Denis is ready to go….

Currently studying at the Agricultural College, Denis is the first student to receive a Micro Finance Loan. Here a rather  nervous Denis talks with Martin, our Coordinator, about himself and how he will use the loan.

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Losing you home, losing your job..World Cup & Olympics

The latest row in the trouble stricken  Maracano Stadium is between the holders of  perpetual tickets and Rio  officials, who want to negate these rights in order to hand  over a ‘clean’ stadium to  FIFA.  Who in effect will have sole control of the stadium for the duration  of the tournament.  Perpetual Ticket Holders received the concession in 1950 in return for sponsorship and an annual subscription.

However the loss of  stadium seats, seems of little consequence, when compared to the loss of   homes belonging to  thousands of families who  have been forcibly evicted.  The eviction orders come under the  guise of  infrastructure developments  for the  World Cup and the Olympics, or sometimes the reason  given is for safety  such as  preventing  land slides.   More often than not  it is a means to acquiring what has become valuable real estate for  the gentrification of favelas.

With little chance to contest the eviction orders, families and their communities are uprooted and relocated to the edges of the city away from their work and away from services. Compensation rights are mired in bureaucracy and  difficult to access.

This video captures the views  of residents  who  have been relocated and highlights in particular the cost of travel into the city, which  interestingly is an  employer responsibility,  but  which often results in workers been sacked because of this increased cost.

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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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Are you going?

UNICEF are inviting you to join them for the BIG IF in Hyde Park, London.

This is your chance to come together to demand an end to the scandal of hunger that still sees one in eight people going without enough food.  

The date for your diary is Saturday June 8th, 2pm. Register here.

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Making a difference…we all can

Peter Singer’s talk is packed with thought provoking and  practical ideas on how each  of us can really make a difference to eradicating abject poverty.

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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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Rousseff delivers a stinging blow to Indigenous tribes

In a remarkable  move  President Rouseff has stripped  FUMAI, the government department responsible  for the protection of indigenous people, of it autonomy.

Violence between farmers and indigenous tribes over land rights, in the southern state of Mato Grosso du Sol, has  escalated since farmers were forcibly  cleared off their  land  to allow the  Xavante tribe  to be reinstated on their traditional home land early in 2013.

To halt what the farmers see as bias towards indigenous tribes the farming lobby tabled a  amendment that would  establish  a congressional committee to approve  reservation boundaries rather than it resting on just the  federal government. This incited  hundreds of Indians to occupy the floor of  the Lower House. FUMAI  said that it defended the reasons for the protest but said it took no part in its organisation.  Later in the month the farming lobby showed its outrage by  jeering the president  when she visited Mato Grosso du Sol.

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Abiding memories of Portugal

The surprising greenness of the landscape dotted with almond trees, eucalyptus trees, fig trees, carob trees, and the cork trees unceremoniously stripped of their bark and numbered. (As a child I always thought taking the bark from a tree led to its death.)

Pretty houses painted with the traditional blue, red, green and
yellow symbolising the spirits and elements of earth, sky earth and sun. Many spouting the distinctive chimney pots of Moorish design used to represent the faith of those living in the house.

The incredible east to west unrelenting mass of apartment buildings which allow the resident population to rise from 400, 000 in the winter months to around 2, 000,000 during high season.

The under population of the countryside and demise of agriculture as the young people migrate to work and live in the coastal region.

Meldronho a drink distilled from arbutus berries referred to as fire water and very aptly named is produced in the mountains. It reminded me of other fire waters  that  is distilled from sugar cane in Brazil called Pinga and also  that of Ireland called Poitin distilled from barley, potatoes or whey. All deadly.

IMAG0074The wonderful storks, with their amazing nests seemingly perched precariously on top of pylons and disused factory chimneys. I am told they can weigh up to half a ton.

And of course the language experience !

We had a fascinating  trip but it is lovely to be back home.

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A technically challenging survey

Another e-postcard from the VinB team members who are on a language assignment to the Algarve (or is it fab holiday?) highlights some of the cultural differences between Portugal and Brazil.

portugal3It seems that Keith has valiantly set himself the challenge of identifying which country has the best ice cream.

Numerous samples later and it is still too close to call.  Maybe a few more might help me to decide! … Love Margaret and Keith

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Paying the price

Christian Aid, in this new report, asks the question … who pays the price for the hidden cost of Tax Injustice?


Ana Maria Ayala’s maize crop was completely destroyed by floods in El Salvador in October 2011. Most of El Salvador’s farmers rely on what they can grow in their smallholdings. Inequality, an unfair tax system and lack of government investment in agriculture mean almost half the population live in poverty, and one-third of all children aged under five die from malnutrition.

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