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December 2021 newsletter

 

Joanne Blaney, Brazil

Joanne Blaney during a small-group session at the recent restorative justice training with maximum-security prison inmates in Rondônia.

Dear family and friends,

I am writing to you with gratitude for your prayers and ongoing support for my mission here in Brazil. Please know that you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers during this Christmas season. I am well, but, as you know, Brazil has suffered a lot through the pandemic.

More recently, the health situation has improved since vaccines are more available. However, the political, social and economic situation is horrible. We hope and pray that, with elections in 2022, the situation will improve.

Joanne leads a workshop session on conflict resolution.

The solidarity and sense of community that I experience in my neighborhood and ministries continue to be strong—we are struggling together and working to change unjust structures, in spite of all the obstacles. I feel truly blessed to be here. As we celebrate Paulo Freire’s 100th anniversary, more than ever we are committed to collective actions and “esperançar” — active hope!

During 2020 and 2021, some of us from the Human Rights and Popular Education Center (CDHEP) in São Paulo worked with the staff and judges in 10 state central courthouses throughout Brazil to train them in restorative justice practices. Our training focused on dealing with collective responsibility — especially in regards to dealing with the structural injustices that lead to mass incarceration and violence. Each of these 10 tribunals now has a Restorative Justice Center that is working to stem the tide of the penal system and trying to restore people and relationships.

I just returned from giving a course to 43 folks in the northwestern state of Rondônia, 23 of whom are men in a maximum security prison in the Amazon area. We trained them in community restorative justice to enable them to mediate conflicts in prison, and once free, in the community. It was an incredible experience of sharing life experiences and learning together. We are working with some of the men to facilitate their meeting the families of the victims of their crimes to do a restorative justice process.

Joanne (right) and fellow volunteers from Rede Rua distribute meals in the streets of São Paulo.

Unfortunately, hunger and homelessness continue to rise in São Paulo. The number of people sleeping in the streets of the city is said to have tripled since 2019. I help at the Street Network Project that serves up to 800 meals a day and provides health, art and educational activities to those who are in situations of homelessness.

Marilia is an example of someone who has benefitted from this project. She went to the streets at age 13 because of a situation of extreme abuse in her home.

In her words, “being on the street is hard because of the cold, rain, and sometimes conflicts, but it is much better than my life had been at home. I’m not that mean anymore or so afraid. I have some friends here in this project and feel like this is my community. I am learning. I just want to go back to school, get a job and have a real family someday.” She celebrated her first real birthday with folks in the project. Today she is training as a volunteer.

Thank you for your generous contributions that help so many and enable us to continue. We would love to hire more facilitators at CDHEP so that we can meet the needs of the community. With your donations, we’ve been able to pay transportation costs for the volunteers who help at the Street Network project. We are trying right now to respond to the influx of the many older women and young mothers living on the street with their children while pressuring the city government for services.

May the true Spirit of Christmas shine in our hearts and light our paths. May we continue to be united in building community and a more just and peaceful world.

Christmas joys to you and your family.

Love,
Joanne


I am so grateful for your continuing support of my ministry. During this season of giving, I would like to urge you to consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign. This new campaign raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us.

A group of donors has already pledged to match the dollars raised by this campaign 2-to-1. That means that every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. This campaign will ensure that Maryknoll Lay Missioners will be able to continue to send and to support missioners like me in the years to come. Please pray for the success of this campaign and if you can, please donate at the “Walk With Us” button below. 

 

Joanne Blaney Joanne Blaney
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 1991, Joanne works in restorative justice, violence prevention and popular education at the Popular Education and Human Rights Center in São Paulo, Brazil. She also serves as Maryknoll Lay Missioners' regional director for Brazil.