… “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel” … We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them. (EG 48)
When looking at realities that surround us now, we are experiencing new forms of poverty that, as heirs of St. Vincent, we try to respond to with creativity and boldness.
In Curitiba and the metropolitan region, in our comings and goings, in our home visits, institutional visits, and informal meetings, we have been deeply touched by the situation of people in extreme vulnerability and risk. In our closeness with them, we shared hope for better days. Whether in persons living in tents, on the streets, on the peripheries, in prison, or in improvised housing in squatter settlements, we rediscovered hearts totally open to welcome the new; to reinvent and to start over despite countless obstacles and difficulties in their lives.
The harsh punishments inflicted by poverty, aggravated by the current health situation, violence, and the notorious social inequalities perpetuated in our country, push us to continue, with determination, the journey we have started with those with whom we share our lives, our faith, and our dreams. Who are they? They are men and women living on the streets, those struggling for housing in squatter settlements, the unemployed, women deprived of freedom, migrants; in short, adults, young people, and adolescents who are vulnerable and/or exposed to various social risks, victims of discrimination, and those whose dignity has been damaged.
Under the support and subsidy of the Missions Project coming from our Mother House, in addition to aid from the Province of Curitiba and the active participation of the Sisters from five local communities, we saw an opportunity to go beyond the emergency care of the people we accompany, and invest in new learning and reflections as well as in community participation.
Based on the interest and needs expressed by the people who spontaneously sought to participate in previously formed groups, course proposals were set up aimed at the acquisition of new knowledge, improvement in socialization, an experience of solidarity, and the possibility of generating income. The on-site courses offered have had and continue to have good enrollment because they take place where the interested population is.
The focus of learning or training is directed towards several areas: personal care, hairdressing, manicure and pedicure courses; facial aesthetics and make-up were also made available with new techniques and trends. Other practical training such as domestic service, baking, cooking, sewing, fabric painting, and music and arts workshops also have their place, as these respond to the interest expressed by a good number of participants, mostly women.
At the end of each course, a certificate of participation and a celebratory event bring all the groups together to celebrate and internalize the experiences lived together.
The stories, full of gratitude, are sincere testimonies of transformed lives and of strengthened community bonding which confirm that the goals were reached. Paraphrasing the Saint of Charity, St. Vincent de Paul, all of us, friends, course participants, collaborators, supporters, and the Sisters directly and indirectly involved in this initiative say: Blessed be to God, sons and daughters!
Cleonice Regina Claudino and Sr. Vanilza Maria Bueno
(For the Project Coordination Team)