For many years, WDR has worked closely with Christian Aid Ireland to learn from each other, as well as co-funding two development partners. In today’s blog, Deborah Doherty, Head of Church Partnerships at Christian Aid Ireland, shares about her recent visit to Brazil.
“I need to listen but not absorb, as each one has her own story. I can be sympathetic but I need to remember: it is not my story.” Reverend Elineide Ferreira
Reverend Elineide Ferreira looks much younger than her 32 years. Slim and petite dressed in fashionably torn jeans and cotton tee shirt, she greets us with great warmth and welcomes us into a place that is like her second home.
This second home is set on a very anonymous street that looks like any other street in the town of Ariquemes in the state of Rondonia, Brazil. It is surrounded by a high wall, flanked by tall metal gates with barbed wire on top. Security cameras are subtly placed both at the front and rear of the building. This is Casa Noeli – a safe house for women in the town who suffer violent abuse.
Since the safe house started its outreach in 2011 more than 1500 women and their children have found refuge behind those gates. Accommodation is basic, with bedding and clothing donated by the local churches. Bunk beds and cots are squeezed into the bedrooms and boxes of toys are in the living area. The kitchen is large and the cupboards are always stocked with dried foods such as rice, beans and flour because no one knows in advance when a woman and her family will arrive.
When women and their children move into the house they are encouraged to keep the house rules and maintain a routine to help their children through this traumatic change in their lives. Elineide ensures the children go to school and accompanies the mothers back to their homes to collect essential clothing or to get access to a bank account. A psychologist and children’s worker are available at the house so that women can take time out and get professional help to support them emotionally whilst knowing their children are safe and cared for.
Together with the Church, Christian Aid has been supporting the work of the safe house since its early days, but much of the work is also to liaise with the government services. The safe house is a vital bridge between the church and society.
Elineide’s mobile phone is never switched off. She can be called at any time of the day or night to meet a woman in distress or to collect someone from the police station or hospital. She can only do this because she has the love and support of her husband, her daughter and her extended family, but hearing the horrific stories of abuse many women have shared with her can take its toll.
I asked Elineide where she gets her emotional and physical strength and immediately her face lights up and she says: “My faith is my strength. God has given me a gift that people feel they can talk to me, they feel safe to share their pain. I’ve talked to God about this gift, but I accept it, I feel this is the call God has given me to serve people here.”
The church hopes also to work with the men in the community, using activities to tackle the problem that gender based violence is seen as culturally acceptable in Latin America. Every year in Brazil 5000 women are murdered by a family member and that is a shocking statistic which could and should be eradicated.
Please pray … for the Church in Ariquemes, the staff and volunteers at the Casa Noeli safe house and all those who face both emotional and physical abuse.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog, the Women’s Aid helpline is free and available to both men and women:-
Northern Ireland: 0808 802 1414
Rep. of Ireland: 1800 341 900