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A Flower in the Favelas

Each year for Project Compassion, Caritas Australia asks supporters to help raise money and awareness to offer hope to the millions of families living in poverty. Last year, Pope Francis said, “Each day, we all face the choice to be Good Samaritans or to be indifferent travellers passing by.”

Thanks to you, in 2013, over $11 million was raised for vulnerable women, men and children in over 35 countries worldwide.

In 2013, our feature story was Ditosa, who studies and learns at the Caritas Australia supported Matuba Children’s Centre in Mozambique. We also shared stories from children and young people in other parts of the world. Their stories humble and inspire us, and show how your contributions to Project Compassion help people build better lives.

“Children are our future. They will be our young leaders; they will be the ones who shape what community life and its benefit will be,” said Helen Forde, Community Engagement Manager.

“Thank you to everyone who supported Project Compassion. As always, Caritas Australia is humbled by your generosity throughout the sacred Lenten period.”

Project Compassion 2014

This year’s theme, “Have life and have it to the full” is a quote from the New Testament. This idea was reaffirmed in 2013 when Pope Francis said, “Men and women of all times and all places desire a full and beautiful life … a life that is not threatened by death but that can mature and grow to its fullness.”

Isn’t this what we all desire? This year’s Project Compassion stories are about our desires for a full and beautiful life within the surroundings of home.

Maristely’s Story

In 2014, our feature story is Maristely, 18, from São Paulo in Brazil. Maristely lives in a favela (slum) with her family and is taking part in a program with Caritas Australia’s partner, Movement for the Defence of Favela Residents (MDF), to improve life and living conditions within her community.

Like Maristely, one in every seven people in the city of São Paulo lives in a favela.

Dark and cramped, favelas are filled with irregular, self-constructed houses and often built on land that no one wants to live on due to threats of floods, landslides, or their proximity to roads and train lines. Plus, with dense populations, limited space, a lack of available jobs, constant threat of eviction and widespread poverty, favela life is difficult.

When Maristely was growing up her family’s house, like many others, was made of cardboard and had no electricity, water or connected sewerage. Now, MDF is changing lives across 40 favelas in São Paulo.

“The role of MDF is to work with families so they are aware that they can advocate for improvements where they live,” said Maristely.

Through MDF, Maristely’s family, along?with thousands of others, now has access to clean water, electricity and connected sewerage, leading to a reduction in respiratory and skin diseases, and better overall health. Her family also has a certificate of home ownership, which provides greater security for the household. Thanks to this legal protection, they can no longer be evicted.

Across the favelas, up to 70 percent of families experience violence in the home, as well as youth and gang violence, and drug use among community members; MDF is working to decrease these levels.

“In this community there was a lot of violence, especially against women and young people,” said Maristely. “When I was younger we could hardly leave the house. There were a lot of young people using drugs. We had to stop playing on the streets because there were police cars driving very fast. We were very scared.”

Maristely, now a young leader with MDF’s Youth Empowerment Program, is helping to promote peace, improve access to basic facilities and increase citizens’ awareness of their rights and dignity.

“Maristely is a flower who has bloomed in the middle of the favelas,” said Getúlio, MDF Youth Empowerment Program Coordinator.

Your donation to Project Compassion is helping Caritas Australia end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.


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