I’ve met a wonderful woman in Rio de Janeiro: Samia El Mannani. Samia was born in the suburbs of Paris, France, her roots are Moroccan. She arrived 2 years ago in Rio, 80 Euros in her pockets and broken hearted. Ready to start a new life. And from what I see today – she succeeded.
This is what Samia is writing about herself:
One day a woman in the favela said to me “You rich people are very lucky!”
This phrase changed my life completely. For the first time I share with the people who I am. I replied to her that I was very rich. Rich of love. I told them that I was born into a Morrocan family the suburbs of Paris. I was the second of 3 kids.
My parents got divorced when I was 5 years old. At that time it started that I was raped by many men. The first one was the husband of my nanny, the second my uncle, the third my mother’s boyfriend. All my life – until today – I have to learn that sex is NO obligation, it should be a desire. So it’s very hard for me to have a normal sexuality.
One of my mother’s uncle used to beat me a lot. For no reason.
I fled home and find refuge in the library. I read books or just watch images. I’ve got lost in my dreams waiting for my prince on the white horse … Not so long ago I realised that it was just a fairytale.
I left home I was 12 years old. I left because of lack of love. Too much abuse. I passed first for few months in a children home, then i want to live with father and his wife and my brother but a year after they kick me out of their home.
When I was 14 years old I lost my dearest brother.
Back at children’s home until the age of 20 years – where I at least had some kind of order in my life – I was raped for years there as well.
Drug addiction followed.
Noone had confidence in me.
Nobody thought I would ever achieve anything.
To free herself from this incredible burden, Samia decided to work as a volunteer in the favelas. She is working with kids and adults. At least one day per week. Sometimes she stays at their houses over night. I went with her for a day and met a few of the families she is working with. They love her. They accept her. And the gangs controlling the favela (young men carrying machine guns around in the middle of the day) leave her alone.
When she first came the favelados thought she was rich. And that she was here to give presents. But she answered them she was here because she loves them. Love is all she has to offer. And time. And she was telling them her story … She opened her heart and let everything go. And the favelados got her message. They understood. It helped them to become more reliable while she is working with them, they feel responsible for what they do and they understood, that EVERYBODY has a chance.
Samia realized through her work, that she doesn’t has to be perfect, that she doesn’t has to control everything, that she can be open about her past and still b eloved. She realized that the world is not so much about HER, but about the WE … that she needs a strong “me” to start a better “we” – she healed herself while she was helping others …
I think a wonderful story!
The Internet, her photography and video work helped her to find a better understanding of what she is doing, who she is, it helped her to spread the word of what she is doing and connect her with the world back home. Now Samia is actively starting to reach out to the world, telling her story and so hopefully helping others to overcome their burdens as well.
What an invitation …!
She loves “her” children and “her” families in the favela. Their next project is to make something “BIG” out of her new office and the huge yard in front of it:
office, yard, kids doing favela painting
My idea was to create an open air theatre where the favelados feel free to tell their stories and where other theatre groups can come and perform …