Safeguarding the environment in Brazil

1 Oct 2015   |   Blog   |   Brazil   |   Long-term Development

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Maria from RECIFLAVELA which is a recycling cooperative that offers employment to favela residents.

Meet Maria Lilian. President of the recycling cooperative RECIFLAVELA, which is supported by the Movement for the Defence of Favela Residents (MDF) and Caritas Australia, Maria is going from strength to strength.

Maria lives in a favela (slum) in São Paulo, Brazil. Dark and cramped, favelas are often built on land affected by floods and landslides, or close to roads and train lines. And many locals face discrimination from the wider community.

Caritas Australia’s partner, MDF, is changing lives across 40 favelas in São Paulo. MDF understands the difficulties of favela life such as dense population, limited space, a lack of available jobs, constant threat of eviction and widespread poverty.

Young mother to two children, Maria Lilian, 29, has participated in the program with MDF since 2005 and has worked with RECIFLAVELA, a recycling cooperative that offers employment to favela residents, since it began in 2007.

Better living conditions

After a long, hard struggle, finally we
can commemorate the fact that we are
working in a place worthy of dignity.”

Maria says that living in a favela is difficult; not only do residents have to contend with the river overflowing and disease brought from rats, but they live with constant threat of eviction from their homes. The role of MDF is to offer a stable presence and help residents achieve better living conditions.

Maria says MDF’s mantra of RESISTANCE, PRESENCE AND SOLIDARITY inspires her to continue the fight for a better, cleaner and healthier environment. "Many times after we had collected and separated garbage and were waiting to sell it, the rising river carried away all our material. The only thing that kept us going was our will to continue fighting for a space so the cooperative members could work in a decent environment,” says Maria.

She adds that MDF is their place of “sustenance” and is fundamental to the existence of RECIFLAVELA. It’s with their help, support and advocacy that the workers now have a clean space to work.

“After a long, hard struggle, finally we can commemorate the fact that we are working in a place worthy of dignity. Now we are certain that we can bring many more families to work with us. We can leave extreme poverty behind us and build human dignity together.”

Learn more about our work in Brazil 


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