Bianca Santos grew up in the Favela’s of Sao Paulo Brazil, notorious for the short life expectancy and lack of any possibilities. This is her home
and where she has rocketed from to represent the Brazilian national team. Bianca is the sweetest and most unassuming person you could meet, coupled
with her shyness and having only just turned 18 you would, on the face of it not know her story.
Growing up in this environment has been well documented and not something that Bianca wants to talk about in any detail. Where she lights up is in
talking about “the project” a social project that looks to take children off the street and to give the something to do, to educate and give them
a purpose. Having gone “for fun” as Bianca recalls she quickly found that she had a gift for speed and although there were no girls Rugby team/club
at the time, she joined in with the boys aged only 11. The project has supported her as she grew and eventually set up a girl’s team given the
huge response it was having. She quickly stood out from the others that she was asked to join the national training squad aged only 16. The nice
thing about Bianca is that she keeps going back, it’s where her heart is and she speaks fondly of it. “It’s sad not to be close to the project
anymore but I go back and teach what I have learnt” Bianca says of her love of the project and the pleasure it gives her to give back to them.
At this point her translator explains that she is being modest and that the kids back in the project look up to her and love her coming back; she
has giving them something to aspire to and a role model at just 18.
When back in the project it’s interesting to hear how Bianca is with the kids, she isn’t all head patting and celebrity, she is very much about pushing
them to succeed and allowing no room for excuses. “If people are not giving 100% I will say; hey give me more, look how far I have come, work with
what you have got”. Bianca explains and continues “if you have no pitch use what you have, if you have sand, tackle in the sand. If this is what
it takes do it then do it”. In this moment you can see another side to Bianca, having found her way out of the Favela she is very aware of the
opportunities it has given her and is desperate for as many as possible to grasp the opportunities and not allow any excuse to get in their way.
“It is the opportunity of my life (sic) and I have to grab it with all I have got. I must show everyone that I am worth the investment” Bianca explains
of how it feels to be travelling the world playing Rugby and representing her country. Surely this is what it means to represent your country,
to be grateful, honoured to represent your country and wanting to show everyone who has invested in you that it has been worth it? Nothing
taken for granted, everything cherished and a dream being lived. Bianca is a role model for the next generation and anyone who thinks they can’t
achieve because of their circumstances.
I consider meeting people like Bianca a privilege and a luxury I seldom get, I look forward to what the future brings her.