If there is one name that comes up in every conversation when visiting Bronx People, it is that of Daniel. As we come to the end of the series of articles dedicated to the organisation that welcomes many disadvantaged young people and gives them a chance in life based on the values ​​of judo, it was logical that we devote some time to him so that he can explain the why and how of his humanist commitments.

Daniel thus experienced communism and a totalitarian regime in his childhood. As he points out, "At that time, we didn't know technology, we lived in another world. At the end of the 80’s, I had the opportunity to discover judo. I hated football, so judo quickly became the place where I could spend time with my friends. There was 8km between home and the dojo and I often walked there because the buses rarely passed. It was my mother who took me to judo.

After a month of practice, I participated in my first competition, without telling my parents. I weighed only 27kg. I finished third. There was no medal but a nice diploma. Since we didn't have a phone, I couldn't warn them and I arrived home late. My diploma helped reassure them and so I quickly received my first judogi."

Daniel's family was poor. He lived in a very disadvantaged environment. He remembers a life with his siblings which was rather happy despite the hardship. Years passed, the dictatorship ended, Daniel's financial situation improved and, still invested in judo, he finally decided to buy a plot of land in 2008.

"I began little by little. Seeing so many children who had nothing revolted me. I grew up in a very poor neighbourhood but not like this. Since my situation had greatly improved, I constantly had in mind that the day you die, you take nothing with you; I had to share, giving back to the world what I had managed to earn.

A few years ago, I was building my house, I was sitting on the roof and I was overcome with sadness because I was contemplating the construction and I was thinking that it could not be only for me. That's when I decided to build an orphanage but an orphanage in my own way, with my own rules. Very quickly I convinced myself that some of the children we welcome here only need one thing, a bit of luck. Some could become teachers, others doctors. They just need a little help and that's what I want to offer them. The situation of the children I met in the street hurt me, I was angry, I had to act. So I decided to change things."

In order for things to change, Daniel decided to change them, that's for sure. To do this, he relied on his loved ones and his love of judo. "Judo is a lifestyle. A lot of things happen on the tatami, but not only there. It's perhaps everything that happens outside the dojo that makes the difference. I'm always impressed to see that wherever you are in the world, there will always be a judoka to help you. This is the spirit that I wanted to develop."

In 2018, Daniel decided to open his home to the first 26 children. Success was fast. "The beneficiaries quickly proved to be very good at judo and their academic results improved. There are many examples of change. Zana was in great difficulty (https://www.ijf.org/news/show/the-art-of-change). She had tried to end her life several times. She came to us and I asked her to start judo. It was difficult for her. She cried a lot at the beginning but it totally transformed her."

The success of the Bronx People method is no longer in doubt but this success also brings constraints. "We are growing a lot. I want to have the capacity to welcome even more young people. We are constructing a whole complex of buildings. We still need money to finalise the project, between 500 and 600,000 euros and we will do everything to finalise it all.

I am proud of all these children, all my children. It is my lifestyle and I am very happy with it. It is not about me here, but about others. The only thing that matters to me is to leave a mark. So, if something were to happen to me, I know that the adventure will continue."

There is nothing defeatist in Daniel's words. On the contrary, it is the awareness that we can change the world with great ideas and a little humanism and that we need to transmit something to the next generation. "If I hadn't had judo, I might be in prison today. I would have slipped to the wrong side of the slope. Here I wanted to recreate the conditions so that such misadventures would not happen to anyone. It's like a hive where everyone finds their place. For me, it's the future that is at stake. We want to teach a simple way of living but it’s also the most beautiful way. For me, there is no limit to what we can offer our children."

What's good about Daniel is that his philosophy is contagious, but above all it is concrete and practical; words, yes, but words followed by actions that change the lives of young people who just needed to be accompanied. Today it is possible to support Bronx People and any help will be welcome. It is guaranteed that it will arrive safely and that it will help those who need it most.

See also