Tony Sheen writes:
Thurs 14 July. AM
First thing in the morning we are collected by Heluiza and Osmar from Apoio to visting a shantly town to the East of the city called Electropaulo Favela, where over 1200 families live in abject poverty.
Hundreds of fragile houses are built out of wood and constructed amongst large electrical pylons, on land which is partly owned by the government and part owned by the newly privatised electric company.
What I witnessed was a welcoming poor community who are living in harrowing conditions.
The Favela is just fifteen minutes from the biggest shopping city in South America and very close to the Corinthians football stadium for which the government is about to invest millions to build a stadium ready for 2014 World Cup.
We met Anna Paulo, aged 30 who has a husband and three children living next to the rubbish dump, where there are many rats. She is holding her 3 month old daughter Alexandra Victoria.
“I like living here but would like to move to a better place” We do not pay for electricity as we can get a free supply! However when there are storms, it is really dangerous with everything getting wet and electric shocks sparking all over the pace.
Anna says it’s difficult to feed my children.
APOIO is supporting the community in various immediate and long term ways. This morning they are distributing milk as part of a government funded scheme to support vulnerable mothers, children and elderly people. However they are also lobbying the government to re-house the community in safe and dignified housing.
We were then welcomed into the home of Vanderlan Nascimento De Sousa and met his wife Elenita and his two daughters, Clarice (aged 10) and Louisa (aged 11).
Vanderlan works for APOIO in night shelter. He would like his family to move into social housing but to have that opportunity you need an address and the authorities do not acknowledge their favela house as a proper address.
Clarice and Louisa show me and Helouiza around their house and explain that they go to School from 1pm-7pm each day. They recently took part in a successful demonstration to save their school bus.
After enjoying a coffee with the family, Vanderlan then shows us around the Favela, he explains how they try and control sewage with a toilet area for the families in the vicinity.
He then takes us to a co-operative in the favela where they sort rubbish and try and sell recyclable items. This is dangerous work where people are using fire to separate metal, plastic, and rubber.
Toxic fumes are in the air. It is shocking how hard people are having to work to earn 200 Reais a week (approx £78.75) to support their families. This is a huge challenge as the cost of living in Brazil is very high with food more expensive than England.
Amist the hard work and harrowing conditions I am surrounding by loads of young children, who want to get to know me. They think it’s funny that I can’t speak Portuguese, but within minute we are at the edge of the Favela, enjoying a came of football on waste ground. Taking turns to take penalties and save them!
God bless they young people I met today, including Diego, Jogo, Gabrile, Isreal, Bgano and Philippe to name a few and all the families we met in the Favela Electropaulo, who have a challenging today and uncertain tomorrow.
God bless the work of CAFOD partners APOIO and MDF in helping people secure save and dignified housing.