Bride Counihan in Brazil
Bride Counihan is visiting the projects in Brazil that are funded by Misean Cara (Irish Government Funding). She wrote to us to describe her journey so far.
10th November 2022
Greetings from Brazil and hope all is well with you. Got a lovely surprise on arrival in Recife when a group of volunteers of the CEPA project in Caruaru invited me to a house by the sea to rest after the journey. We stayed there two days and it was beautiful. The house belongs to the family of one of the volunteers and it literally opened onto the beach. Temp around 30 degrees and I had my first swim by moonlight! Beautiful!
The biggest excitement on arriving in Caruaru was of course the victory of Lula as President. You have probably been following it in the news as it is such a moment in history. Lula was a candidate for President 3 times and then won on the 4th time in 2002. He had a great presidency of two terms and made significant improvements for the poorest people in Brazil. Later through the workings of politics he ended up in prison for 18 months until the Supreme Court ruled that his case was not lawful. So when he was released he was able to run for President again, and won this time. It was nail-biting at the finish as his opponent also has a very large following. So there is great division within politics and among the ordinary people, between the ‘Bolsonaristas’ who promote a strong capitalist ideology and the followers of Lula who promote social justice and equality in their socialist agenda. The country is really in a bad state due to the governance of the last 4 years.
Various social benefits have been cut and poor people are really suffering. The minimum wage is only 240 euros per month but that goes nowhere when you see the prices of things in the supermarkets. The other big surprise was the unexpected arrival of rain, good heavy rain so everyone was happy. Everywhere one can see very poor people and the results of such a destruction of social policies.
No sooner had we savoured Lula’s victory than it was time for the arrival of the Misean Cara mentor Patricia Ynonan who facilitated a three day course, and the course participants. As Brazil is a huge country, some had to come by plane and that was a first time for some. The course brought together members of the projects who are currently being supported by Misean Cara, and also two other projects whom we are supporting which may be eligible for Misean Cara funding in the future. The people really appreciated meeting each other and sharing common experiences and common problems they have to confront in working with the projects. The fact of being together and meeting others who share the same values such as justice for the poor, caring for one’s neighbour, transparency etc was very helpful and inspirational. It also provided them with an opportunity to know the work of Misean Cara a bit more and to hear about the new policies on gender and persons with disabilities.
The final day of the course was devoted to the projects’ presentations. Each one shared, with the help of slides, music etc the work they do among very poor people, and it was indeed very inspiring. After that, I took an overnight bus to visit a lay missionary couple who spent 7 years with us in Umburanas. Our travels going and coming were delayed a lot as the ‘Bolsonaristas’ still have not accepted the results of the Presidential election so they regularly protest outside police stations, wanting the military police to intervene, blocking main roads and causing huge disruption to traffic. Our delays were a minimum of one hour in traffic jams.
After the course I took an overnight bus to visit Lurdes and Dalvino, a lay missionary couple who were with us in Umburanas, along with their son, for 8 years. It was good to meet them again. Dalvino is still struggling to get some social benefits as he is now over 70 and not able to work so has no income. It has been a long struggle and he has been turned down twice already (as these benefits have been cut). It is awful to see someone who has worked his whole life, and devoted a good part of it to lay missionary work, to be suffering in living in poverty in his older years. The hope is that Lula will be able to bring in policies which previously existed to benefit the poorest people. However it is widely publicized that the outgoing President has left nothing in the public coffers to pay for next year’s budget, so it looks like Lula will have a very rough first year as President. It seems that a lot of his opponent’s presidential campaign was paid for directly from public funds, which is illegal, and therefore there is nothing left!!
Today I arrived in Umburanas with Sr Marcia LSA and with Bajinha our facilitator for the coming days. Marcia is the person who works closely with me in accompanying the projects in Brazil. We left Salvador by car at 5. 00 am and arrived at our destination at 5.00pm. It is about 450 km but we took our time, stopped to eat etc. We are staying in a rented apartment in the middle of the town.
Keep us in your prayer that all will continue to go well
Blessings from Bride