Jo Joyner

Charity

Jo Joyner

Being a recognisable face can take some getting used to if you’re secretly a little shy. Luckily for Jo she has found her followers to be a friendly bunch. Being able to shine a light on charities is a great way for Jo to feel that she can use that recognition for the good. Here are some of the charities that Jo works with to help raise awareness, support and recognition.

Awareness = Funding = Research = Hope


Pans Pandas UK

PANS PANDAS UK

Jo is Official Ambassador for this charity raising awareness for children affected by PANS (Paediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) and PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococal) Two conditions that can leave children suffering a range of symptoms such as; OCD, Restricted food intake, anxiety, insomnia and motor or sensory abnormalities sometimes after having what appeared to be just a mild sore throat or case of Covid.

www.panspandasuk.org


Alzheimer's Society

Dementia UK

Jo has worked closely with The Alzheimer’s Society for many years now. Having lost her grandmother to Alzheimers she knows how difficult it can be to live with a loved one who is suffering with dementia.

www.alzheimers.org.uk


Barnardo's

Barnardos

Jo has also helped with campaigns for Barnardos over the years, visiting their young careers projects and launching fundraising appeals such as ‘Spring clean up’ and ‘summer picnic’. As one of the oldest and most established charities for children Barnardos projects reach far and wide within communities in Britain.

www.barnardos.org.uk


CAFOD

CAFOD

In 2015 Jo travelled to Nepal with CAFOD to make a series of short films for GMTV to help raise awareness and funds for the people who had been devastated by the earthquake there. It was a privilege for her to accompany the aid efforts delivering supplies up into the mountains before the monsoon arrived.

To read Jo’s personal diary of her time in Nepal:

blog.cafod.org.uk/2015/08/05/jo-joyners-visit-to-nepal-part-1/
blog.cafod.org.uk/2015/08/06/jo-joyners-visit-to-nepal-part-2/
blog.cafod.org.uk/2015/08/07/jo-joyners-visit-to-nepal-part-3/

Nepal

You can watch one of Jo’s short films fo the Nepal earthquake appeal and video of her talking on Good Morning Britain below.

Brazil

Jo also travelled with Cafod  before the World Cup was to be held, she visited the new stadium in construction and learned about the displacement of local people and the struggles faced by those living in the favelas there.

Landing in Brazil and I’m tired from the sleepless night flight and taking in the atmosphere of a whole new country. Plane journeys are exhausting when you’ve convinced yourself that you’re keeping them in the air with the power of your mind!

Thousands of tower blocks greet us and five-lane traffic is the norm – it’s like ‘Wacky Races’. I decide it’s best not to watch and so I put my faith in our trusty driver and watch the world of São Paulo go by. It’s like I’m watching a film – shiny, fierce, new tower blocks wrapped in ancient tropical trees bring a whole new meaning to concrete jungle! Above the roar of traffic, I can hear birds singing. The juxtapositions and extreme contrasts that São Paulo is home to are evident right from the start.

That afternoon we go straight to interview a well respected journalist from São Paulo at an ‘occupation’ – an hotel or office that has been taken over as housing by a community that previously lived in the sprawling São Paulo favelas. A building has to be vacant and disused for a certain number of years before a community can put in an attempt to occupy it. It takes such a long time and so much organisation that any thoughts I may have had beforehand that I was going to meet opportunistic squatters quickly vanish.

The occupation we are visiting used to be a hotel, named The Lord Hotel. It is now The Lord Occupation. It has a strange ghostly atmosphere, there’s a glimmer of an affluent past in the marble floor of what was once a grand foyer. It is now sectioned off to make room to house more families and the large picture window which once would have flooded the grand entrance with light is now bricked up.

The journalist, born and bred in São Paulo, is eloquent about it all. It is simple to him; the poor are kept down because they’re taxed harder than the rich.

We move on to another occupation to meet Nette. She was homeless and on the streets with her two young children for two years before she first formed an occupation. She now works as a child protection officer whilst also volunteer working with the housing committee to help support families living in the occupations. They are campaigning for the tower blocks to be renovated and made into social housing. The one that she shows us has been deemed structurally sound and purchased by the Government, so in time their campaign will succeed. It’s a huge half victory she says, but it has taken 12 years! Now they need to keep the pressure on so that the work actually gets done.

There are 26 floors and no lift, so priority is usually given on the lowest floors to the elderly, disabled and mothers of the young. The block is dark and very damp at the bottom and gets lighter with less humidity towards the top, so there is a price to pay for not climbing the stairs! These buildings were in their prime 20-30 years ago and have been empty since, so they are as you would imagine, derelict. Only the bare concrete bones of the tower block remain, crumbling and graffiti-ridden, but they are a roof none-the-less. Each floor has around 10 self styled flats housing a family each, often with many children. All 10 families share the landings single toilet.

We meet Christina, a single mother and her two young sons, aged 2 and 8. Like many other women I will go on to meet, she often uses the word dignity. She has hers in heaps: she has a lemonade cart that she has been able to buy because of her place here and sells beer at the weekends.

Like all the women here, she is strong, vibrant and forward thinking and becomes a shadow of herself when asked about the past or what brought her here. She left home with her sister at 11 years old. She tells us the streets were more appealing to her than what was at home…. we don’t press further. She goes to great lengths to tell us that she is clean and that she has never resorted to selling herself, although it is clear that she had been stolen. Looking back is not an option for these women and it is this that drives them forward to create these communities, to strive for a better future for their children. Christina tells me she cannot look at an 11 year old girl now as it makes her realise how tiny and vulnerable she was when she was first on the streets. She is 29 but says she feels twice that because of all that as happened to her.

We then meet a lady whose name translates as ‘Saint of Lost Souls’. She was an abandoned street child, left in a mental hospital as a baby because her parents didn’t want, or maybe didn’t know how, to cope with her mental problems; problems I could see no sign of. She was on the streets for many years with her five children, but says God told her to come to this tower block. She now has a tiny two rooms that she built for herself at the very top of the building. She works as a cleaner and is so proud to tell me that every trinket, picture and carefully cared for object in her home she has paid for herself and owns. She is only able to do this because she is not having to pay rent as she would do in one of São Paulo’s favelas.

She says she is thankful every day for what God and Nette did for her. She tells me that she counts every one of the 462 steps up to the top of the building and, despite being eligible for a lower level flat because of her age, she says: ‘No, on every step I say: Thank you, Lord.’ She also chooses to stay on the top floor where she can see out and breath, and feel like a champion, a fighter, a survivor. She will keep on being one, on top of the world.

When I ask Nette how she feels about the landowners and businesses who own these tower blocks, she says simply, ‘They should be paying taxes for ‘lack of use and contribution.’ – In theory a legal obligation if their building is in the centre of the financial capital and neither being used or maintained. She says if they were paying those taxes, they would be going towards our social housing and we wouldn’t be in such a predicament, so they are part of perpetuating the problem.

The people living here in these occupations all work. There is no denying that there will be sex workers and drug dealers but the majority are cleaners, chamber maids, electricians and carpenters. There are also simple but unbendable rules. For starters, no alcohol and no drugs; of course they’re not stupid – they know not everyone is a saint – but the fact is that if you arrive home to the occupation and are too drunk or drugged up, you are sent away to sleep on the street for the night and given a warning. The third main rule is no violence towards women: a common problem that goes hand in hand with the drugs and alcohol. They all pay a little each towards a porter, so it is easier to maintain the peace and keep the building safe.

Other rules include that every man must have a job, every child must go to school and every woman and man must contribute to maintaining the building. There is a communal kitchen and if you cook there, you must offer food for one and all. If you don’t want to share your food, you go elsewhere to cook it. They run a library and a crèche, and there are shops on each floor where people sell things: cigarettes, lemonade, or food from their flats. It’s all such a simple democracy. When asked who will stay and who will go once it becomes social housing, the answer is easy: the people who have contributed and are good for the community will stay.

One thing all the workers in the building have in common is that they are paying taxes that will go towards hosting next year’s World Cup, and from which they will get no benefit. They won’t get to see a match because of the price of tickets and they fear that any money meant for their re-housing is now going towards building the shiny new Arena Corinthians stadium, where the first match of the tournament will be held next June. They say: ‘with our hard earned money, you are building your FIFA standard stadiums with your FIFA standard grass; we’d like our FIFA standard hospitals and FIFA standard education and homes’

It’s the end of the day, and there has been so much to take in – so many courageous women, strong and active communities. I’m left wondering what tomorrows favelas will be like. Today has been so positive; everyone I met was so happy and grateful for the very little that they have. I say very little – I mean that in a materialistic western way: having no bathroom; no bedroom; a damp, dark concrete 4 square meters that could be taken from them any day.

What they do have though is a wealth of support in their own built community; a positive hope for the future and half a battle won. If this is the good picture after 12 years of fighting I wait with bated breath to see where they came from tomorrow in the favelas.

On our visit to the favelas, we set off early because of the relentless and unpredictable traffic. São Paulo feels a lot like New York and although there are ten lanes of traffic as far as the eye can see and many spaghetti junctions, somehow for the most part the traffic keeps crawling. I do wonder how they will cope with the extra traffic and pressure on public transport that the World Cup will bring though.

We arrive at the first favela – Electropaulo – named after the electricity company who own the land on which its many pylons stand. Weaved amongst the pylons are over 1,000 families in the shacks that make up the favela. They begin at the end of a neighbourhood road; what would be a cul-de-sac turns into a dirt track surrounded by sofas and rubbish and the self-built shacks of corrugated iron, chip board and cement begin.

It is a shock to see fairly normal looking cars driving out of the slums off to work for the day. In fact the contrasts that have become São Paulo’s constant quality to me are something in this case I find bizarre. I realise that I must have thought that the occupants of the slums and favelas would all be dressed in rags, with no shoes, dirty hair and clothes, jobless and hungry. This is not the case at all.

The majority of people I witness here are too proud not to be clean. And it’s just too dangerous for them not to keep a good home; rats, sewage and disease are a true threat and cleanliness is therefore a must. Many of them work long hours as chamber maids, cleaners, at steel works or as part of a co-operative formed within the favela sorting and recycling their own rubbish for what little money they can.

As we sit in our van waiting for the community leader Jose Carlos to come and meet us I am aware that there is a real edge to the favela that I didn’t feel as much in the occupations and I wonder if I am just imagining it because I have been told that it’s dangerous and we must stay in the van or if it is because it is true. Jose arrives. He has been elected by the families of the favela to speak on their behalf and represent them in their battle to be rehoused.

We start our descent into the narrow, dirt tracks of the favela. We pass shady figures with hollow eyes in doorways and glimpse some weathered faces through cracks in the wood. They watch us suspiciously and who can blame them?

Whilst in the occupations, despite hearing of their battles with drugs and violence, their self-policing was so efficient that we saw little sign of it. Here in the favela, it is apparent right from the start. If the eyes truly are the windows to a person’s soul, then ‘Crack’ certainly robs people of them.  There’s nothing quite like the black, chilling stare from someone whose soul is lost to drugs.

Jose tells us that their biggest trouble here is violence from drug trafficking and addiction. Safety is a big issue for the people. The police patrol through the one track at the very top of the favela but no further; they couldn’t get their cars down into them and they wouldn’t risk it. In any case, the many exits from the favela make it impossible to police the drug-running that goes on. When I ask Jose how they get an ambulance down here or a fire truck in an emergency, he tells me that they wouldn’t come anyway.

It is then that I realise that despite the hours I have spent in ten lane traffic here, I have seen only two ambulances in as many days. Considering we are in a city the size of Greater London in which there are around 35,000 deaths of under-25s every year from knife or gun crime – almost 100 young people a day – the lack of ambulances gives a clue to the state of the local health service and the fact that these favelas contain the forgotten people.

The community representatives are trying so hard and fighting to be heard. Jose says that the police patrol driving through the top road makes him happy; he is pleased as it provides some security for them. In contrast, the police are not welcome in the occupations. I am told that if they entered the building they would gain internal knowledge that would make it easier for the residents to be evicted. So they do their own policing.

The occupations also have one door in and the same door out, a porter and a natural limit to the amount of families they can contain. With this comes a safety that the open landscape and relentless growth of a favela does not provide. The number of people in a favela can become too large to maintain the sense of community that is so visible in the occupations.

I meet Rosalie. She has 5 children and unusually she owns her home within the favela which she is still building with bricks and cement. She saves for months and then adds another room or precarious layer. At the moment, the family are living in two rooms and building up; the roof is currently being stored in the front room. She tells me she just wants to finish her house so that her children have something. She is doing it alone and it will take her all her life.

I am surprised to hear that she is a teacher and I later learn that teachers are very poorly paid here and under-respected. People are not prepared to put up with the poor conditions and violence in the class room for such little pay. Incredible. When I ask her what she would like from the government she tells me, ‘Not money, I don’t need free hand outs, I can do that myself, I am working hard. I just want a home to live in, a place I can own so that I have an address and all that comes with that, a start and a place that removes the stigma so that my children can have better jobs.

It is now that I will remind you that São Paulo is home to 12 billionaires and 30,000 millionaires for whom the usual mode of transport is one of the 500 plus helicopters that fly above the city. This is not a ‘third world country’, rather a country that has lost respect for the very people who keep the cogs turning, the workers who are literally and metaphorically building the countries future.  It occurs to me that the minute a government stops paying their ‘key workers’ properly, stops giving them the respect of a decent wage, support and pension.  Then the whole civilisation is in jeopardy.

I also meet Vanderlan a handsome young man who lives in a series of shacks with his extended family which have literally been built around a pylon; his courtyard is the centre of the pylon. He is naturally concerned for his family’s safety; after all, the pylon is probably housing around 400,000 volts. Electrocution, he tells me, is a problem locally! As is the growing rate of cancer that the people of this favela believe is linked to the radiation produced here. I later find that the filming we did in his shack is unusable as there is interference throughout.

My overwhelming feeling about the favelas was that at least half of the people living there are good, honest, hard working people and very many smiling and cared-for children who are somehow managing to maintain the semblance of a normal life. Their fight is not only with their government but also with the drug dealers and addicts who make up the other half of the favela and make it such a scary, unpredictable and sometimes deadly place to live. No wonder Rosalind and so many others wish only for a permanent home somewhere safe to raise their children.

In the afternoon sun, we visit the Corinthians FC Arena São Paulo stadium that is being built to host the first game of next year’s World Cup, when the Brazilian hosts will kick off the tournament in front of 50,000 fans. The cost of the stadium is astronomical and keeps on rising: more than £220 million in total, with more than £100 million required in taxpayer-funded loans in order to get it ready in time.

There is no denying that it is an awesome site and the foreman who shows us round is rightly proud of this huge and modern construction site. I note that Maria, one of our bubbly representatives from the housing committee is extremely excited to be here. She has her photo taken in the stadium and laughs and jokes about all the handsome players soon to perform on this turf.

When I ask her how she feels about the World Cup coming here she says: “Of course, we will welcome all the nationalities and we will celebrate and dance like no others! Brazil is the perfect country to host such games, but our question is – is right now the best time? Should we not be addressing the countries housing crisis, its health issues and education problems first with the money we have and then give us the World Cup and the Olympics.”

We move on from the stadium to one of the new social buildings on the edge of the city. This is one of a few newly-built social tower blocks, the start of an enormous project by the government and at last an attempt to re-house some of its most poverty-stricken families from the most dangerous favelas. We meet families who have been moved from Eletropaulo because the threat of fire was so great and families from other favelas where the flooding of their home with sewage was a regular occurrence.

The first two women I meet have six children each, a husband and grandmother all sharing a shiny new two bedroom flat in this simple, brand new concrete tower block. They could not be happier. It does not compare, they say, to where they were before. Unbelievably, in their rat-infested favela they were paying monthly rent of $500 Brazilian Real (almost £140) – this in a country where the minimum wage is $755 a month.

Here in this relative palace, they pay around $50. So although they now have to pay for their facilities, around another $150, they are way better off than before. It’s a whole new start for them and the thing I hear most that day from the people I meet is that they have been recognised; they can live with dignity and they own something. Each block has its own housing association that meets up weekly.

I meet 70 year old Donna Maria. She lived in a home in a favela which was sliding into a river; she was due to be evicted and left to fend for herself. She joined the local action group and they ensured she was re-housed. She tells me that she has type-1 diabetes, amongst other health issues. When she was in the favela, medical treatment was pretty absent. So she is grateful that they have a medical centre now built nearby the wonderful new apartments. She has been able to make an appointment….for 8 months time.

As we leave the new social housing estate, there is a double security gate. You enter a cage and the porter will only open the exit gate once the one behind you is shut. The only other time I have used one of these was to visit a friend in prison! It’s good for the residents I presume as it helps ensure the crime from the favelas is not able to follow them into their new life.

These new estates remind me of our council blocks at home and I find myself reflecting. I think about how happy, grateful, proud and hardworking my grand-parents’ generation were. How they were similarly happy to be re-housed from the slums of the East End into the first council blocks of our country with their municipal gardens and clean front steps.

I think about how I pass those same blocks now in London and see a pensioner running the gauntlet of some idle and ungrateful teenagers hanging around the barricaded windows, disrespecting their elders and complaining they have nothing to do. It would be desperately sad if in three generations these blocks in São Paulo are in a similar state.

Earlier today, I stood in the favela, surrounded by mud and rubbish, looking at a home built from wood chip and corrugated iron that housed a chambermaid and her 4 children. As far as the eye could see spreading up the hill were thousands more of them and this was just one favela amongst thousands in the city and it all felt pretty hopeless. How can the Brazilian government ever catch up with the deficit in housing that has been allowed to happen? How will these people ever find a voice?

It’s another early start today knowing that the morning drive to the other side of the city in the usual heavy traffic will take as long as…. a piece of string!

Today is Brazil’s National Day of Urban Reform: a recognised day for the people to protest in organised marches across the city about whatever they wish. Many of the community representatives from the occupations and favelas that we have met so far will be here today coordinating their housing movements. There are three main housing movements in the city and we first join FLM in all their red flagged glory as they gather at a designated area.

There is a mobile speakers’ tower that has been wheeled here up the main road with thousands of people marching behind. At last I see that there are men involved in the fight, in their thousands, protesting for a better future for themselves and their families.  Most of the action groups I’ve met to date have been run and lead by women as the men are often more likely to be working full tie.

We presume that the majority of men are self employed so have been able to come today and the women that are here are the mothers of the young and have brought their children with them.  Most others would have to be working today despite their desire to join in. The majority in this sea of people are from the favelas and occupations around the city and the rest are sympathisers and those that are working with the housing community.

Speaker after speaker takes to the tower: mothers, community leaders, people from the housing networks and MPs rallying the troops. Some of the banners read; ‘We don’t want to occupy, we want to live,’ ’Not every fighter will conquer but every conqueror has fought,’ ‘Every Brazilian has the right to decent housing, education and health,’ ‘Give us our FIFA standard hospitals, our FIFA standard education and our FIFA standard homes’ and simply ‘New home, new life.’

It is exhilarating and exciting to be amongst such spirit and passion. Similar to any demonstration I have taken part in at home, there is a thrilling buzz of possibility about it and an encouraging warmth that the power of many people can bring.

The other two housing movements march up the highway in their colours of yellow and blue and the three join together to march into the city with music, drums, dancing, whistles and plenty of spirit. They chant: ‘If you are fighting, then you are alive!’ They think that around 10,000 people were on the march today.

Following the demonstration, we are off to meet with a women’s co-operative. Every occupation or favela we have seen so far has a hard core of women quietly working for a better future and to support each other. A sisterhood of extended family is evident within these communities in a way that is sorely missing from more privileged areas.

Like the ladies in Eletropaulo who formed a recycling co-operative, the three generations of ladies I meet in the Favela Divinea have formed a women’s co-operative of catering. They cook for the community, the church, local residents – whoever requires their services. Each member gets a small wage from it and their aim is to cook delicious and nutritious food with absolutely nothing thrown away.

The enigmatic leader Terezinha – who quite frankly should have her own cooking show – tells me that, like most places, they have issues with obesity, because often the cheapest foods for a family are high in saturated fat and low in nutrition. So teaching the people here to cook well with proper, nutritious and affordable ingredients is key.

The ladies have been waiting for me with pinny, hair net and bated breath and I am put straight to work as Therezinha’s assistant. Watching her theatrical cooking, folding her spinach stalks (nothing thrown away remember), garlic and oil into her perfectly cooked vat of fluffy rice with as much care as a doting mother to her child – this is certainly food that is made with love.

She has the warmest smile and the fiercest laugh and myself and the rest of the group feel so quickly at home. This is the most fun we have had all trip; it feels like Christmas, we’ve been so welcomed by all the women that we feel totally at home. As if all the fabulous salads, courgettes with chilli and garlic, traditional Brazilian rich beans and pumpkin and green rice weren’t enough, Terezinha pulls from the oven the pièce de résistance: a huge, mouth-wateringly perfect rack of pork ribs. I can honestly say I have never tasted ribs like it!

So to fit with our theme of Christmas, we are all groaning, full to bursting, as we begin to wash up altogether like the family that we have become for the afternoon. If only we could sit down and watch the Christmas specials now.

But we are off down the road with Maria to another co-operative in the same favela: a crèche which was set up 30 years ago by Maria and a few other volunteer ladies from the favela in order that the other women of the favela could go to work. It is a free, women-led creation, the likes of which we could quite frankly do with at home.

As a result of local campaigning, the crèche is now subsidised by the government and so the nursery workers from the favela can pull a small wage. It is yet another great triumph and an example of how resourceful the forgotten people of the favelas have been for all these years.

The last experience of my stay in São Paulo is a visit to Vila Flavia, one of the oldest and most established favelas in the city and home to over 2,800 families. Considering that most families we have met have 5 children, a grandmother and two parents, I work out in my head that will be more than 160,000 people.

It feels quite different to the smaller less-developed, more recently created favelas like Eletropaulo. The houses for the most part here are well established, made of bricks, with three or four levels thrown up over the years. I think back to Rosalind in Eletropaulo, building up her own home while hoping desperately to be re-housed outside the favela.

Many of the people in Vila Flavia must have started out the same way, but have remained here for years, like Vera, who is running an unofficial salon from her back room. She is just finishing her beauty therapy course and will be running a fully functioning salon very soon. She has been in her home for 24 years, and now it is her livelihood.

The winding alleys in Vila Flavia are made of concrete rather than mud and the main road through the middle is well used and busy. Despite the hard work of Vera and thousands like her, I can see and feel immediately that the streets and alleys are perfect for those drug dealers trafficking their wares and money in and out of the favela, or wealthier people driving in to buy drugs. As a trade, drug trafficking and dealing this is possibly as well established as the buildings here.

We wait for the community leader and keep close together as we are guided safely to her home. We are visiting this favela as another example of how the people need support and help from the partners funded by CAFOD. As a better established favela, they don’t want to be moved or re-housed; they would like some support to renovate and maintain what they have, and give them permanent rights of tenure over the housing.

As a result of local campaigning, they have recently been ‘recognised’, which means that they are finally on the grid and have been given official and much safer electricity. But because they are still paying their favela rents also, these bills are both a blessing and a bind. If the buildings were to be taken over by the authorities and re-designated as social housing, the rent would be the same as the new tower blocks I visited – a fraction of what they currently pay – and they would have a chance for a better future.

We are taken down the winding paths to the stream that runs through the centre of Vila Flavia, the stream around which the favela was first built because it was the source of all life and which has become today, the very opposite. If the definition of a stream is ‘a flow of fresh water with a steady current’, then a stream it is not. This is more of a long and winding stagnant sewer crossed with a toxic waste swamp.

There is no adequate sanitation for most of the homes in Vila Flavia, no regular waste collection, and no-one in the authorities doing anything about it.

As a result, the ‘stream’ is filled with discarded sofas, mattresses, and human waste; every type of rubbish and stench as far as the eye can see. Walls of past homes are caving into it and a thick, cloudy sinister swirl snakes along the top. A child hangs his legs over the edge of the wasteland and waves to our camera; this is where he and his friends play. A man slinks past us with a homemade bucket from a huge paint can and slings his day’s human waste over the edge.

When it rains, the ‘stream’ at the bottom of the 30ft drop rises to flood levels above our heads we are told. That means that at least three of the five floors of the favela homes I can see on the down slope opposite are regularly flooded with this hell. That must be why – despite how dangerous it is with no foundations – they have still built up five levels!

In one of the buildings opposite, I see a hole in the bricks where a window would be in any other building. In the pitch black, I can make out a small child standing still in a light-coloured baby grow watching us back. She doesn’t move. I dread to think about it raining with her still standing there. The five floors slapped together above her head look like they could crumble on her any second if the sewage didn’t drown her first. I wonder if she is a ghost.

It’s the end of my visit, and I’m asked by the camera crew to quickly sum up my feelings. Sum it up? Quickly? I fail miserably and ramble something I hope will sound vaguely positive.

The truth is it is overwhelming, the housing crisis and the appalling poverty I have seen here in São Paulo. I have had an incredible trip and met some truly inspirational people. I feel I have witnessed some small but mighty victories of a housing revolution that needs to happen.

I should add that I have never eaten so much in all my days! Every family we have met, and every woman who has opened her doors to us, has laid on a full spread of fruits, cakes, breads and coffees.

I feel relieved that all the children we have met have been cheeky and chatty, have clearly been looking out for one another and have a healthy respect for their elders – their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and the whole community – by whom they are greatly adored, well fed and well cared for.

I am not being naive: the children have been wiser and more wary than they should be at their age, guarded to begin with and not as clean and cosy as you would wish upon them.

For the most part though, I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn about the other side of Brazil, to meet the partners that CAFOD is supporting out here, but most of all, to meet those in the favelas and occupations who they are helping to organise themselves. I have been fully in awe at the female co-operatives, the community leaders, and the housing networks.

The strength of these people who are clinging on to the community that they have, who are fighting with every fibre of their being to be recognised, to be heard, and to be supported, all for a better future for their children, and most of all – to live dignified lives.