Wondering where Tony Blair was on Friday last… he was in Rio De Janeiro speaking at the World Economic Forum on Latin America.
Seamus has been there for six weeks, he feels deeply about the plight of the children and staff. He is is busy making arrangements to welcome his friend who may be able to move our number idea for sustainable funding for the project. We are holding our breath on that and will keep you posted.
Graham returned last week from visiting the ‘Development for All’ project in Cristino Castro is working with Seamus and Beth on more ideas for sustainable funding. I am looking forward to him resuming the posts which have given us such tender and poignant insights into daily life of the project.
Michael will join Seamus and Graham at the ‘Living and Learning’ project next week. He is busy with last minute preparations and despite being anxious about ‘flying on my own’ he is looking forward to meeting everyone and working with the youngsters; he has a case full of ideas.
The trustees thank the volunteers for their dedication and wish them an interesting and fulfilling term.
Not until I became involved with the charity did I take much notice of Brazil in particular or world affairs in general and to my greater shame I was also ignorant of the ins and outs of UK home affairs. The onset of retirement and the time to try to understand a little more the reality of life, and the forces that act upon our partners and their projects has led to an interest in all things Brazilian. In particular the unfolding success story of Brazil’s fiscal policy and its growing attraction to the traditional trading powers; its emerging home markets and its extensive natural resources make it a very attractive trading partner.
China has more than a foot in the door with well publicised trading and investment agreements. Russia is currently negotiating trade agreements, a USA trade delegation earlier this year was led by President Obama; an indication of how seriously the USA is taking Brazil. No less so than the UK with its recent flurry of visits; Vince Cable led a trade delegation during the Autumn, Caroline Spelman was there earlier this month and scheduled visits by Nick Clegg earlier in the spring and William Hague this month though postponed show the interest.
A further indication of how seriously the UK is taking Brazil is borne out with the Foreign Affairs Committee announcement to strengthen the UK’s bilateral relationship with an inquiry into UK-Brazil Relations. Top of the list of the terms of enquiry is ‘Trade’.
I am always on the look out for signs of encouragement for those we support and partner and these seem good signs for the continued development of the economy and its potential to provide all the people of Brazil with choices.
An earlier post proudly described the formation of our partnership with Global Link and CAFOD to develop a course to explore global issues.
Today I am pleased to report that further details of the course and the Brazil experience are vailable from the CAFOD offices in:
Lancaster 01772 733310
I was talking to Dona Maria (my mother in law in Brazil).
She told me about a young man, a member of our family in Brazil who is presently at a drug rehabilitation centre. The centre was set up my Padre Pedro, an Italian priest who dedicated his life to the poor and vulnerable.
Dona Maria was full of gratitude and joy as she told me how her grandson was making fantastic progress at the centre. ‘I feel like I have been given a new chance at life’, said the young man to his grand mother, ‘the people here have helped me to come out of the darkness of addiction’.
Listening to Dona Maria’s joy filled me with a deep sense of shame. My experience of this young man had been very negative. He presented very challenging behaviour and to my shame I went out of my way to avoid him. In truth I had given up on him. Thank goodness woman like Dona Maria and men like Padre Pedro had not given up – their love has given this young a new man chance at life.
In the Gospel’s the word Charity is used to express an outward disposition towards others – it is sometimes translated as love – it is more accurately translated as love for the unlovable.
My shame comes from the fact that I turned away from this young man, my Easter joy comes from the knowledge that Charity, is in the truest sense, still transforming lives.
Joseph E Howson
Seamus concluded his report yesterday with a description of the afternoon tea treat provided for the families that were able to attend the ‘Management of Personal Finance’ session.
Now recall the post ‘Telling it as it’, that described a boy full of anger and hurt; picture him tucking into chocolate cake.
I thought an image of sheer pleasure was worth its own post.
Finance consultants met parents from the favelas to share a chocolate cake; advice on personal finance and give a lesson in stereotyping. Seamus takes up the story:
Six young professionals, all in identical smart tops, with Volunteer displayed on them. Young, confident, evidently successful, working for Consultancies, Mining Companies, Multinationals etc, coming to give the parents from the favelas a talk on personal finance. Yeah , I thought, what personal finance. What could they learn from these people;how wrong you can be. They were brilliant. They held the audience´s attention throughout, got very animated, and when the parents put their point of view, became excited, and totally engaged with them. They gave out a format for controlling their finances, which one parent said he would now follow for life ! and talked about never, ever if possible getting credit. One mother said how she though she was going to pay10 per cent and ended up paying 100 per cent. One dad said he was a jewelry maker, but would love to go to College to become more professional, and he would like to pass on those skills to the children of the favilas, but it was hard getting a loan. Then the magic happened. The most charismatic of the group took his name, said I always support people trying to get further education to improve themselves, I will send you on that course. Here´s my card, what is your name……. Wow Talk about being hit over the head with your own prejudices.
Seamus tells us that his penance from Beth is to write to each of the companies to thank them for attending !
Recently, I have been reflecting on this question and trying to discover whether the blog makes a difference to the children of the favelas or if the time spent on the blog could be better used?
I do not consider myself a natural blogger ! In fact I do not consider myself a blogger at all. Despite the relentless encouragement and advice from one who knows about these matters, I struggle to develop an engaging and compelling style that would cause the blog to become ‘viral’. Well I do not really expect it to become viral and I think I might be rather worried if it did. None the less I want to be convinced that it is worthwhile in supporting the children.
I am a reader of blogs and have a set of regular set of favourites and know how effective a blog can be for informing, growing and nourishing a community. It has to be said that though I read blogs I rarely comment as I tend to think that someone else will say it better, or that my response is unworthy of committing to print. (I hope this is not an excuse for laziness!)
Strange is the fact that though aware of my own blogging habits, that is being a reader but not a commenter, I have tended to gauge the number of readers by the number of comments posted. Putting the two together leads me to think that the volume of comments is not necessarily indicative of the size of the readership.
To glean information about the readership I have used ‘Google Analytics’ and focused on the ‘Bounce Rate’, drawing the uncomfortable conclusion that visitors to the blog left almost immediately after arriving because they found the blog dull and un-engaging.
Only this week I have learned from a reader that they visit the blog to read new posts and that they will be included in the ‘Bounce’ rate figures. I was slightly encouraged by this but the breakthrough came after a chance conversation, when I learned that three people have recently made references to information on the blog and that a donation made for staff salaries was prompted by posts on the blog.
Where has this led in the quest of an answer ‘To blog or not to blog ?’, A definite yes because there are enough scraps of encouragement to make me think the blog does make a difference to the children we support.
At the meeting of the trustee this week we identified the following priorities for 2011:
Develop sustainable funding for the “Living and Learning” project. We are excited about an idea to help the project to become self-financing; currently it is at the consultation stage.
Develop the volunteer training programme.
Develop the volunteer training programme.With a focus on supporting the volunteers with materials and strategies for teaching conversational English.
Extend the communication systems. Particularly a website displaying information on the projects, ways in which to support the projects and details to support those who might be researching volunteer placement opportunities.
It is so easy to sit in the UK and forget what the reality of daily living is for children in the Living & Learning project. The image above appears typical of children in a school setting; a school in the UK. But it is not and Seamus tells of such a child:
“There is a ten year old boy who attends, a small winning little boy, whose sole ambition is to grow up so he can kill his father. He jokes not. His father is a violent bully who abuses his mother. When he grows up he will be strong enough to kill him…”
In a way one does not want to know about children in these circumstances because one feels powerless to do anything to help. But actually we can and do by supporting Beth and the monitors in their struggle to provide children with a place where they can experience love and affirmation.