Photo credit: IOM/Amanda Nero
I grew up in Pedra Corrida, Brazil, a miserable place. As we were very poor and did not have enough food for everyone, my parents “borrowed” us to other people. We would work in people’s houses in exchange for food. Despite our efforts, four of my mother’s 16 children died of hunger.
Once, my father sent my sister and me to a neighbour. We had to clean his house while his wife was away. He asked me to get something in the room, then he closed the door and told me to go to the bed. I started to cry and scream. I was only eight. Fortunately, my sister and I managed to run away. After that I did not talk to my father for 10 years. Parents should protect their children and not put them in situations of risk.
Later on my auntie took my sisters Lena, 10, and Nezinha, 11, to work in Belo Horizonte. For a whole year my mother did not hear anything from them. She was always crying. One day she sold a pig to get money to buy a train ticket to go there and look for them. She made announcements on radio and newspaper. First she found Lena, who had been working in a house of a family day and night just like a slave. Later on she found Nezinha. They had tried to force her to work in a brothel, but she ran away and was living on the streets.
Fortunately, we moved to São Paulo. Here there was abundance. Even when we had to beg on the streets in the beginning, we always had food. Later on we found jobs and started to build a new life. Now I work cleaning houses. I have two daughters and one son and they’ve never had to go through the same misery as me. They have never been hungry and have never had to beg. I am happy here.