Rob returns home to a pile of bills, pizza menus and junk mail…and just what a home means.
Coming home from Brazil I had to nudge my front door open with my shoulder to dislodge the two weeks of mail that had collected inside. When I was younger the arrival of ‘the post’ was more of an event, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not so. These days, both bills and birthday cards arrive as often through my inbox as my letterbox.
More often than not when I see these personalised offers of a new credit card or more double glazin,g I am filled with righteous indignation. ‘How did they get hold of my address?’ ‘How do these people know where I live?’ Returning from Brazil the memory of Eugenio and Rose Angela turned these thoughts on their head.
We had visited them in their lovely new apartment in Sao Paulo with Osmar from APOIO, one of CAFOD’s partners. Like many people in Sao Paulo, Eugenio and Rose Angela had moved here to find work. “I am from Bahia,” Rose Angela told us. “I left to visit my Auntie in Sao Paulo when I was 11 and stayed.” And like many other people it had been a long and hard struggle to get a safe place to live.
Eugenio: “We had previously lived in 3 occupations and had camped on the street. We met in Vila Prudente (a favela close to the city centre). Before the occupations we had lived in a shack with 2 rooms. It was very hard. We now have one son who is 8 years old. What is important for me is to have the space.”
Eugenio and Rose Angela were only able to get an apartment through APOIO. APOIO work across Sao Paulo, campaigning for better housing for the millions of people living in poor conditions. They support occupations of some of the many abandoned hotels and buildings in Sao Paulo (Osmar told us there were enough empty spaces in the city to provide homes for 40,000 people) pressurising the local and national government to provide more social housing for their citizens.
When they lived on the streets or in occupations Eugenio and Rose Angela wouldn’t have received any mail, junk or otherwise. They didn’t have an address. Eugenio made me appreciate for the first time, what a privilege it can be give your address to someone. He told me, “When people are asked where they live, sometimes they don’t know what to say. Now I have a home to go to. I can say, ‘This is my home address. This is my house.’” His pride in such a simple thing as having an address, something I had always taken for granted, humbled me.
Before we left we asked them if they had a message for CAFOD supporters
Eugenio: “To the people in England and Wales I say ‘it was worth it and it is still worth it, to support other people.’ Continue the struggle because the struggle is long and without them we cannot carry on. I thank them for their support and it has helped us to get to our home. Sao Paulo is not an easy city to live in. There are lots of shanty towns. We have lived in favelas and our end is here.”
Rose Angela: “You bring the light to us. You have done this. My son has his own space, his own television, not sharing with others. He chose his own bedroom and his own colour for the wall, blue. What I want most is for my son to be a good citizen and to have a brilliant future and place to live. And this is the place he is going to live. And I will put all my effort into this.”
The least we can do to support them.
Rob is organising his thoughts and will be speaking to groups about his experiences while he was in Brazil.
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