Brazilian Beach Community Thrives on Faith, Cooperation and Ingenuity
March 1, 2015
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek him shall praise the Lord...
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord;
And all of the families of the nations shall worship before him.
Beach Community Thrives on Faith, Cooperation and Ingenuity
Thirty-three impoverished families in the tiny coastal settlement of Maceió, Brazil, rely on algae harvesting and fishing for financial sustenance. Maceió is a Christian Base Community — a group of families that, by living and working together in accordance with the Gospel, liberate themselves from exploitation and minimizing effects of poverty.
Algae harvesters in northeastern Brazil gather around one of their cooperatively-owned fishing boats.
For the past fifty years, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have empowered the people of Maceió through Bible study, community organizing, educational programs, financial assistance and business savvy. Establishing cooperatives such as the Association of Cultivators of Algae of Maceió (otherwise known as "ACALMA") is part of the Sisters' strategy to help indigenous peoples prevent developers from seizing their rightful lands.
The Lace Makers of Brazil
Women in Brazil have been tatting or making lace for centuries. Before the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur helped the women of Maceió organize a cooperative, individuals sold their lace for a pittance to intermediary buyers. The intermediaries would then transport the women's handwork to city markets and export it overseas at an astronomical markup — keeping all profits for themselves. The women's lace cooperative is now an autonomous organization, no longer relying on the Sisters' help.
The Maceió lace makers carry their threads, pins, bobbins and pillows to the beach, where they create their wares while guarding their community land from developers. As long as the community occupies its designated area on the beach, no one may trespass or seize the land for development. This means round-the-clock vigilance.
The market-ready packages of dried algae include a logo of a fishing boat, made of lace, sailing atop lace-like waves. The design weaves together Maceió's three main industries of fishing, algae harvesting and lace making. When systems and safeguards are in place so that impoverished people are valued and encouraged to participate in our larger sphere of economies, the entire world is stronger.
Join with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and help us empower others in finding their voice and living their hope.
O God, you desire that all people should eat and be satisfied. As we follow Jesus and we are transformed by his Resurrection, may we live in a way that all may share in your bounty.
St. Julie Billiart: "Never be discouraged if your good resolutions do not have all the good results you desire."