Yesterday, the catholic community in Walthamstow welcomed CAFOD partners and beneficiaries Heluiza and Zeza from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
They came as part of the CAFOD Connect2 Brazil scheme to share their personal stories of life in the shanty towns, their campaigning for justice and the work they now do with CAFOD partners Apoio and MDF to help other families. They also came to find out more about life in the UK and the communities that support them. This was their first time in the UK and they travelled with Sarah and Emily from CAFOD’s Latin America Section who both acted as interpreters.
Their ‘Walthamstow experience’ started off at Holy Family college talking to a year 7 class who presented them with prayers they had written as part of their mission week – Zeza thanked them and said ‘We love you and you live in our hearts’. Peter Norman, Head of RE was delighted with the visit and the thought provoking questions from students and hoped that they would stay in touch. They also stayed for lunch in the school canteen.
As it was the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul they were pleased to be invited to be part of the Mass at Our Lady and St George Primary School which took place in the parish church. Zeza thanked the children and parents for all their support and showed them a banner children in Sao Paulo had made thanking them for there solidarity and prayers. They were pleased to meet head teacher Rosie Glyn and parish priest Father Maurice and wanted photos to take back to their communities.
After a busy few hours they all relaxed with a walk down Walthamstow market, which they later learnt was the longest in Europe and had coffee and cake whilst watching ‘the world go by’. Then it was off to Woodford for dinner with Christine Walton who is part of the Justice and Peace group at Our Lady and St George who were organising the launch of Connect2 Brazil that evening in the parish hall.
Over 40 people came to find out more about the scheme their parish would be supporting and were humbled by the emotional stories Heluiza and Zeza told. But all the stories told of their incredible hope and support for others. Zeza had lived in the flavella for many years. She spoke about how, when it rained, water would come in through the roof and how people cannot get work because they do not have a permanent address. She is rightly proud that her 4 sons have grown up to be educated young men, with two at university. Heluiza was born in Sao Paulo and up to her late teenage years had lived happily with an extended family. However, when her father died the household was all women, and they experienced intimidation from neighbours. It was around this time that Heluiza was moved into working with APOIO, a CAFOD partner. APOIO is lobbying the government for affordable, permanent housing and basic services.
The Justice and Peace Group had given the evening a great Brazilian theme with music, Brazilian and UK flags and Brazilian food and drink. Heluiza and Zeza were thanked by Joanna Jarvis, Diocesan Manager for all they were doing and for sharing their stories so movingly.
At the end of a long day our Brazilian visitors were tired but said they were honoured to meet so many lovely people who were supporting them in their work.
Heloiza said ‘I was moved by our visit to Walthamstow and the meeting by the J&P Group, people were concerned to change lives and fight poverty, I felt much solidarity from a country on the other side of the world’