Move over Michael Palin-reflections from Brazil 1

I have been asked to write a few lines about the highlights of my trip and to be honest it’s hard to just pick one. Probably the main highlight for me is that the people in Maua and Diveneia are no longer names on a bit of paper-they are my friends. When I see a photo of Zeza-I think about us dancing together. When I see a photo of Terezinha-I think of us peeling potatoes together. When I see a photo of Roberto-I think about him teaching me to dance ‘funky’ and taking part in a dance off. When I think about Maristely-I think of us washing up together! I now know the hobbies, families, likes, dislikes, even which football teams they support.

What I will remember most is performing my pop song with some of the young people at Maua-Roberto, Luke and Niko. It is a song I recorded when I was a teenager. It’s called ‘Catch a falling star.’ It was such a surreal moment but one that makes me smile every time I think about it. If you like to see the performance you can view it here:

What really touched me that day was when I was leaving Maua for the last time and saying goodbye to someone in the courtyard, a huge shout from the fifth floor bellowed ‘Ciao James.’ I still don’t know who it was as I didn’t have my glasses on but for that day at Maua; I felt part of the community.

What I loved was seeing the genuine joy of the people in Maua and Diveneia when they received cards and letters from the parishes in Liverpool Archdiocese. They were all so deeply moved and carefully reviewed the pictures and messages that were sent to them. I even saw William’s eyes glisten and cloud over with tears when he received an early birthday card from teenagers in Liverpool. This is what connect2 is all about to me-it’s sowing the seeds of friendship. It was a real privilege to witness. For instance, later in the week, when I visited Terezinha and her home, I noticed that on her mantle piece, pride of place, next to her small Christmas tree that she made out of recycled materials, were the cards and photos from St Teresa’s Parish in Upholland. I was even more touched to receive a massive pile of cards from young people in Diveneia and Vila Prudente to send back to young people back in Liverpool in response to their cards-it was a 2 way dialogue which is beginning to emerge.

What I felt moved by. When I was in Brazil I celebrated my 28th birthday. 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.

I’m a great believer in the phrase a picture says a 1000 words so I will be blogging a lot of the photos from our trip with just a few lines describing what we did each day! It’s impossible to describe with words the amazing things we witnessed and the brilliant people we met so I’m hoping that the photos will make up  for this! I hope you enjoy them! I will start by showing you the photos of the people in Brazil holding cards and letters from schools and parishes in Liverpool Archdiocese.

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