Fire at the Agricultural College

We received this shocking video coverage a few days ago.  The fire destroyed fencing and trees at the College but thankfully no one was hurt and all the animals were rescued and taken to safety.

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Favela childhood…best ever

Surprise and relief was my response to Martina’s chat, with two youngsters from the Living & Learning project,  about  growing  up in a favela.  Sometimes the day to day normality of favela life is lost in the media focus on violence. It is also important to bear in mind that the level of law and order in the favelas varies from area to area and one account does not depict all favelas.

L&LfinThis is Djalma and Jorge. Best friends. Ordinary teenagers entering into adulthood full of dreams and plans. With just one difference – they were brought up in a favela.

“It was the best childhood ever, I wouldn’t change it for anything!” they say in unison. “Our community (favela) was one big playground, we used to play all day – football, hide and seek and other games. We played ‘til our mums would shout at us “come back home, you have to wake up early for the school tomorrow!” They continue: “You know; it’s different if you live in one of those big buildings in the town – you don’t have such liberty; you don’t have that many friends; you don’t even know your neighbours! In the favela it’s exactly the opposite – everybody is on the street, chatting with each other and you have so many friends!”

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Changing lives the VinB way

The latest micro loan project update arrived in the VinB office this week.  This always causes a great deal of excitement as staff are keen to follow the progress of the smallholders that are fast becoming part of our family.

… some projects are running smoother than others; some are faster and others slower. We have to treat each case individually. Although there are some delays at some projects, we have to understand that nothing is quick in Brazil! We have to be patient and encourage the recipients to do their maximum to repay a loan on an agreed date. In my opinion, the micro financing is definitely changing the lives of local people!  


Smallholders that we are supporting:

Miguel used his loan to purchase a small herd of cattle.  Despite the setback of a grass fire last year, Martin reports that Miguel is confident that he will repay the loan in January, 2014.

Similde and Fabiana used the loan to install a mechanical irrigation system on their vegetable plot;  greatly improving  productivity.  They told Martin that one of the advantages is that they now  have  more time to do things with their two young daughters!

Neto,  an  experienced  chicken farmer used his loan to create a purpose built  chicken rearing unit closer to the family home.

Raul is using his loan to extend his chicken rearing unit. The increased income is vital to paying to support his two sons at university!

Brothers Valdglan and Valdgley and fellow student Denis from the local Agricultural College are using their loans to develop chicken rearing units as part of their college studies.

Find out more about how VinB operates the micro loan scheme in North East Brazil.

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Travel without turnstiles

It may surprise you to know that the  public transport buses in Brazil each have a turnstile and a very narrow one at that. (Based on personal experience).


Another surprise might be to learn how the mass  protests got started. Look no further than the  strapline which is one of the  slogans of  the Free Fare Movement a small group that campaigns  for free public transport,  which incidentally already occurs in some cities across the world including a smattering in the UK. The group of young  activists have admitted to being more than a little surprised themselves at the outpouring of frustration and dissatisfaction, with the government,  that their protest over  a public transport hike  sparked across Brazil.
The next surprise was that  within a couple of weeks the group had the  ear of the President and the people had the promise of a referendum on political reform.

Lets hope that this is a watershed and Brazil and its people have begun to change the endemic culture of corruption.

Eraldo Peres/Associated Press President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, right, on Monday met with representatives of the Free Fare Movement, the group that ignited the protests.

Eraldo Peres/Associated Press
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, right, on Monday met with representatives of the Free Fare Movement, the group that ignited the protests.

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Oziel’s web of influence

ozielMeet Oziel Gabriel.  A member of the Terena tribe who was protesting over land grabs in Sidrolandia, part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sulclashes, when he was shot dead by police according to fellow tribesmen who took pictures and video of the incident and then immediately posted them on Facebook.

According to Joao Fellet, of BBC Brazil, it took only hours to make headlines abroad, which prompted an unusually speedy response from the Brazilian Justice Minister who called for an immediate investigation. Students from the tribes are increasingly adopting the power of social media to raise awareness of their plight within Brazil.  When the national media fails indigenous groups maybe harnessing the power of ‘virtual activism’ will have a greater impact!

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Combatting Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents


On Saturday 18 of May, as part of the Brazilian National Day to Combat the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents,  public rallies were  held in cities and towns around the country. Cristino Castro  took part.

In 2000, the National Day to Combat the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents was set in law for for  May 18,   the anniversary of the death of     Araceli Santos, an 8-year old girl, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered 31 years ago, in the state of Espírito Santo.

DSCN5395The exploitation networks are active in all regions of the country, but the largest concentration of cases is in the North and Northeast. Most of the victims are women and adolescents between 15 and 25 — the group most affected includes girls between 15 and 17. The profile of the victims shows that they generally come from families with low levels of income and schooling, live with relatives, and, in many instances, have already suffered some kind of sexual violence at home.

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Raul receives a helping hand from the Slovakian community

Despite the extreme climate Raul works hard to make a living for his family through mixed farming which includes producing honey, growing beans and husbanding a small herd of cows and sheep.  He is about to receive a helping hand from a micro loan raised by the Slovakia community in London and as Raul is already registered with Caritas he has a regular outlet and will receive a fair price for his eggs.

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What price a car park?

It seems that no aspect of Brazilian culture is exempt from state cleansing when it comes to preparing for the Rio World Cup, as this BBC report highlights!

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It’s hot, too hot today!

Do you know what the Brazilians from Piauí share with the English?

Surely there are other  traits to compare, but commenting on the weather is a very important part of almost all social interactions. Even if you know only a little Portuguese, you can easily start up conversation with: Calooor, calor demais! (Hot, too hot!) And the advantage is that it is applicable for all the days of the year!Tava onde

And another question: Do you know what the Brazilians from northeast share with the Slovakians?

Just to explain the connection – me and Martin are Slovakians, probably the most famous Slovakians in Cristino Castro.

It is said that we, Slovakians, like to complain.  (There is always something to complain about, isn’t there?). Whilst we enjoy a wide range of complaints, Brazilians keep it simple- it definitely will be something about the weather. And most probably about the hot weather!

One would think that Brazilians are accustomed to the hot weather, and that they will not pay extra attention to it. But the opposite is true. They are as affected by the heat as we are. When I ask my students why they are so tired and sleepy, they will answer: Because it’s too hot today! Usually I am tempted to respond – well, as any other day – welcome to Piaui, but I just nod in agreement. It is true that they often find it quite difficult to concentrate, as do I. But then, when I check the weather forecast for Europe, suddenly I stop  complaining  and  feel very grateful to be right here!

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Droughts in north east Brazil…. political punch ball

It is always the poor who are suffering the most who get the least from the resources that were intended to support them.

Droughts in north east Brazil have often been used as a political punch ball and way of diverting much needed investment. The misery of some is often seen as an opportunity to others.

In its very small way  VinB’s Micro Loan Project is a way of getting much need investment to families who really need it – this sort of initiative cuts out all the middle men and the politicians – there are no hidden agendas and the ethos in which the resources are made available is one of solidarity, support and partnership.

Perhaps small really is beautiful ?


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