Novice bike rider Julio Ferreira de Azevedo had cycle to a small town to help indigenous people defend their forest
The inscription above one of the yellow cycling jerseys hanging on a wall tells a heartbreaking story about Brazil.
His name is Julio Ferreira de Azevedo. On the jersey, his nickname ‘Anejo’ (child) is written in thick calligraphy. But it’s not the illiteracy that is the first thing that leaps out, it’s his skin color.
Anejo Ferreira de Azevedo is mixed-race and from a small farming village near the western Brazilian town of Nilcei. Living there with his family, he makes a pittance to help his parents. He works as a laborer to help them send their only son to school, and, most importantly, he cycles every day in order to pay the cost of running water.
While others in the village are enjoying a lavish welfare state, Anejo Ferreira de Azevedo lives at the mercy of the government and at his family’s mercy too.
Thanks to his own volunteer work, he has become known to the schoolchildren and has won the admiration of his classmates. He even made it on the stage of a university sports day.
That is because of his incredible work and determination.
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A year ago on 8 September 2016, Anejo Ferreira de Azevedo left his village for the first time, choosing to cycle for charity instead of work to help indigenous people defending their forest, one of the world’s largest remaining reserves.
He climbed on his bicycle, joined by an older, indigenous friend of his father, and headed to the small town of Ayele, close to Nilcei.
But what they found that day changed their lives forever.
That’s because the local Amazonian indigenous tribe they had arrived in was driven to the brink of death by plastic bags slung over their heads to protect them from the relentless surge of poachers.
At least 40 indigenous peoples were killed and 7,000 more sought refuge in the town of Ayele.
After visiting their camps, Anejo and his friend began to work with the indigenous people, giving them bikes and a few vegetables, and doing much, much more to bring them food, water and the knowledge of the natural world.
Amazingly, it worked. They were able to start to rebuild their lives.
The plan, said Julio Ferreira de Azevedo, was “just to stay for a week and then come back again.”
But his time in the woods – and spending time with Ayele’s tribe – had deepened the young man’s love for the rainforest. He talked often about the future plans he had for the Amazon. He said he wanted his own children to inherit a paradise.
As a result, he decided to mount a campaign to change the terrible tradition of wearing yellow jerseys and proudly sports his yellow jersey on his bicycle. The aim is to shame the region’s rulers into making changes.
To that end, he is calling for more transparency in the Brazil government’s dealings with indigenous people and working to improve the living conditions of people in the region.
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