My camino!

Joe reflects on the comings and goings of 2013

I know many people for whom 2013 was a very difficult year, the loss of loved ones, illness, redundancy, depression. My heart goes out to all those who have suffered and continue to suffer in body, heart, mind or soul.

For me personally 2013 was a good year not because of any major happening, great events or sudden change in fortune. It was a good year because I felt and feel much more in tune with life. Not that I don’t still experience those dark nights of the soul but generally I feel more connected to what is really important. An indigenous community in Brazil define poverty in this way: ‘You are poor when you are disconnected from the Great Spirit, when you are disconnected from community and when you don’t have enough to share’.

I find profound wisdom in this simple definition. My goal in 2013 was to recognise my own poverty and journey towards restoring right relationship with the ‘Great Spirit’, right relationship with my community, which includes family, friends, people in our local communities, people in Brazil and my relationship with the natural world. It was also to develop right relationship with material well being – to have enough to share but no more than that.

I will spend the rest of my life on this journey as I have barely begun to restore and develop all of those relationships but I now feel that I am on the camino (way), I have taken the first step. I know that keeping on the camino will involve nights in cold, dark caves; climbing steep mountains and swimming in ice cold water but I feel that my pilgrimage has begun and 2013 marks the beginning of a new beginning.

In my next post I will try to explain how the work of VinB forms an integral part of this camino.

I wish you well with your new years resolutions and wish all those connected to VinB an ‘adventurous’ 2014!

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Happy Christmas


The trustees would like to wish everyone connected to VinB a happy and peaceful Christmas

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Great wisdom can found in simple stories. This is a story that really speaks to me.

Chi-ping is a subsistence farmer in ancient China. He relies on his horse to plough the fields and take produce to market.

One day Chi-ping goes to the stable to find that his horse has bolted. His neighbours rush round and say: ‘Oh Chi-ping, what are you going to do – how are you going to plough your fields and get your produce to market. This is bad news! Chi-ping responds by saying: Good news, bad news, who knows! The next day Chi-ping gets up very early. When he arrives in the fields he finds that his horse has returned with a herd of wild horses. His neighbours rush round and say: ‘Wow Chi-ping, your horse has returned with many more horses, this is good news! Again Chi-ping responds by saying: ‘Good news, bad news, who knows! The next day Chi-ping’s eldest son tries to break in one of the wild horses, he is thrown and breaks his leg. Good news, bad news, who knows! For the next day war breaks out in China and all able bodied young men have to go to war. Chi-ping’s son his laid up in bed with a broken leg and can’t go to war. Good news, bad news, who knows!

For me this story speaks many truths on many different levels. Any thoughts!

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Hungry for Change Challenge

Twenty young people and three staff from Brownedge St Mary’s in Preston participated in the Hungry For Change Challenge held at Lee House near Chipping. They took on the role of an indigenous community living in Brazil. Their community was based on an ethos of deep respect for nature and all living things but cruelly they where kicked out of their ancestral home by land grabbers. They were forced to live on the margins of society trying to earn a basic living by trading what they had with greedy traders who wanted to buy their commodities at the lowest possible price to sell and make massive profits on the international market. Their way of life was destroyed by fellow human beings who were more interested in profit than people or nature.

The young people were a credit to their school entering into the simulation with great enthusiasm. This is what they had to say:

We learnt that the way we treat each other and the way we treat the natural world are intimately connected.

Our community had been living a simple life in harmony with nature but we were forced into poverty … we joined the 800 million people across the world who go hungry everyday.

This project, run by the trustees of Volunteer in Brazil, was made possible through the support given by CAFOD’s Development Awareness Fund. Next week, a group of primary school children from St Mary’s Chipping will be taking up the Hungry for Change Challenge.

Fr David Chinnery, parish priest of St Wilfrid’s in Longridge and Lee House, played his part in making this a special day of learning, fun and reflection.

Hungry for Change

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A journey of discovery

Rosalba and I have have just returned from journeys to Fatima in Portugal and Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain, both centres of world wide pilgrimage. It was wonderful to experience people from across the globe participating in personal and communal journeys of spiritual reflection.


Being in these places where people gather to reflect on their life’s journey feels very special and the ethos and atmosphere created helps one to venture into one’s own heart. The journey into our ‘internal’ landscape is often more adventurous, scary and arduous than the rugged paths of the camino. I set out on this journey with the hope of finding a clear camino (path) for our future – I might just have found one!

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What do we mean by development?

Many would argue that development in practice means becoming Western, developing western economic, political and social systems. Countries are often judged to be developed/undeveloped depending on how well they match up to the ‘advanced’ economies of the world. And yet it is the ‘advanced’ economies of the world that are having the greatest impact on the global climate!

Imagine if every country in the world were to ‘enjoy’ the consumption levels that are the norm in the advanced economies – the natural world simply could not stand the impact. So if to become developed is to become like us, then we are heading for disaster! The model of development that is being pursued across the world is leading us all into a global and ecological crisis. Development is sited as a way out of poverty and poverty is more often than not described in economic terms. But here is a definition of poverty from an indigenous community in Brazil.


Poverty is when: You are disconnected from the Spirit, disconnected from Community and when you don’t have enough to share.

I wonder what our models of development would look like if we adopted this approach to poverty?

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Global Partnerships in action!

Longridge HighThe United Nations 2012 report on the Millennium Development Goals emphasised the need to develop stronger global partnerships if the world is going to achieve the poverty reduction targets by the year 2015.

Longridge High 2Through partnership working with Global Link Development Education Centre, Longridge High School and Volunteer in Brazil, bonds of solidarity and support are being developed between children in Longridge and families in rural Brazil.

Neto & MartinYoung people started by learning about the Millennium Development Goals in early 2012. In the summer of the same year they organised a Brazilian style carnival to raise money and now in February 2013 they are in the process of supporting Neto and his family (in the community of Panasco, in the interior of the state of Piaui) to build a chicken house where Neto and his family intend to rear chickens for sale. Martin, our Micro Finance Co-ordinator, is supporting Neto and will send regular updates and encourage dialogue with the community at Longridge High School.

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Partnership really work

Young people from Longridge High School near Preston organised a carnival to raise money for the Volunteer in Brazil micro loan project that supports rural families in North East Brazil.

This is initiative was started when teacher Louise Mulvana invited Global Link Development Education Centre into school to enable students to explore the Millennium Development Goals (8 goals set by the United Nations in the year 2000 to reduce global poverty) in a fun and creative way.

Longridge High

Inspired by what they had learnt about global poverty and motivated by a spirit of solidarity, the young people and teachers organised a carnival day to raise money to provide interest free loans to rural families in Cristino Castro.

Martin and Martina, our two Assumption volunteers in Cristino, will keep the community at Longridge High informed and connected with the families who will put the loan to good use by investing in small income generation projects like rearing goats, sheep or hens.  In two years time the loan will be repaid and the money can be recycled to help another family.

The 8th Millennium Development Goal is all about creating Global Partnerships for Development – lets hope that this project goes a little way in helping to fulfil this goal.

NB. There are a number of organisations involved with this initiative, including: Volunteer in Brazil, Global Link Development Education Centre, Longridge High School, The Assumption Lay Volunteer Programme and The Family Agricultural College in Cristino Castro – partnerships really can make a difference!


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Hockey – who would have thought!

HockeySome how when one thinks of Brazil hockey doesn’t come readily to mind. But…. young people at the project are learning how to dribble with sticks and a hard ball rather than with their feet and a bag of wind!

This is what a young person at the project thinks of hockey:

Acho as aulas de Hoquei bastante interessantes, por que é um esporte diferente e o único esporte até agora que eu me interessei! (I think Hockey is really interesting; it is a sport that is very different and the only one until now that I’ve taken an interest in!) Telma

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Catching up with Gabriel


GabrielGabriel Davies called into Lee House to catch up with the VinB trustees and recently returned volunteers Dave & Shelagh. Gabriel, just back from Brazil with plans to return in late January, shared his hopes of finding employment in Rio or Sao Paulo. Gabriel, a native of Lancaster and well known to communities in Cristino Castro & Santa Teresa has volunteered four times in the course of four years.

It is always a pleasure to catch up with him and share in his many adventures

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