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Casa Abba Project Blog

Casa Semear Blog

This blog is writen by various people as they volunteer and work in Casa Semear in Sao Paulo Brazil.

Where the money goes

2014 Craig Posted on Tue, September 30, 2014 12:31:25

In addition
to the very much needed actual hands on help from volunteers, another key
benefit of support for Casa Semear is the funds raised by the people
volunteering which is then either transferred or taken to Brazil for use in a
multitude of ways by Robert and Silvana for either the running of the kids club
or the renovation of the property.

Over the
many years that I have been involved, I have seen many different levels of
financial support transferred which have then allowed various projects or items
of work to be started or indeed finished. Financial support is an ongoing
requirement whether volunteers are in Brazil or not. So while high levels of
financial support are generally associated with large teams of volunteers
travelling to Brazil, ongoing fundraising between visits is just as important.

The photos
above show a selection of things that were purchased using funds raised or
donated by many generous individuals that I was then able to take with me to
Brazil. While the majority of funds have been transferred directly to ABBA it
was the funds available locally that allowed the daily work to continue.

purchased during my time in Sao Paulo included among other things:

materials and tools such as multiple loads of bags of sand, Cal and cement,
tins of paint and varnish, paint brushes, a hack saw, electric drills,
screwdrivers, individual bricks and large quantities of construction blocks.

equipment like paper, printer cartridges, batteries and a microphone.

materials including colouring books, pens and pencils, stickers and art

equipment like footballs and football pumps, a table tennis net, bats and
balls, goalie gloves.

new window and door for the kitchen.

new kitchen tap including filter and a shower curtain and rail.

volunteers, often what we might think is needed for the benefit of Casa Semear
and the children is not the priority, so it is important to understand that
Robert and Silvana are the only ones best placed to determine exactly when and
where funds should be spent.

During many
fundraising events I have heard the phrase used “every penny counts”. Never was
there a truer saying. Especially in light of the seemingly ever increasing
costs of everything in Brazil. This year while living in Sao Paulo I witnessed
costs on some items at roughly 4 times the cost of the UK. With families
already struggling to get by what chance do they have with such escalating

Finally I
would just like to say once again THANK YOU to all who have given so generously
for the benefit of others including the less fortunate children and families
served by Casa Semear.


2014 Craig Posted on Wed, September 24, 2014 13:40:30

– BEFORE – left to right – Window and Door

– AFTER – left to right – Door and Window

The main
large kitchen on the basement level of Casa Semear is the next big project.

I realised
this as soon as we had repaired the hole under the kitchen floor. In the grand
scheme of things it makes perfect sense for this to be the case as regularly
catering for the high volume of children as well as regular Casa Semear team
meetings and visiting groups means facilities larger than Dora’s own kitchen in
her flat are needed.

If you come
to Casa Semear hoping to be able to complete all the jobs you think you will,
then be prepared to be disappointed. I have come to realise that often work
started by one group or individual has to be left in the understanding that the
next group following on will be able to continue or maybe even finish what you

The kitchen
is such a project and in order to do it correctly, a high level of preparatory
work is necessary. This may be jobs like the hole under the floor, or the
running of water, drainage or gas pipes either in walls or below floors and of
course the electrical cables to where sockets and lights are going to be.

Once Robert
had chosen the preferred design, what we realised was, that yet another job had
to be done first. This was the fact that we wanted the door to be where the
window was and the window to be where the door was. Crazy you might think, but
I assure you it did make a huge difference to both the layout and indeed the
functional use of the space.

While I
realised the Kitchen project was a long, long way from completion, I started to
think that the swapping of the door and window locations was do-able before I
left Sao Paulo. With of course the skills of Snr Luis the builder.

The photos
above are a snap shot of that work and more pictures of the kitchen works are available in the photo
gallery here

While funds
I had with me were able to pay for the materials necessary to do this work,
amazingly a business man friend of Casa Semear has agreed to foot the bill for
the fit out of the kitchen. Not only that, but he wanted only the best in terms
of marble worktops and even an industrial oven in addition to the normal oven
with a vision that maybe Casa Semear could even make their own bread.

With already
the idea that this kitchen could be used for cooking classes, hence the
inclusion of a central island in the design around which people can gather, you
start to understand that real change in the lives of the community could be

As I left
Casa Semear and Sao Paulo it is in the knowledge that the work on the kitchen
will continue exactly as we have planned after I have left. I’m sure that many
others will be involved before its finished, and I trust that once complete, we
will all see the photos of the final result. Ultimately I’m sure that at some
point in the future I will return and hopefully be able to see the kitchen in
use for myself.


2014 Craig Posted on Sun, September 14, 2014 09:25:40

The Pan
American Christian Academy or PACA for short was originally set up some 50
years ago to provide schooling and education for the families of the many
missionaries in Sao Paulo. Wrongly I had assumed it was part of some larger
global organisation but in fact it’s a one off organisation in Sao Paulo. With
only around 340 students a year being enrolled the student to faculty ratio is
around 10 : 1 with students coming from all nationalities reflecting the makeup
of the community of Sao Paulo.

As the child
of missionary parents, Robert Meikle attended PACA himself and benefited first
hand from its very high level of academic education while also receiving a
Bible focused Christian education as well.

Although not
always the case, Robert and Silvana’s two boys (Rafael and Vinicius) now
themselves attend PACA. This was something previously thought of as beyond the
reach of the family budget but there attendance at PACA was viewed favourably
and financial allowances were made. Marianne, Robert and Silvana’s daughter and
third child will also be attending PACA soon, when she is aged to do so. Once
there they are in good company as many of the families within ABBA also have
children at PACA.

Having been
hearing stories about the school for a number of years now, I had never had the
opportunity to visit until recently. Part of Roberts day generally between kids
clubs is to go and pick up the children from school. On one of these occasions
I accompanied him and was given the tour as well.

As you will
see from the photos above it’s a stunning location with beautifully maintained
gardens and open spaces. It actually didn’t feel to me like a school
environment at all. With indoor and outdoor sports facilities and a swimming
pool the benefits are obvious. The Meikle family have once again been blessed
that their children will be educated in such a Christian environment, the same
one there father attended before them.

But PACA has
become so much more, in terms of benefits for both Casa Semear and ABBA in
general. With such a generally small school you find that everyone knows
everyone and this leads to a close knit community of parents mutually
interested in each other lives. Through the contact with the school many new personal
relationships have proved fruitful both in terms of contacts with other
missionaries also working in the area and also by the generosity of some of the
Christian business men who have generously supported the work at Casa Semear.

The most
recent example of this, is the main kitchen at Casa Semear which was started while
I was in Brazil. Very generously through a contact at PACA the whole kitchen
installation, including appliances, cupboards, marble worktops, tiles and
labour is being paid for. Estimates based on the proposed design have been
drawn up already and finances are due to be received shortly.

For more
information check out PACA online at


2014 Craig Posted on Sat, September 13, 2014 12:59:24

I have
briefly mentioned this before but now I will tell you a bit more about this new
Abba project.

Volkart, Ben Krause and Adrian Scheidegger are all qualified joiners and
cabinet makers from Switzerland and Canada and are also Abba missionaries.

Mike was
involved in setting up Casa Elohim some twenty years ago, Ben operates his own
programme called “Formigas” within the largest Sao Paulo centre
favela called “Americanopolis”, and Adrian has joined them for two
years specifically for this project.

they are currently in the process of creating a formal business called Solido,
which will not only supply all kinds of wooden furniture, cabinets and cupboards, but will take local youth
and train them with the skills necessary to take an active part in the

formalities and legal paperwork alone would put anyone off, but the team are
dedicated to setting this venture up properly and that has lots of
implications, the first of which is the requirement for an industrial workspace
that must be separate from the small wood working shop that has existed within
Casa Elohim for years.

They have currently managed to find a suitable
space, right on the main road, not so far away from Casa Elohim itself, and are in the process of
developing this now. Unfortunately industrial premises like this are not cheap
and the substantial monthly rent will need to be covered before a single piece
of furniture is even made.

With three
large machines planned for installation soon, and there first student recruit
lguinho (Or Egor as he’s called) already in training, things are well underway.

After managing to get a quick tour of the premises, I was
delighted to be able to be of even more help when they needed assistance with
electrical installation work the following Saturday.

Pastor and part time electrician Marcos Martins was handling
the difficult process of setting the building up for the heavy electrical load
envisioned by the necessary power tools and equipment. What he couldn’t do was
everything else at the same time as he was wiring the switchboards. So that’s where
I came in. Trying to work my way through all the easier tasks like lighting
fixtures and fittings etc. I spent a pretty full day there.

This is a fair sized venture, like nothing that Abba has ever
tackled before. But confidence is high that good quality, reasonably priced furniture
is in high demand. Not only that but the fact that giving young people the opportunity
of training, work and paid employment while hopefully after a period of time
being able to donate funds back into Abba for future projects and missionary
work, should mean that everyone benefits.

Should anyone be interested in more details about this
project or how to become involved and maybe volunteer your skills in this particular
line of work. Then please get in touch.

Hand Prints

2014 Craig Posted on Wed, August 13, 2014 15:25:34

Short post this time.

I finally got round to updating the year on my hand print on the wall at Casa Semear.

The hand prints were a great idea to record everyone who has came to Casa Semear and worked in any way with either the children of the kids club or with the buildings renovation.

The one simple task that I had to do before I leave is to remember to add this year to the wall. Not a whole new hand print but just the year.

I have been saying this for weeks and was starting to get paranoid that I was going to leave and have forgotten.

Last night I changed all that, and with some blue paint I added 2014 to the list and it has to be said I stood back and felt quite chuffed with myself.

It was at this point that Robert wondered why there was so much white space left free below the current dates.

Complete Coincidence, I commented, Complete Coincidence.


New House

2014 Craig Posted on Wed, August 13, 2014 15:19:57

I was fortunate enough the other weekend after Robert and Silvana returned from Scotland to be able to spend some time with the family at what will very soon be their New House.

Yes, Robert and Silvana and family are moving. Not really that far away from where they currently are in Brazilian terms, but just far enough to take them out with the concrete buildings of the city.

The new location I suppose could be called the countryside, and is in stark contrast to where they have been living, and will give the children especially, a considerably safer and more attractive environment within which to live.

With probably the same travelling distance to the school (PACA) where all three of their children will eventually attend, and similar distance to their church, with the only down side being the longer journey to Casa Semear.

Most houses in Sao Paulo don’t have much free space by way of gardens etc. so the alternative for children is to play in the streets. While in Scotland you might not think much of this, in Brazil, the streets are the most dangerous place in the world and believe it or not it’s been getting worse.

The new house has lots of space, grass, trees and fresh air, and you can see the kids faces change the minute they pass thro the gate of the walled garden and in minutes they are running free and more importantly safe around the place.

Possibly future Casa Semear or even Abba events could be held here, who knows.

The house was formally owned by Silvana’s brother so is being kept within the family, although he didn’t live there permanently.

The house is in need of some considerable love and care which I’m sure it’s new owners will supply abundantly. I couldn’t help but think this new project is as big as Casa Semear itself.

While you might think they would want to move immediately, it would appear a complete electrical rewiring exercise might be the first job on a very long list.

Regardless of the timescales involved and the work ahead I’m sure God will bless this house just as he continues to do at Casa Semear.

Health and Safety

2014 Craig Posted on Fri, August 08, 2014 03:01:55

Anyone who has been to Brazil before will get the joke here because they have never heard of Health and Safety.

Snr Luis has a bit of a reputation for his incredible structures which he manages to create from anything and everything that happens to be lying around at the time. Usually these are created because of the massive height of the main stairwell which extends over three floors at Casa Semear and the need to either build something, fix something or paint something in a space that for normal people would be just inaccessible.

Well i have to report that it happened again.

As part of the ongoing work at Casa Semear, Snr Luis has been repairing many of the plastered walls in the main stairwell at the basement level. However in this case he spotted that an area just under the top floor level that over hangs the stair well was badly in need of repair. The question was how to get to this area in order to fix it.

After some studying of the space and looking at it from all the different angles I could see that a plan had formulated and off he went to track down the materials required. the first item was the biggest ladder we have here and this he adapted to stand on the stairs while he tied it to the banister at the basement level with rope.

The second part of the plan was three wooden planks. One which stuck through the library window and sat on top of the ladders and the other two planks bridged across from the stairs to the first plank. On top of all this was then a board for him to stand on which itself was supported by another vertical plank from the stairs. Anyway don’t just take my word for it look at the picture and see for yourself.

Now anyone that knows me knows I’m not so hot when it comes to heights but with this I couldn´t even watch them build it, never mind use it to work on. At one point during the construction, Shary, one of the other missionaries was hanging nearly upside down while nailing in the supports with me holding him by the belt on his trousers.

The work is now done and the repair looks great and I’m just glad I was there to record the event by camera, but I cant help but be reminded of some of the structures created before by the last team and the memories of Gavin and Ray perched on top of them getting the painting done.

With Robert now returned from Scotland he was able to review the proposed kitchen designs and generally discuss the new priorities for work to be done. I can now report that it has been decided that the main basement level kitchen is the next priority project and will start asap.

A design has been selected with some slight modifications and the next step is to quantify the materials needed, list the utility works that need done, identify the structural modifications required and come up with a cost.

The amazing news is that we already have someone who has agreed to pay for the whole thing including marble worktops.

God has blessed Casa Semear yet again.

Arts and Crafts

2014 Craig Posted on Thu, August 07, 2014 02:11:34

I thought I would show you all just where all those key rings come from.

Different days of the kids club are for different things. For example a Monday and Tuesday are more of a Bible lesson where as a Thursday and often a Friday is for Arts and Crafts.

For the younger age group this might involve colouring in or making something, like the brightly coloured items shown on the table in the picture. You can see a boat made from painted lolly pop sticks with a paper sail or a flower from rolled and cut coloured paper or pictures covered in balls of crepe paper.

On the other hand the older group, usually working in the large upstairs hall, are involved in making the bead key rings that we have all come to recognise in the shapes of animals with the original and still the most popular one being the crocodile.

I have used a few photos to prove these are all indeed made by hand by the children themselves, and believe it or not they actually love doing it. In saying that a bit of a competition is introduced by the use of a points system for which key ring you are going to make as some are obviously more difficult than others. then on top of that a competition to see which table makes the most complete key rings on that day.

The kids all have actual patterns to follow and I have even seen some able to make them without the pattern in front of them. Some patterns look like the key rings but others seem to just be numbers, I suppose the kids must know what they are doing.

The most difficult and of course the one with the highest points is not only a crocodile but a crocodile with either a Brazil or a Scottish flag on its body. I have even seen some with a different flag on each side. Now that’s clever.

Don’t think for a minute that while all this is going on there would be silence as they concentrate, because its just the opposite, working and talking at the same time seems to be a skill they have all mastered.

A couple of boxes were taken away just last week as an event was happening that Abba was present at and the sale of key rings is always popular.

If your reading this and don’t have one of these key rings, then we can quickly fix that situation, just get in touch with us and we will be only to happy to supply you with a crocodile, or a spider, or a rabbit, or a crab, or a butterfly or lots of others.

More arts and crafts photos can be found here

Senor Luis

2014 Craig Posted on Mon, July 28, 2014 21:28:43

The waiting over Senior Luis finally arrived at Casa Semear.

For those not in the know Snr Luis is kind of Casa Semear`s resident builder, that is to say that when ever anything major is being done at Casa Semear then usually Snr Luis is at the heart of it.

When he arrived it was like meeting an old friend and we needed no introductions. Never mind the language barrier we managed to exchange enough to realise we were both appreciating the work done on the flats at the rear of the property.

It was great to see him again and after some brief chit chat it was down to work and the first priority was of course the hole in the kitchen floor. having exposed the hole and removed the loose earth from it I felt I had at least prepared the way for Snr Luis. What I didn’t realise is that I hadn’t gone anywhere near deep enough.

The first test we did was to run water into the hole, (not what would have been my first thought, I must admit), initially this was fine then all of a sudden the water disappeared and the soil in one corner especially, gave way. In testing the depth of this new smaller pit Snr Luis nearly lost a meter and a half long steel bar. From this point it was obvious we had a worse problem than first thought. All the concrete rubble extracted from the hole was initially fed back into it. The more rubble we fed in and compacted down, the more it swallowed up. A few walks up the street identified a number of large pieces of material that we could use and we threw all of it in the hole. Eventually we started to feel we were actually getting somewhere when the material stopped disappearing.

We purchased the materials we thought we would need at the Lumac store on the hill using our trusty VW Combi as our delivery truck and after more rubble and even some steel channel that came to hand we mixed up our first batch of concrete for a base level in the hole.

I couldn’t quite believe the quantity of material that we had put back into the hole and yet it still looked exactly the same as when we had started. At least now though we had a firm foundation to start to re fill the hole from. As usual when working with concrete you have the period for it to dry before you can do anything else so that meant we had to move on to other things.

The drain pipes themselves had to be replaced as that was where the water damage had originated from in the first place. Once the main large diameter pipe and bends were replaced then this allowed us to concrete back up the hole in the outside wall.

A new drain pipe needed to be fitted from the top level of the flats to the basement as the original had cracked and had been removed. This was where I learned how a gas cooker can be used when doing plumbing.

Having previously removed the steel gates meant that the wall was ready for Snr Luis to plaster back up and make good again. This is now complete and the feeling of space with the gates removed is quite something. Throw into the workload a few other smaller jobs and I’m sure your getting the picture.

Having been working with the hole in the kitchen floor and the water and drain pipes, the question was raised about what the final plans were and could anything being done now be made to accommodate this. It was then clear that what was needed now was an idea of what the final kitchen design would be.

Robert suggested that we should have a think about it and get something drawn up for discussion. I then lifted some dimensions from the existing kitchen, downloaded some free software from the internet (sketchup) and made up a few options of kitchen designs that Robert and the others can review. Turned out ok even if I say so myself.

All in all I think we did not bad for a few days, I must admit I was feeling the pains of some physical labour, its not every day you move 50kg bags of cement around. I’m not quite sure why they cant make them smaller.

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