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.
Staying at Cult Hotel. Has some interesting art – mainly phallic in style. It’s clean but basic. No mirror in room but a massive tele. They seem to favour beige a lot. It also smells of mould (guess humidity a problem here.)
Met the other people on our trip and had dinner in nice restaurant next to sea. Better go now, have to meet everyone in lobby. We’re going to Instituto Solidare. Main info we’ve been given is the high murder rate. Super.
Fri 19th June
Just got back from visiting the slums.
We started off going to Instituto Solidare. This was on the edge of the city and was a concrete building with big gates that locked. We could see teenagers playing football in a large covered area.
We were taken upstairs, shown into a classroom and joined by about six of the workers. We all introduced ourselves – I got to use my Portuguese, very exciting!
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.
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.
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.
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