You can connect with Leetal Besouros on their Facebook page.
Please briefly describe the setup of the project – how many kids? Who gives the classes? How are Leetal Besouros integrated with Capoeira India?
The project Leetal Besouros is conducted at a children’s shelter called ‘Vatsalya’. This shelter is for kids whose families cannot afford to raise them. Currently there are 50 children and young people in this shelter, out of which 35 train in Capoeira. Classes are 90 minutes long and are held every week on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. We are all students of Instrutor Baba from Centre for Capoeira India, and three of us usually conduct class along with 14 others who help with music and general functioning of the class. We have a system wherein we all take turns to go. For example, I go every Saturday whereas other students like, Chico and Popeye go on Sundays. We occasionally have international guests come down and run classes with them as well. Some of the international guests have been Mestre Chicote of CDO Paris, Prof. Piolho of CDO Paris, Mestre Edan of CDO Israel, Contra Mestre Cueca of CDO Israel.
What’s the history – How did the Leetal Besouros project get started?
This is a project that I’ve been thinking of ever since I started practicing Capoeira, which was way back in 2006. Capoeira changed my life and perspective completely! I wanted to share the joy I felt in Capoeira with everyone around me – and I felt one of the best places to start with was with children. Open them up to a new culture, a completely new activity. I had identified an institution even back then, but was daunted by the task. First, I did not know if I’d be able to sustain such a project alone. Second, was I qualified enough to teach? In 2010 I did the Landmark Education’s SELP program which gave me a solid structure to start this project. I realized this need not be an individual project, but rather a project for the entire Capoeira India Community. Instrutor Baba was very supportive of the idea and I was able to enroll 18 volunteers from our class to start this project.
What is the reality of daily life for the kids you teach?
These kids were sent to Vatsalya by their families because they can’t afford to take care of them. Vatsalya takes good care of their basic necessities on a day to day basis, providing basic education and extracurricular activities. But these kids crave affection – a lot of it that they probably have not received from their families. Most of their parents are labourers, servants and cleaners. In India, these jobs do not pay very well. When we go to take class, they always come running to us and hug us tight, holding on to us, wanting to hold our hands. It often gets very emotional for me.
What do the kids most enjoy about capoeira? What do they find most difficult?
They love absolutely everything about Capoeira! They love to do ‘stunts’ or acrobatics and the floreios. The great thing about these kids is they want to be pushed to the limit of their abilities. So they never stop trying till they actually get the movement. They love singing the songs as well. They find clapping in rhythm the most challenging aspect of capoeira.
What is the effect of capoeira on their lives?
They fight a lot less with each other now. Physical altercations used to need as little as a nudge to the other person and a fistfight would break out. The structure we’ve set up is that if anyone fights or uses abusive language during the week, he doesn’t get to participate in that week’s class. That’s proven to be a great incentive for them. Plus the physical abilities they’ve accumulated while practicing capoeira have opened up new opportunities for them like TV advertisement modelling. In fact, one of the kids, Perna Longa, has just finished shooting his part for a kids’ film that’s releasing next year. The shy kids have become expressive and the hyper ones have become more relaxed. They are slowly understanding the concept of working with each other rather than against each other.
How can people help support Leetal Besouros?
We need Capoeira gear for the kids. Instruments, pants, t shirts. Used pants, T-shirts, instruments are also welcome. If you would like to contribute gear, you can contact me at email@example.com. If people want to contribute to the Vatsalya Foundation (where these children live), I have attached a Word document with bank details so you can send funds directly to the institution. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org once you have made a transfer to let them know the details. They can track it better that way.