We started the day by travelling with APOIO to visit a favela called ‘Electro Paulo.’ Electro Paulo lies just metres away from the largest shopping centre in South America and is built under huge electric cables. We walked around Electro Paulo and met many of the residents. We went to meet Fatima at her home. Fatima is 57 and a grandmother to two boys aged 8 and 17 years old. Her husband was killed 17 years ago in a burglary. Her greatest fear of waking to a flooded home whenever it rains has been alleviated since the main living area was raised up on to stilts. “Now,” she says “I can go to bed happy, knowing that I won´t wake up to a home full of water and dead rats if it rains in the night.” APOIO have campaigned to have her raised to the top of the councils list for new housing. “When you come next time,” she told us, “I will be in my new home.” We then went to visit Wilma, a former resident of Electro Paulo who now lives in a beautiful 2 bed roomed house for her and her son thanks to APOIO’s campaigning!
There was no stopping that day and after lunch we travelled to new social housing-blocks of flats called ‘Mina cesca, mina vida’ which has been achieved thanks to APOIO’s pressure on the government for more affordable housing. While we there we met local residents whose faces still lit up whenever they talked about their new homes.
Like I mentioned in one my previous posts, I celebrated my 28th birthday in Brazil. I’m not a big fan of birthdays to be honest but I can honestly say hand on heart-it was one of the best birthdays I had ever experienced. CAFOD’s partners APOIO threw me a surprise party with some food and small gifts. The main thing that really touched me was that rather than giving me a birthday card, they gave me a piece of paper with 56 signatures on. Each signature was signed by 1 of the leaders of the 56 occupations that APOIO supports. It would have taken a lot of time to do this yet they went out of their way for me-someone they had known for less than a few days. It is now pride of place on my wall at home and it is a reminder that we really are in solidarity with our partners and the people they accompany.
After the surprise party we still had more work to do! APOIO had their weekly assembly where they meet with families wanting to start their own occupation and offer them advice about the next steps in their struggle. That night, when 200 families came together, the atmosphere was electric. The people there had faces of determination and of hope. That night we could have been witnessing the start of the next Maua and the room was buzzing!