Fr Poraig shows off his solar oven.

As you can see, it’s been so long since I created a post, I’m having problems remembering how to edit an image. Never mind. This will be my farewell post and the photo still serves the purpose I want it for.

It’s been over two weeks since our return from Sao Paulo, and still I am having trouble aclimatising. When I said this to someone recently, they thought I meant adapting from the heat of the Brazilian early summer to early winter here in Notingham. But actually I meant aclimatising to the rat-race that all of our lives are a part of and to the high expectations we can sometimes  have of our standards of living, and how miserable it makes us when we struggle to achieve them.  In Sao Paulo, everyone we met who was benefitting from the work of APOIO and MDF had so very much less than us, and aspired simply to a having a safe place to live and being able to lead a dignified life. And yet, never were we met with miserable faces or complaints and grumbles. Instead we were immersed in an atmosphere of hope, gratitude, and solidarity. And it is the very lack of this atmosphere that I am having to acclimatise to now I’m home.

Back in Nottingham, London, Liverpool and Hexham, our minds turn towards the winter and the coming problem of paying our heating bills. Many people living in  houses in my part of Nottingham have taken advantage of schemes to install solar panels on their rooves. On a bright cold day like today , when their panels were soaking up all that sun, my thoughts turned once again to Fr Poraig Leonard of the Spiritan Fathers and his wonderful solar oven. He acquired the instructions at an eco conference in Rio some years ago and was happy to show us the simplicity of the device which cooks wonderful stews out on the tearrace in the sun.  Solar eating, rather than solar heating! We might not get enough days of lenghthy sun here in the UK, but if you are interested in the instructions for the oven CAFOD will be translating them from Portuguese in the New Year. Please contact me, Louise Cooke, on  if you are interested in an English version of the instructions.

As many of you know, I had a nasty fall near the end of our time in Brazil, which caused a bad injury to my back and I’ve been off recovering since our return. So apologies to those who have been waiting for this final post.  However, the enforced time ‘off’ has given me chance to try to come to terms with all the many people I met in just 12 days, the experiences we shared, and the paradoxes we encountered. Not least of these paradoxes was the fact that at the same time that we felt immersed in an atmosphere of hope, gratitude and solidarity the city of Sao Paulo was immersed in a bloody running battle between police and suspected drug traffickers which raged every night of our trip and claimed well over 100 lives in those 12 days.  The warmth of the welcome and extraordinarily generous hospitality that the team of Spiritan Fathers gave us counteracted the danger of the city. And far from feeling a sense of loss as we set off for the long journey home, I ,for one,  felt uplifted, inspired, educated, encouraged and loved.  And God willing, I will return to Sao Paulo one day to build on all those experiences and add my own efforts to the struggle for a safe and dignified life.Thank you CAFOD, for the leadership and organisation which took us there. And thank you all those many people in the Diocese of Nottingham, who made it possible for me to go.   Até!  See you.


Rob cooking ´O escondidinho´.

Thursday started with another outing for Robin Hood; this time in the creche at Divineia- a real flagship success story for MDF.  After some more fun and singing with the children, Robin was left behind to be used by Rosi, creche worker who teaches English to the children from time to time. Now she has someone to help her!  Staff were also delighted to receive messages and photos from Our Lady´s mother and toddler group, as well as the children from Our lady´s School. Their eyes lit up when they saw the gift of pencils and crayons! In the afternoon our group went on to share recipies and cook with Teresinha and the ladies of Comunidade Moseis. Rob, James and Sarah shared  Shepherds Pie, which it turns out exists in Brazil as o escondidinho or ´The Little Hidden One´. Joelle created Apple Crumble and I baked a cake made with cold tea.   Much tasting and discussion followed and swapping of recipies.   Why not try Teresinha´s recipie for bread below:

Herb Bread from Brazil

240 ml of fermented milk
3 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
240 ml of oil
2 level desert spoons of sugar
1 level desert spoon of salt (14g)
3 eggs
45 g of fresh yeast
1 bunch of parsley and chives (180 g)
3 sprigs of fresh basil (20g)
1 bunch of rosemary
2 teaspoons of oregano
About 1 kg of wheat flour (until it reaches the right consistency)
1 egg yolk mixed with sieved coffee to glaze the bread
Beat in a liquidiser the fermented milk, onions and garlic and leave to warm.
Add theoil, the sugar, salt, eggs, baking powder, parsleyandchives,basil, rosemaryandoregano. Pourinto a bowland addthe flourgradually, stirringwith aspoon.
When it getshard tomove, transferthe dough toa tablesprinkled withflourand continueaddingand incorporatingflourfrom the sidestowardsthe centreuntilitis smoothand consistent and no longersticks to your hands.Be careful not to add too much flour as it could make the dough hard.
Make a ball with the whole dough.Put it in a bowl with a lid and leave it until it doubles in size.
Knead the dough again to take out the air.
Make buns in the form of little balls and put them next to each other in a large baking tray, greased with margarine.
Glaze them with egg yolk and sieved coffee powder and leave them to rise for about 5 minutes.
Bake in the oven on a low temperature and increase to a medium heat just before starting to brown.
23 portions

Creche staff receiving gifts from Our Lady´s Church and School.

James gives out Christmas cards from Liverpool Diocese.

“Hello. My name is Robin Hood.”

Children in the creche of Vila Prudente favela were delighted to get a visit from Robin Hood, coutesy of the mother and toddler group of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Bulwell.  He taught the children how to say what their name is in English and also a song. Marching around the room the children very quickly were confidently joining in with “My name is Robin Hood (x3), and I am very good.”  Later some could be heard as they went off to other activities in the creche still singing! Not to mention the rest of our group, who´ve had it stuck in their heads all week!

Singing the song and marching along!

All photos courtesy of Joelle Hernandez.

A home at Electro Paulo

Just metres from the largest retail park in South America lies the favella of Electro Paulo.  The shoping centre has pillars around the entrance to each shop; the entrance to many homes in Electro Paulo is formed by part of an electricity pylon.  In this place lives Fatma, 57, whose simple home of timber is neat and tidy and lies the other side of a stream full of rubbish. Her greatest fear of waking to a flooded home whenever it rains has been aleviated since the main living area was raised up on to stilts. “Now,” she says “I can go to bed happy, knowing that I won´t wake up to a home full of water and dead rats if it rains in the night.”  APOIO have campaigned to have her raised to the top of the councils list for new housing. “When you come next time,” she told us, “I will be in my new home”.   Residents here fear the sparks from the pylons when it rains and suffer skin problems, as well as risk of radiation poisoning. Yet, within these conditions we found hope, happiness and employment, hearing about the 50 women who through the support of APOIO, work in the recycling project with rubbish from across the city.

Just 200 metres from the entrance to the favella we found another example of how APOIO have helped improve peoples lives in the home of Wilma, former resident of Electro Paulo.  Through a supported scheme she now lives in a two bedroomed house with her son and she chatted happily to us about the prayer groups she runs in peoples homes and the importance of the Bible as support for her life. Outside it was thought provoking to find the same crops growing as I have in the summer back in Nottingham: courgettes, fennel, mint. This made our lives seem so similar and brought home once again that we, as fellow humans, all deserve the right to a dignified life. I have the fortune to live mine in Nottingham, whilst the residents we met today feel that they too have fortune to be able to live with hope and expectation thanks to APOIO´s unceasing campaigning.

The lives of Fatma and Wilma, each in their own way left me with a overpowering sense of hope for the future, not only for their own lives but also for all those who are supported in so many different ways by APOIO.  A short post on a blog could never do justice to the range of situations in which APOIO work, or the intricate depth that their support goes into; assuring that by working in partnership with people who want a more dignified life their help is truly life-transforming and sustainable. Louise Cooke

All photos courtesy of Joelle Hernandez.

Osmar of APOIO answering our many questions in Electro Paulo

Fatma in her flood-free living room

At home with Fatma.

At home with Wilma.

Reading the first reading in Portuguese

“We are all saints.” That was the theme of the sermon at Mass in Divineia on Sunday 4th November. And we visitors from England were certainly made to feel a bit saintly by our  overwhelming reception from the Divineia families. I´ve rarely felt so connected to a congregation or emotionally and spiritually charged as I did in this Mass in a foreign language. Why? Because the actions of the people, their embraces, their sharing of so many parts of the liturgy with us, the blessing they gave us all made me feel as though we truly are the Body of Christ. Just as we become the Body of Christ by receiving it at Mass , so we were all transformed by receiving each others love, each others stories not only at Mass but for our whole day in Divineia. Through the simple sharting of food and the act of listening it really felt as though our communities were one.

The few hours spent is peoples homes 6000 miles away from our own were so special. Through spontaneous sharing of simple activities – throwing a ball with children, washing the pots, sharing expereinces as well as delicious food – I felt that we were expressing that we are all humans on God´s earth, sharing a common desire to see dignity in each others lives.

The gift of shortbread from the Wednesday lunch group at Our Lady of perpetual Succour Church, Bulwell, alongside photos of that group, triggered a conversation about workshops and community groups. Joceli shared her skills at creating practical but artistic containers from recycled materials, working with vulnerable women. Zeza shared the communities plans for an allottment if the local governament grant permission for them to use a rough patch of unused land for this purpose. Along with Teresina and Maria, they stowed away their gifts of food to be savoured at leisure another day, and I too stowed away the emotions of that moment, also to be savoured for many other days. And just liike food, I will be sharing those experiences with others to nourish them with the inspiration and motivation with which we had all been fed.

For me personally a totally spontaneous circumstance also helped the two communities of Bulwell/Bestwood Park and Divineia together in my mind and heart. Attending the vigil Mass on the eve of All Saints at home and praying for a fruitful trip, I was aked to omit the first reading and read only the second. In Divineia, just 4 days later, when all saints was celebrated at the sunday Mass, I was asked in a mad moment by Sarah to read in her place –  the first reading. In Portuguese! I gave it my best shot, without anyone knowing that in so doing I felt I was truly linking our two communities. It was like two halves of the same loaf of bread coming together for me in those two readings, and it set the mood perfectly for me all the other activities which followed after Mass. The first and second readings need each other to become the liturgy of the Word in Sunday Mass, and the UK and Sao Paulo communities need each other to become one in our stuggle for the right for a dignified way of living.

Maristely and representatives from the families at Mass received our photos and messages of support and then proceeded to teach us a song in the catechism traing which followed. “Eu confio en nosso Senhor, con fe, esperanca e amor”: I trust in Our Lord, with faith , hope and love. Her song was just one of the many gifts we received that day, and all of the inspired faith, hope and love in us, so we can share those same gifts with others.

All photos courtesy of Joelle Hernandez.


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Occupation Hotel Lord, Sao Paulo, Santa Cecilia

Sarah described Saturday as sticking our toe in the water, and looking back 24 hours later, that’s a really good description.

Osmar and Andre picked us up in the morning and took us into the centre of Sao Paulo to visit 3 occupations, including a new one pictured at Hotel Lord in Santa Cecilia. 

Osmar showing food stock for the occupation in Lord Hotel

The people have only been there 6 days and we were shown the kitchens, where the women prepare food for the whole community of around 170 families, using leftover, unsold food from markets as well as donated food.   

Another was in a disused cinema, where temporary wooden ‘houses’ had been built to house people who had previously been homeless or lived in even worse, at risk conditions. Seeing these “houses” was for me the most memorable part of the day. I could not believe the real joy I felt amongst those families. When talking to these people, I discovered how happy they were to be living somewhere that none of us could ever consider a home.  That same evening when we shared our thoughts about the day, this is what struck me. I was shocked and distressed although for these people their new “home” meant hope for the future.    

William is really happy after looking at all his cards and messages

In the afternoon, we spent some time with Neti over at Maua, one of the Connect 2 communities where we were able to give her messages of support from our own communities; take a tour of the building and spend time talking to Raquel and William.  

The photo in yesterdays post shows Neti receiving messages from Louise in Maua, in front of a slogan which translates into “We are one”.




Sharing messages of support from Our Lady of perpetual Succour and Infant of Prague with Neti.

To talk about all the many places we have been today and the people we have met without uploading photos would be so frustrating, both for me to write and you to read!!   We are having some problems uploading photos, so will try with a different laptop tomorrow.  After nearly a whole day spent on tour with Osmar from APOIO, being bowled over by his enthusiasm and then getting to chat a little with Neti at Maua and pass on our photos to her, I really want to do the day more justice in the blog than we can at the moment!! Guess it will just have to wait for tomorrow, when we will also have news from Divineia!

Ate logo.


We all arrived safely today, after an hours delay on the flight from Paris. We were picked up at the airport by Sueli of MDF and driven to the suburb of Belem, home of Fr Michael O Looney of the Spiritan Fathers. A lovely welcome awaited us after what for some of us had been 24 hours of travelling. A belated buffet breakfast was all prepared, and the welcome committee consisted of Fr Michael, Fr Maurice and Andres, also of MDF. We all shared some time together before getting down to the business of planning in the finer details of the coming days. After a short siesta, we explored the local area to begin to get our bearings and try out our Portuguese, buying passes for the underground, which we will be using on several days.   Fr Michel meanwhile was busily preparing us a delicious welcome dinner. Fr Hugh joined us for this, as we will be spending time with him also at a fundraising event before the end of our trip. After which all of us have collapsed into a much needed rest, as our extremely busy schedule begins in earnest tomorrow.

Ok ok, so it really does work!! If you are reading this and would like to know more about exactly where in Sao Paulo we will be going, why we are going there and who we will be spending time with, all of this information can be found on CAFOD’s own blogsite for Connect 2 Brazil which is    That’s the place to find some photos of the communities of Mauá and Divineia, some of the people who live there and lots of personal profiles. It has really whetted my apetite for the trip, and hopefully it will whet your apetite too, for following our posts on this blog you are reading now throughout our stay in Sao Paulo!

In addition to representing my parish in our Connect 2 link with the Sao Paulo communities, (see my previous post), I have an added dimension to the trip. In June I began working as the Justice and Peace Fieldworker for Nottingham Diocese, and the Justice and Peace Commission has supported me in my application to make this trip. Their hope, and mine, is that my expereinces will inform and enrich my activities once back in the Diocese and will enable me to inspire others with the lessons learnt about community organising in the fight against injustice; the role of The Church in social action, and the impact of living in solidarity with others.   With this in mind an appeal was made for donations towards the cost of the trip and the Commission and myself have been overwhelmed with the repsonse.  So once again, if you have not already received my personal thanks, muito obrigada!  My thanks also goes to my employers, NRCDT, who have also made this trip possible with their financial contribution.   I’m really looking forward to giving presentations wherever requested following our return.

That’s all for now.  No more formal speeches I promise!!  Still waiting for James and Rob……………       Até logo!                       Louise

I don’t know what I am more shocked about: the fact that I am about to travel to Sao Paulo with CAFOD or…. the fact that I have managed to create a blog!!  I’ll believe it when I actually see it working!!   James from Liverpool Diocese; Rob from Hexham & Newcastle Diocese; and Joelle and Sarah from CAFOD….. if you find this to actually be working please do add your thoughts!

Me? I’m Louise Cooke, from Nottingham Diocese. The parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Bulwell, Nottingham to be precise. This will be the first time I have undertaken a trip of this kind, and each day over the last few weeks I have wavered between extreme fear and extreme excitement. Todays’ emotion is excitement, especially now that I am writing this!  I will leave out our reasons for the visit for tonight. Partly because I need to get as much sleep as I can before Thursdays flight out via Paris, and partly to give my fellow travellers something to add. Go for it guys!! Até logo!