday about the differences in the town because of the Pink House. The changes in the culture. The way people are now looking out for the girls, more people know exploitation is wrong, and are calling it out when they see it.

Returning to the UK, has been hard, not yet processing all I’ve seen, has caused me to feel numb, with a feeling of “well, the girls are going through so much, what’s the point” when thinking about daily tasks. Missing Brazil, a country and culture that I so love, doesn’t help with those feelings!

Meeting the inspirational teams, that bring hope, healing and justice to our girls day in, day out. Confront the daily challenges of delicate, but also fearless young lives is just amazing to watch. Them thanking us, for the work we do here, just seems so wrong. Compared to what they do, loving and caring for these precious girls, our work just pails into insignificance. I do understand though that our work here, means they can fight against injustice on the frontline there.