RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Santa Claus strode into the Brazil’s City of God favela this week, delivering much-needed Christmas cheer to some of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest children.
Dressed in an unseasonably warm red suit and jacket, with an artificial white beard strapped to his chin, Santa Claus was mobbed as he handed out toys and food to kids whose community has been hit hard by a bruising coronavirus pandemic, galloping inflation, few jobs and years of gang violence.
“They really need these things,” said the anonymous Santa Claus, who declined to give his real name. Children swarmed Santa, wrapping him in hugs.
Santa Claus was lured to the City of God, one of Rio’s most iconic – and dangerous – slums, by Shirlei Carmo da Silva, a 44-year-old local resident, who organizes an annual present donation scheme for local kids. Each year, she puts their names and photos on social media, seeking donations. She said she was shocked by the positive response she got this year.
“I thought I would only get enough for 30 kids but in the end we got enough for 120,” she said.
With an infant in her arms, Luana Dos Santos Pires said she was very grateful for any help she could get this Christmas.
“I’m very happy and this is very important for me,” she said. “The children here need it so much.”
(Reporting by Sergio Queiroz)