Some of our Connect2 Brazil friends look back on 2017 and share how they are preparing for Christmas in their communities.
News from our partner MDF and the community of St. Joseph the Worker Pastoral Area
Jenilda – Vila Prudente Cultural Centre in the St Joseph the Worker Pastoral Area
“At the Vila Prudente Cultural Centre (CCVP) this year we organised different workshops with the children. Each month we had a different area of focus. From solidarity, to the family, the environment, which included a visit to the recycling cooperative. We worked on children’s rights and empowerment, Black History month against racism and discrimination, and in December we will celebrate the arrival of baby Jesus with a children’s concert.
Our Connect2 Brazil narrator Neti has worked tirelessly for 10 years to help the occupants of Maua to demand their right to decent housing. Now she needs your help.
Hello CAFOD friends. I am Neti. I visited some of you in the past. I would like to ask you to pray for all of us here in the Mauá Community. We are going through some really tough times; our rights are being violated. We in the Mauá community, have spent 10 years living in this building which we have cleaned, looked after and made a home for 237 families. For years, we have been negotiating for the acquisition of this building for social housing for an affordable rent. Now we are at risk of eviction. We have not been offered an alternative. We will have to leave our homes and live in the street. I am counting on you and your prayers.”
Tony Sheen is CAFOD’s Community Participation Coordinator for Westminster Diocese. Here he looks back on a memorable visit to São Paulo’s favelas in Brazil. He explains how seeing the Church ‘in action’ defending the human rights of those in need continues to inspire him.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit São Paulo and meet some of the people supported by CAFOD’s partners. Early one morning I travelled with Heluiza and Osmar from our partner APOIO, to visit a shanty town to the east of the city called Electropaulo Favela, where over 1200 families live in abject poverty.
Maristely is the narrator of one of our Connect2: Brazil partners. She is currently a student in her final year at university, but alongside her studies she continues to participate in activities to defend the rights of people living in favelas and poor informal settlements with our partner, Movement for the Defence of Favelas (MDF) in São Paulo. Here Maristely talks about the 2016 Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil this summer.
“On the sporting front, there is anxiety in making sure the Olympic Games take place. But the way these Games will happen is depressing.
Since the World Cup and the Olympic Games were first announced in Brazil these kinds of mega sporting events were seen as opportunities for improvements in basic infrastructure of the country, but in the preparation process, there has been little space for civil society participation and technical experts who know about urban development were not involved in the discussions.
As the deadline approaches, there is a need for an accelerated release of funds to ensure that the games take place and that the infrastructure is ready. This leads to works that are not ready in time and rushed through quickly, resulting in the removal of poor urban inhabitants from good locations.
John McBride is CAFOD’s Learning and Development Coordinator. Here he shares his fond memories of carrying the Olympic flame for CAFOD, and about meeting some of the partners who have inspired him to continue speaking out to protect our common home.
2012 was a big year in Britain, Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, Andy Murray won at Wimbledon and Rory McIlroy won the US PGA. We also hosted the Olympic Games that proved to be a triumph. We showed the rest of the world that we were good at sports. In a small County Durham town, I made my contribution to the summer of sport by carrying the Olympic flame, representing CAFOD supporters and partners through the market town of Barnard Castle.
The Chesham Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM) group at St. Columba’s RC Church have a long history of supporting CAFOD’s work with our partners in Brazil. Starting from fundraising to supporting children in need in general, they explain how they came to be a Connect2: Brazil parish.
We have always raised money for children who were in need and following a presentation about sewer children in Mexico, we decided to change the focus to South America. Parishioners, past and present, of St. Columba’s RC Church in Chesham have regularly and for many years donated to CAFOD via the CAFOD Envelopes. CAFOD has been an organisation dearly close to our hearts and is always well supported within the parish.
In 2012, Connect2: Brazil parishes sent a petition to the São Paulo local government with 3,000 signatures, supporting families living in the Mauá building who were facing eviction. At that time, the government agreed to suspend the eviction order, and to look into converting the building into social housing. They also agreed to convert a former textile factory, Prestes Maia, in to flats. The process since then has not been smooth, with the 378 families in Prestes Maia facing another eviction order just last year, in September 2015.
Finally, a month later, following 15 years of campaigning and advocacy by homeless families and our partner, APOIO, the local government of Sao Paulo signed over more than £4 million for the compulsory purchase of the Prestes Maia building. This abandoned building in the centre of Sao Paulo hosts the second largest occupation in Latin America. This community has lived through 26 judicial eviction orders, only two of which were successful. The news of the compulsory purchase represents a fantastic victory for APOIO and the 1000 strong community, as the building is now planned to be converted into social housing. Continue reading “Connect2: Brazil – Victory for 378 families living in Prestes Maia Building”
On Wednesday 19 August, the EU Ambassador to Brazil, João Gomes Cravinho, visited families in São Paulo where our partners, APOIO and MDF work, which has support from the EU.
During his visit, the Ambassador heard first-hand about the struggle of 450 families facing poverty and at risk of eviction in North São Paulo. With support and accompaniment from APOIO, the families have successfully negotiated with local government, a delay to the eviction order by 3 months. They have also secured a commitment from authorities to conduct a vulnerability assessment, which identifies people for referral to public housing and social programmes. Negotiations and dialogue with authorities to rehouse or provide permanent housing solutions for these families are on-going.
Several people told the Ambassador about the importance of this work. The Ambassador met resident Marcela Aparecida Neves, aged 26, who looks after her three daughters aged, 7, 6 and 18 months in Brasilândia.
She says, “Rents in São Paulo are prohibitively high. We were not able to pay rent and put food on the table for our children at the same time. Here we have found solidarity with other families and hope to provide our children with a more dignified life.”
The Ambassador also visited a new social housing unit, Conjunto Minas Gás II, now home to 100 previously homeless families. For 15 years these families struggled for their right to access decent housing and with the support of the project’s accompaniment, information, capacity building and community-based advocacy work, they have finally achieved their own home.
Claudete Amorim, one of the new residents, explained what the support of this project had meant for the families, “With the support of CAFOD and the EU through the Urban Programme, we had guidance about the decisions we were making which helped us to get to where we are today. We had meetings and demonstrations, and met key actors to demand our rights. Then in 2013 the building works started and in June 2014 we moved in.” She remembers the emotion of the moment, “When I entered my home for the first time the first thing I did was give thanks to God. It was a long fight, with many tears, but now all I feel is gratitude. My son couldn’t believe it. We used to live in a tiny room with a bathroom outside. When he saw his own bedroom he could not believe it.”
Claudete now has a home, and like other families in these apartments she is paying a mortgage at a level she is able to afford, but she continues to support other homeless families still struggling to access decent and sustainable housing.
Tania Dalton works in CAFOD’s Latin America Team. Inspired by Laudato Si’ she and a few colleagues are starting a small garden at the CAFOD Romero House office in London.
Mary and I have spent 3 lunchtimes shovelling compost in the CAFOD carpark, Janet has brought in tomato plants, Lucy has promised us a courgette, Tory donated some basil seeds and Al and Jamie have done some heavy lifting.
Why? In CAFOD we have been getting very excited about the One Climate, One World campaign. Our campaigns team have worked tirelessly on the mass lobby of parliament with many CAFOD supporters among the 9,000 crowd on 17 June, and now we have the new encyclical from Pope Francis – Laudato Si’, calling us to care for our common home.
There’s a lot of important big picture thinking, mobilising people and influencing policy makers (have you signed our petition?), but I just fancied getting my hands dirty, the smell in my nostrils of a freshly plucked tomato, and somewhere green and shady to sit and eat my sandwich. So we are making a garden on our office balcony in London. Continue reading “Tomatoes: a practical response to Laudato Si’”
“Connect2Brazil wishes you all a Merry Christmas! We are very happy with the Christmas cards we received from children and parishes England & Wales, and with the exchange of experiences. The children in Divinéia were really happy with your messages.” Zeza, Divinéia community leader and Connect2: Brazil narrator.
“Connect2Brazil will continue in our hearts forever. This exchange between local communities, this sharing and linking will be with us always. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for all in England and Wales, and especially for the children!” Terezinha, Connect2: Brazil, Divinéia community.
Left: Children in Divinéia with cards from the Connect2: Brazil parishes.
Right: Zeza and Terezinha with Christmas cards.
If your parish would like to join Connect2, you can sign up here.