Valdenise Brandao Pereira works for waste management in one of Rio de Janeiro’s biggest slums where garbage and gang violence are part of everyday life.
“I have been working in the community of Mare for the past three years and a total of eleven years for Comlurb, Rio’s urban waste company,” Pereira said.
When 36-year-old Valdenise, or Val as she is called, was relocated to Mare the first thing that caught her attention was the lack of parks and all the trash on the streets all sorts of it.
She is helping transform the dump into a sidewalk with raised garden beds. It’s the brainchild of Val, who noticed that since the revamp neighbors stopped using it as a dumpsite.
Bordering the Guanabara Bay, Mare is a cluster of sixteen favelas in Rio’s north zone. Like most favelas, it is controlled by drug traffickers. A city within a city where people throw trash anywhere.
Val now counts on the help of co-workers who say she is an example for the community.
Her biggest pride is a park, also a former waste dump that has been named “Peace Park,” because it helped ease the violence in one of the most dangerous spots of Mare. It’s made with materials she found in the trash.
Val learned everything she knows on the internet, watching tutorials on YouTube. And though she didn’t finish high school she doesn’t stop studying- her passion has become a career.
“Her work here was the same as of any trash collector, but now she is also the developer of every reconstruction project. We trust her because everything she does is good,” said Val’s manager Marcos William
Val said she wants to turn more trash dumps into public spaces and show residents how they, too, can help make the world a greener place.
“I hope that in the future people can be more aware with the planet that has been crying for help for a long time, by thinking about what they do with their trash that needs attention, a lot of attention.”