Brasilia is made of beautiful stories that deserve to be told.
The story of Barba is one of them.
Rogério Soares de Araújo is also known as Barba, which, in English, means Beard. Barba is one of those people that can say life has definitely smiled at them, and – if you believe in a universal purpose each one of us has to embrace in life while we are here – now it is his turn to share with others the opportunity he was given.
Barba was not created for a Hollywood movie, even though his story could perfectly become a box office hit. But he doesn’t really expect much more from life than what he has been already given. His main mission now seems to be to produce happy beginnings himself, igniting new stories that are like diamonds found in piles of garbage.
But first, let’s tell Barba’s story.
Rogerio Araujo never had a home. He never knew his mother or his father. As distant as his memory can travel back into the past, all he remembers is to have lived in orphanages and public institutions for minors. Barba grew up in São Paulo. He was never adopted because he didn’t adapt to any of the families that took him home – or maybe they didn’t adapt to him would be a better way to put it.
His name was given by a judge when he had to be transferred, at the age of 5, from one orphanage to another, and for that reason needed to “officially” exist, with a birth certificate to prove it. “You will be Rogerio Soares de Araujo, born on the 23rd of August, in 1971. Mother’s name, unknown. Father’s name, unknown.”
As soon as he turned 18, Barba was free to live on his own. In the streets of São Paulo, all he learned was to rob and to search for love and happiness through the use of drugs. In fact, his days in the streets were marked by the compulsive, non-stop, consumption of alcohol and drugs. That was the only life and the only family Barba had ever known.
Life as a homeless man was lonely and very unpredictable. One day, he was in São Paulo; then, in Uberlândia, State of Minas Gerais; later in Goiânia, the capital city of the State of Goiás. Sunk in drugs (he had started on Crack Cocaine, a highly addictive and powerful stimulant drug that became popular among impoverished populations due to its lower cost), Barba spent all the money he received in the streets during the day with his addiction.
In 2010, he finally arrived in Brasilia. Living in the Setor Comercial Sul (SCS)*, where other homeless people gather to smoke Crack, he ate garbage, was hospitalized for a serious food infection, and got into several fights, having almost lost one of his hands after being stabbed.
Barba was found and loved by Elvira Batista (“mom” to him) and NGO Futuro Esperança (“Future Hope”) more than 2 years later. They visited him frequently, gave him clean clothes and showers, and food. One night in 2014, Barba called Elvira for help. She took him to the rehabilitation clinic he would spend the next 2 years fighting drug abuse and alcoholism. More than that, she was always there to see him, traveled all the way to SP to recover his identification documents, and even provided new teeth.
Because Barba felt important to somebody, he kept strong and found a reason to be a better person.
Today, Rogério Soares de Araújo rents his own home where he lives with friends and a growing number of “lost” cats he picks up in the streets every once in a while, works in a coordinator position at Traços Magazine (that develops a project for the homeless population in Brasilia), hosts a TV show, and manages to find time to help a huge amount of actions, ideas, projects and so on. Oh, and also to go to class in the evening at the City Park, where he is finishing Secondary Education in a public school.
Recently, Barba (in very close collaboration with a network of NGOs, government institutions, projects designed for the homeless in Brasilia) witnessed the conclusion of a building with 12 apartment units for individual use (kitnets). It will be occupied by 12 people who were living in the streets and embraced a second chance in life, just like Barba did 4 years ago. The buildind in located in Ceilândia and will be launched next month (July 2018).
This story is not finished yet, and Barba has a lot to get involved with to help build a better future for Brasilia. We will post everything here as he has news for us. In the meantime, at least for the chapters that were covered by Brasilia in English, we can say that this was a happy-ending story, why not?
A new episode is starting, and Barba now is a leader in his community. People can say that life was good to him, or that he was luckier than others, whatever. But, definitely, it takes a lot of courage and the right decision to embrace such a huge and drastic change in life. And that has to be totally credited on Barba Rogério.
*The Setor Comercial Sul (SCS) is where the “Rat Hole” (Buraco do Rato) is located. The place is known as the “Crackland” of Brasilia (in allusion to the Crackland in the central area of SP).
THE PROJECTS THAT BARBA REPRESENTS AND SUPPORTS:
Magazine on local culture that is commercialized with the purpose of giving homeless people a source of income and, consequently, a new chance in life away from the streets.
Barba is Ambassador to the / Culture Spokesmenan
NAMASTÊ CULTURAL ASSOCIATION (NGO)
Barba is Social Director
Created and maintained by Elvira Batista, Barba’s “mom”, it takes fresh showers and clean clothes to the homeless living in many places in Brasília, especially in Setor Comercial Sul. They were the ones to rescue Barba from “crackland”.
Barba is Communications Director
Barba is Regional President
The American Network of Intervention in Situation of Social Suffering (RAISSS)
Barba is the Representative in Brasilia
BRASILIA COMMUNITY TV (TV COMUNITÁRIA DE BRASÍLIA)
Presenter / Host in TV Show