Aug 22. 2017
Children with disabilities being treated at Brazil's hospitals, where economic hardship has crimped services, are getting an emotional lift from a mythical creature of the sea: a mermaid.
But in this instance, the siren is quite real.
Sereia Carol (Mermaid Carol) has earned her living portraying a mermaid and teaching mermaiding since 2012, when she left her job of 10 years as a veterinarian. She is paid for performing at events such as children's parties but donates her time at hospitals.
Positioned in a wheelchair so that wheelchair-bound children can relate to her, Sereia Carol says volunteering at hospitals is among her most rewarding experiences.
Dressed in costume with a long, shiny green tail, she chats with young patients and "they feel included, cherished." "It is a very beautiful and gratifying thing."
Sereia Carol says demand for her services, which declined in the midst of Brazil's worst recession in more than 100 years, recovered because of a soap opera called "A Forca do Querer," in which a woman deceives her family so she can work as a mermaid at an aquarium.
Like the fictional character, Sereia Carol is hired by aquariums in summertime, but much of her work entails classes and parties. She does her mermaid routine in a pool whenever one is available at an event. Otherwise, the "mermaid" assumes her throne in an armchair.
Sereia Carol says she has been fond of mermaids since childhood, when she practiced swimming with her legs joined. Inspiration came from the 1984 movie "Splash," starring Daryl Hannah as a mermaid with flowing blond hair and a long red tail. "It was not the long hair ... it was really that huge tail that she had," says Sereia Carol. "I thought it was incredible."
She practices every day and can spend up to four minutes underwater between breaths when she is in peak condition.
Photography by Pilar Olivares
Story by Alexandra Alper / Reuters