Brazil – Diary of a Tearfund Trip
Thursday 18th June
Got to Rio airport very early. This was lucky as check in on airport computer took a while. It printed out boarding cards which resembled the crunchy variety of toilet paper – lots of perforations. Ken’s machine had run out of paper, so he had to fetch someone to refill it. It then spat out all the last few boarding cards and half of his.
Flight okay. Landed in Recife. Raining hard. Lots of aggressive people in airport offering taxis, which you just knew would turn out to be an expensive ‘limo’ service. Found official taxi rank. By the time the taxi arrived at hotel it had stopped raining but was so humid my glasses steamed up!
Area is very mixed. We saw some expensive cars and very nice housing. Also saw a family sharing a bike, small roadside stalls selling fruit, lots of concrete.
When we stopped at red lights, people walked amongst the cars selling stuff ( like steering wheel covers) and there was a man juggling in the road.
We then learned a little of their work. They began by having different projects, run by the church but then realised that actually there was a disconnect between what they believed and what they were doing. They needed to be part of the community, not just doing the odd project, they wanted the projects to BE the church. They see their worship as what they are doing. They began with working with children, this extended to teenagers, then whole families and then the community.
There is a huge problem with prostitution, drugs and the violent crime that goes with it. They aim to remove the kids from the streets, to occupy their time with lessons, sports, a proper meal, then they go to school in the afternoon and spend the evening with their parents. They are then hopefully, too tired to get into trouble.
We looked around the institute, then walked around the community.
The houses were small, unmade roads, lots of dogs. The river was where all the toilets empty. In the rainy season ( June and July) the river floods, taking the sewage into the houses. Many of the houses had moved all their furniture upstairs. It was hot, lots of flies, lots of dogs wandering around.
We went to another favela. This one seemed much poorer, it felt unsafe walking around ( we were told to leave all our bags and cameras in the car. We just took our phones for pictures.)The homes were made of cardboard, hardboard, odd bits of wood and scaffold. It smelt, litter was everywhere.
I photographed beautiful children sharing bags of crisps, giggling. They lived in the equivalent of a shack. Their father thanked us profusely for coming, was keen for us to take photos, smiled his gappy toothed smile, seemed pleased we were there. Then he returned to moving all his furniture onto the flat roof, waiting for the river and sewage to seep into their home.
There were women playing a game with scraps of paper and stones in an empty water bottle – it looked like Bingo. I later learned they were the main drug pushers in the community, waiting until later to make their sales. If they listen to what the church is telling them, become christians, want their lives to change, then they will lose their livelihood. This is why the church is also offering the chance to learn new skills, new occupations so they can still earn money.
It felt hopeless. Yet there was hope. Tearfund are working with their partners to educate the people, to teach them about flood control, clearing up litter. They are teaching them skills so they can find work, things like making jewelry from discarded stuff, metal work. They are lobbying the government, trying to get better housing, more respect for the people.
It wasn’t a horrid day, though I feel exhausted by all we have seen. We laughed with children who were playing a game with David.
Some teenaged girls had done a play about clearing up litter, which they had performed to their neighbours in the favela. They were so proud of it, wanted to take us to where they had done it, sang us some of the songs. We chatted a bit and they laughed when I told them I have chickens and ducks. I wanted to scoop them up, bring them out of the favela to somewhere safe, somewhere that they wont probably end up as sex workers. I cant.
All I can do is pray, support the work that Tearfund is doing. And tell you about it.
Thanks for reading. You can read the full version in my new travel book: A Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.
A sort of “Bill Bryson meets The Durrells” – for people who like to laugh and enjoy travel.