Dancing with Thieves by Cally Magalhães
It is a real pleasure to take part in the blog tour for Dancing with Thieves, the book by Cally Magalhães @malcolmdown and run by Love Books Group @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours.
Cally Magalhães’ memoir is a gripping page-turner of an autobiography. With a novelist’s eye for descriptive detail, Cally invites us to accompany her on her astonishing journey from England to India and Estonia, and finally to São Paulo, Brazil.
We join her as she follows a trail of signs and blessings to bring relief, hope and healing to people who need help, wherever they may be — in the streets, the favelas, the prisons or hidden under bridges.
She describes in moving detail the transformational work of The Eagle Project, using psychodrama and Restorative Justice in Brazilian prisons.
To read this book is to be inspired by the positive change one person can bring to so many individual lives – changing the world one person at a time.
Cally has much to teach us about being fully present for all of life’s events and challenges.
With hard-won wisdom and deep reflection, she describes a life based on faith and gratitude, encapsulated in her ringing sentence, ‘When you help people who have nothing, then you realise you have everything.’
Her memoir has lessons for us all about what it means to walk the Earth with grace and love.
Dancing With Thieves by Magalhães, Cally was published by Sarah Grace Publishing in October 2020
From Chapter 1 The Frist Day
Life is cheap in Brazil. Tens of thousands of adults, teenagers and children are murdered every year. I became aware of this sad truth on my first visit to São Paulo in 1998.
I arrived at the airport and was taken straight to the favela (the Portuguese name for slum). I had been told this would be my home for the next month, but I soon discovered the plans had changed. The director of the project greeted me, Brazilian-style, with a warm, friendly hug.
‘Welcome, Cally,’ she said. ‘We’re so glad you’ve arrived. However, I’m so sorry to tell you, but you can’t stay here after all. Something terrible happened here last night. It’s just too dangerous.’
Maribel had a kind face, and a gentle voice. Her eyes were red, and it was obvious that she’d been crying. I could tell she was shaken and upset, and I didn’t know what to say.
I looked around me. Everything seemed ‘normal’. There was a low building on one side of the courtyard with classrooms and a kitchen. The church building was on the other side, and a large space in- between where about fifty children were playing.
Two boys raced past me, nearly knocking me over in their haste. Their eyes were fixed on the battered old kite they were desperately trying to keep in the air. One held the string, and the other ran behind, laughing and trying to grab the kite for himself. The kite dipped, and then soared again just as they passed by me, the boys shrieking with delight.
A group of children of all ages kicked an old, half-inflated football around the courtyard. The game seemed highly competitive as they scampered barefoot in the dust and dirt. Teenage girls in skimpy shorts and low-cut T-shirts huddled in groups. They giggled at the teenage boys playing dominoes at an old wooden table nearby.
I wondered what could have happened the night before. Something so terrible it wasn’t safe to stay there anymore? The sun was hot in the bright blue sky, and my arms and neck were beginning to burn.
I inhaled slowly, and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted across the courtyard from the project kitchen. At the same time, I felt quite sick from the stench of rotting rubbish outside the courtyard wall. Sweat dripped down my face, and my mouth was dry with thirst.
I looked at Diana, the young Brazilian woman who had picked me up at the airport. She was crying, and wiping her eyes with a hanky. I felt desperate to know what had happened, and then she explained.
‘Just behind that wall,’ she whispered, pointing to the wall behind me that divided the favela from the project courtyard, ‘five teenagers were murdered last night. They owed money to the drug traffickers, and when they couldn’t pay, they killed them.’
I stood there in shock, not knowing what to do or say.
Cally Magalhaes is the co-founder and director of The Eagle Project, Sao Paulo, Brazil, working with youth offenders and adult prisoners. Born in Harpenden, England, she trained as a dancer and then became a professional actress, and drama teacher. She moved to Sao Paulo in 1999, to work with street children, and has developed pioneering work using psychodrama, and the theories of Restorative Justice.