After spending a week with 34 fellow CAFOD campaigners from Katowice (pronounced Kato-VI-tsay), Poland, I returned to Hallam… Stunned. Why? Because I had been exposed to a reality that is uncomfortable, that affects me directly and which will affect my one-year-old granddaughter, Ada, even more, if I and we don’t take the opportunity we have right now to avert it.
Myo Zaw is CAFOD’s humanitarian capacity and development officer working in Myanmar and Cambodia.
Myo visited the diocese over the weekend and met with local volunteers, supporters and clergy, and spent some time with Bishop Ralph. His visit gave us all much food for thought and insight into the detail and impact of the work for some of the most disadvantaged people in our world today.
Myo explained that Myanmar ranks 19th in listings of poorest countries. It has a population of 52 million people many of whom are at high risk of natural and man-made disaster. People are exposed to cyclone, tropical storms, tsunamis, flooding, forest fires and drought, and more than 10% of the population are internally displaced refugees.
Because we can work within and through the Catholic Caritas network, we have a unique opportunity to be alongside some of the most vulnerable people which other agencies are not always able to reach. Myo is working in Myanmar with local Bishops in 3 Archdiocese and with 16 diocesan offices to provide training and technical expertise that improves the capacity of local communities, enabling them to become more resilient to cope when natural disasters and emergencies occur in the area.
Throughout the weekend Myo visited the Volunteer Centre in Sheffield and spoke at Sunday Masses at Our Lady of Sorrows, Bamford and St Michaels, Hathersage. Myo is pictured with local rep, Angela Powell, receiving a cheque for £500 from Fr Martin, for CAFODs Rohingya Crisis Appeal.
Myo was fascinated to learn how funds have been raised by supporters over the years. The ‘CAFOD Hope Valley’ group have raised more than £30k and representatives of the group shared stories of concerts, book sales, garden teas, and ‘copper’ collections. All great examples of how communities living in rural communities can come together and reach out to help others in need.
As well as strengthening local capacity, CAFOD provides emergency food, tents, water and sanitation for the Rohingya response which is focussed on people who have been forced to flee to Bangladesh since 25 August, to escape violence in Rakhine State in neighbouring Myanmar. As members of Caritas Catholic network, we are funding Caritas Bangladesh to provide emergency aid such as food, clean water and emergency shelter.
Finally, because many around the diocese of Hallam have been responding to Pope Francis calling for all to “Share the Journey” before he left, Myo met with supporters at the start of the Padley pilgrimage, at the sight of the Padley Martyrs. Some had walked from Nottingham diocese, over several days to be in solidarity for refugees and asylum seekers.
People are dying due to a lack of basic needs, and we believe that no-one should be beyond reach, therefore, we continue to raise funds in order to reach more vulnerable people and provide them with the help they desperately need. Please sign up to volunteer with CAFOD in Hallam and enable us to do more.
Jenny Seymour is a volunteer at CAFOD Hallam and is standing together with the Maua community in Sao Paulo, Brazil
CAFOD does some incredible work around the world in communities that need help and solutions to develop their communities and lift th
em out of poverty. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, there is one community that came up with an amazing idea to help themselves and use what little they had to build up a community and enrich their lives – how enterprising!
The Mauá building stands in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. Once a chic hotel, it was abandoned and left empty for 17 years until, in 2007, over 200 homeless families moved in and renovated it. They used their own skills and resources and came together as a group. For the last 10 years they have been trying to win their legal rights to their home – as Brazilian law allows.
Through our Connect2 project, parishes in England and Wales have been following and supporting the Mauá community. Although the community have fought off eviction orders in the past, unless there is strong political will to protect the rights of the families, they will be made homeless. They have
been served with a fresh eviction notice now which is saying that on 21 November, they will be evicted and made homeless. No contingency plan has been offered by the local authorities in Sao Paulo. They are prepared to see some 200 families made homeless and all the original owner to stake a claim in this building, even though they let it go to rack and ruin for 17 years and it is the Maua community that put in all their resources and skills to renovate this building so that it was habitable. Where are these families going to go? What is going to happen to them? They have been living their lives in this building for 10 years!
The eviction notice came as a shock to the residents as negotiations with the authorities had been going well.
The Mauá community have appealed to the Catholic community in England and Wales to stand by them in their struggle. Neti de Araújo, a community leader with the Mauá residents who in the past visited and met with CAFOD supporters, sent us this message:
“We are going through some really tough times; our rights are being violated. We in the Mauá community have spent 10 years living in this building which we have cleaned, looked after and made into a home for 237 families. For years, we have been negotiating for the acquisition of this building for social housing with an affordable rent. Now we are at risk of eviction. We have not been offered an alternative. We will have to leave our homes and live in the street. I am counting on you and your prayers.”
We are using the hashtag: #ficamaua let them stay. Please join with us in showing your support to this community. Show solidarity with the Mauá community by taking a picture of yourself holding a sign saying #ficamaua to share on Twitter with @CAFOD or Facebook.
No one deserves for their houses to be taken from them after this time. You can add your name to the petition to stop this eviction here. Help us reach 2000 signatures (only 150 to go at the time of writing). Please will you also share this petition on social media with your friends and family and, if you would like to share it within your parish, there is a petition you can print out here.