Maristely’s Olympic reality
26 Jul 2016 | Blog | Long-term Development | Brazil | Project Compassion
During Project Compassion in 2014, we shared the story of Maristely, a passionate young leader in her community, who lives in a favela (slum) in São Paulo, Brazil.
Caritas Australia’s partner, the Movement for the Defence of Favela Residents (MDF) has been working with thousands of families like Maristely’s to promote the dignity of each person and change the culture of violence in favelas. With skills training, people living in the favelas have learnt how to successfully advocate for improvements in their situation.
Through this work, families like Maristely’s now have 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.
MDF, who work in São Paulo, caught up with Maristely in early 2016 on our behalf and we are happy to report that she continues to be a committed advocate for human rights. She is in the final year of her Cultural Events course at university and continues to participate in MDF at the monthly meetings and in the training for new leaders for favela residents. Maristely is also a member of her local parish Council.
It’s encouraging to see that Maristely’s active participation has made such a remarkable difference in her and her family’s life. Her example is a timely reminder of hope that people living in vulnerable communities still have a voice and can be heard to bring about positive change.
Maristely’s thoughts on the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil also remind us not to forget the vulnerable amid all the hysteria of one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
“There is anxiety in making sure the Olympic Games take place. But the way these games will happen is depressing,” Maristely says.
“Since the World Cup  and the Olympic Games were first announced in Brazil, these kind of mega sporting events were seen as opportunities for improvements in the basic infrastructure of the country, but in the preparation process for these spaces, civil society and technical academics who know about urban development were not involved in the discussions.”
Maristely’s thoughts stem from the impact that the 2014 World Cup had on residents in the favelas and Brazil as a whole.
“There were no positive results for the favelas (slums and shanty towns),” she says. “In some areas even removal of families near the stadiums and on access routes took place.” Maristely believes there were some positives to emerge out of the World Cup, mainly in the “organisation of social movements and debating the role of sport, especially in Brazil, where sport mobilizes many people and a lot of money.”
MDF engages the people to be people of change and to be protagonists of a better world.Maristely
But these haven’t eased her concerns for what negative impacts next month’s Olympics will have on her country and especially its more marginalised communities. The event has already been plagued by controversy in its lead-up, with violence occurring in areas where Olympic events will take place, along with security concerns and economic issues.
“The information reaching us is basically like what happened in the World Cup, communities are being occupied by the police - Pacifying Police Units (UPPs), but other basic infrastructure and services of social care are not happening as promised,” Maristely says.
“We read that each of the 3.8 million tickets on sale locally will cost RS $70 (USD $30) or less to ensure that the games are accessible to everyone and the stadiums are full. But for the poor people of the city of Rio in a time of recession (and the high cost of living), this price is still far too expensive.”
Despite these hardships and those that MDF face in their push for change, Maristely remains driven and hopeful for the future.
“The MDF provides space for each and every slum resident to be transformers of their lives and the reality of each slum,” she says.
“MDF engages the people to be people of change and to be protagonists of a better world.”
As millions of people around the world tune in soon to watch the Olympics, we are thankful for advocates like Maristely and MDF who continue to amplify the voices and fight for the rights of those most vulnerable who are affected by these large-scale events.
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