Seeing the bigger picture of inequality….

vision320/20 describes perfect vision and hopefully my eye test today will not reveal too much of a deviation from that.   This  visit to the optician is apposite because it marks a change in vision on a quite different scale.

Till  now, our   focus of attention has been on the practical workings of VinB; on supporting and partnering the children, staff and volunteers in the Living and Learning Project in Rio and on the Development for All  Project in the North East of Brazil.  We have beavered  away sharing news about what is happening in the projects and how  the volunteers and others are  getting along.

From time to time  we have extended our  field of vision to comment  on some wider  issues around  ‘inequality’. Especially those  that form  the harsh reality in which millions of  families in Brazil and elsewhere  live out their daily lives.

Our task, for  2013,  is to examine ways that we can add our voice  to those that are  challenging  the causes of   inequality. How we are going to do it and what you can do to help is almost off the planning board and ready to share.

And for those of you wondering about the outcome of the eye test; I am sticking with the friendly old frames but accepting  a slight change of lens to help with widening the depth of  vision!

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Nightclub fire in Santa Maria

fireIt was with great sadness that the staff of VinB heard about the nightclub fire in Santa Maria.  Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to all who have been caught up in this disaster.

BBC Latin America coverage

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Its time you met Ronaldo…VinB hero and friend

Ronaldo having a breather.

Ronaldo having a breather.

Transport manager, town guide, problem solver and many other things. These are just a few of the roles that  Ronaldo has undertaken to smooth  the way for the folks of VinB.A couple of years ago when Keith, VinB trustee, was taken ill during a visit to Cristino; Ronaldo gave up his holiday time to take him to the hospital and oversee his care.

During last summer, he acted as courier to the ‘Going Global’ group and last week he met our latest volunteer, Martina, off the plane in Teresina and looked after her during her short stay; guiding her through the visa procedure, showing her the city and introducing her to his family.

Incidentally, Ronaldo is brother to Miquel who  trialled the first Micro Loan Initiative in Cristino.

All that Ronaldo does, is done with great warmth and generosity of spirit and  Brazil could have no better ambassador and VinB no better hero and friend!

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A big thank you to my friends at the Slovak Catholic Mission in London


 Just few days before my flight to Brazil, I thought it might be a good idea to tell my friends about the projects in Cristino Castro and maybe do a small fund raising event. So I sent around an email with a video about Volunteer in Brazil’s Micro Loan Initiative. Amazingly, my friends from the Slovak Catholic Mission in London managed to put together almost £2000.00 for the loans project.

I would like to thank them  for their generous donations and  support!

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Feeling good in Cristino

Warm greetings from Cristino Castro ! And I mean it literally because it´s really hot here – and they said yesterday was the coolest day of the year!  I feel really good here. Martin and everybody else are looking after me very well.  I am trying to settle down and Martin makes sure that we’re visiting and meeting new people (many people actually!). I am very glad that he is here, it is much, much easier for me.        

After settling in, Learning Portuguese is my number one priority!

Will write again soon!

Martina[nggallery id=6]

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‘To buy a cow’ – a tale of two continents

‘to buy a cow’ is how the local paper recently reported on the fund raising efforts of the local Primary School community. To be more precise the monies raised by the children and their families will be used for a Micro Loan Initiative to support a family in North East Brazil.
cow1For some time I had been intrigued by the fact that the cows in Brazil looked like those associated with India. Recently, I learned that most breeds of cow particularly in the north east of Brazil are derived from Indian breeds. Apparently, it began five centuries ago when Portugal’s Pedro Alvares Cabral, officially recognised as the first European to to discover Brazil, was blown of course as he sailed to what later became known as Portugal’s Goa enclave in India. Brazil was a useful stopping off place on the long journey between Portugal and India;trading flourished particuarly the import of cattle to Brazil.

India’s declaration of independence for the Goa enclave in 1961 caused relations between Brazil and India to cool but this is now in reverse as India and Brazil stengthen political and trade interests.Brazil has become the largest exporter of Indian breeds of cattle with breeding stock being imported back to India!

Martin, the micro finance co-ordinator, is now working hard to match a family with the school and the children are looking forward to an exciting new way of engaging with the culture of Brazil.

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Lending a helping hand and telling the stories

hand+shake ‘Lending a Helping Hand’ to those in the rural North East of Brazil, who need a small loan, is the aspiration for our Micro Loan Project. The Trustees have been talking about this for some time and last year, as a kind of dummy run, the charity made a loan to Miguel, to buy some cattle. It was a two year loan at the end of which, all being well, Miguel will repay the loan and have some profit to buy further cattle and the repayment can be reallocated.  Ed. You can follow our Micro Loan story here.

During the year we learned from this pilot and developed our thinking about how we might grow the idea, as well as growing a list of donors who are ready and eager to get started.

One outcome from the trial was the need for a local co-ordinator to manage our Micro Loan Initiative and Martin, a long time serving volunteer in Cristino Castro, is going to fill this role. His main responsibilities will be to identify recipients, support them through the process and, very importantly, help in telling their story.

If you have any experience operating ‘Micro Loans’ we would very much like to hear from you.

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Very excited…4 days to go

I close my eyes and try to imagine living a different  life in a distant country  and getting to know the  people, culture and  weather.   Though to be honest it’s quite difficult, especially to imagine nice hot weather as it’s freezing cold right now!

As you  know, just a few days before Christmas I’ve received my visa approval! Perfect timing, it was the best Christmas present ever!

At that time it seemed quite far away, but the  days slipped by very quickly and now with just 4 days left!  I have a mixture of feelings,  I am VERY excited, happy, full of expectations and a bit worried.  I just wish I were a better student and had practised more Portuguese!  Let’s see if 90 audio lessons of Brazilian Portuguese will help me not only to survive,  as I do  know how to ask for food and help,  but also to speak enough to be able to make friends and feel comfortable. Thank  God for non-verbal communbulging suitcaseication.

There is still a  lot to do, for example to go through my list what-to-take-with-me for the umpteenth time and try to cross out something which is not that necessary,  which is very difficult as everything is SO necessary.

My next post will be from Brazil!

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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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