Dean Brody is a Canadian country music artist. Years ago, he promised himself that if he were to become successful, he would use his profile as an artist to do something to help others - specifically, young girls at risk of human trafficking and child prostitution.
During the past few years Dean has experienced tremendous success. With multiple Canadian Country Music awards, numerous other nominations, a Juno award, chart topping radio singles, and a growing fan base, he felt the time was right to do something about that promise he’d made. In November of 2010, Dean and his wife, Iris, established “The Dean Brody Foundation” as a registered non-profit organization. That same year, The Dean Brody Foundation worked together with Matt Roper of Meniniadança and Nilce Campos of Pedraviva, to open a centre for girls just outside the Pedreira Favela in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In 2012 he helped establish the Pink House in Medina alongside Meninadança, as well as embarking on several investigative trips along the BR 116 Motorway in Brazil.
The Girl at the Side of the Road
I’ll never forget her. She was a toothpick shadow caught in our headlights on the side of a dusty Brazilian motorway at 1:23 in the morning. We pulled up and rolled the window down and she quietly started talking with us in Portuguese. She had a big purple bow in her hair and she wore a baby blue sundress with flowers embroidered on it. It hung loosely from her small bones, a frail little thing there leaning in on the side of our door. She might have weighed eighty pounds, and she was a child prostitute.
She was about to climb in the car but we said that wouldnʼt be possible, but could we talk with her at the side of the road. She kept huddled with her arms across herself and shared a little about her story. There came a point in our conversation when she realized we really hadnʼt stopped to use her and she became vulnerable and even smiled. She had big eyes and an innocent shyness about her. She told us her name was Leilah.
After a while, Leilah said she should go. Matt took time to tell her how much more precious she was than the lunch money she was sold for and she managed another smile and then she turned and walked back down the 116, illuminated and dwarfed by the blinding yellow headlights of oncoming transport trucks. They roared past her, spitting diesel exhaust and billows of dust at her flowered blue dress until after a time, she disappeared into darkness.
I had never seen it. I had read about it, talked about it, and wanted to do something about it, but to see it up close was another thing altogether, and it busted me up.
I still think about Leilah all the time. I find myself looking at the clock at night and wondering where sheʼs at, (sheʼs only a time zone away), and then I think about my own daughter and how sheʼs safe in her bed and how she will get to be a kid and grow up and do what little girls should be doing. And that really is what this foundation is all about. Giving girls a chance to be girls. Iʼm so excited about what is going on in Brazil and what the days ahead will accomplish in other areas of the world. Thank you for helping, youʼre changing a future.