No alley too poor for Santa

Leandro Wendell dos Santos, 14, dressed as Santa Claus, playing with children as he walked down an alley of the Mare slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday to give presents to children.

Leandro is part of a group of volunteers from the area who distribute donated toys to children of the community.

The Mare complex is an impoverished area consisting of 15 slums over a flat area of about 5 sq km in northern Rio that is home to about 130,000 people.

Heavily armed drug gangs have ruled Rio's shantytowns for decades. In an attempt to secure the area, security forces have set up permanent posts in Mare as part of the "pacification" programme that began in 2008 and is meant to keep Rio safe ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'No alley too poor for Santa'. Print Edition | Subscribe