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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.

Day 22 & 23 – Fri. 30th & Sat. 31st July – Last Day

2010 Group Posted on Wed, August 11, 2010 14:09:47

Last day! After breakfast we went over to Casa Semear for about 10am and the morning kids club was already in full swing. Alan was finishing off some of his paintings so we could take them back to Scotland with us and it was lovely to see Eric (his first time back at the club since the camp) who was very happy to see us with big smiles and hugs all around! Each child was given a Scottish pencil and it was Eric’s 10th birthday that day so he was also given a little Scottish flag. It was very moving to see how absolutely delighted he was with such a small and simple gift.

Someone had brought a Scottish and Brazilian flag so we had a lot of fun and banter with the kids, taking photos and singing songs. We sang the Scottish national anthem to the children (much to their amusement!) only to be treated by them singing to us the Brazilian anthem. Even Snr. Luiz joined in the fun!

We said our final farewell to the children and Snr Luiz then drove back to the girls’ house for lunch with Hedi and Tauane. We were just doing some last minute packing when Delton popped in to say goodbye. It was a very special time as he prayed for us as a team and as individuals. We also used the opportunity to give Hedi a little gift so he could translate for us. She asked him to share with us how blessed SHE had felt during the time we had stayed in her home and later gave us all an individual gift. It was all very moving! Celio, from Abba, also came by wish us God’s blessing.

After lunch we headed back to Casa Semear for the final time. The afternoon kids club had already started but the children were clearly up to something as we were not allowed upstairs for about 10mins. When we were eventually let upstairs they had decorated the table with a big yellow table cloth and we were treated to a cake and truffles made especially for us by Dora, Silvana and one of the girls, Aline. The cake was delicious and was washed down by our favourite tipple, Guarana. We played a few games with the children then each one of us was presented with a card, signed by all the children. On the front of each card was a photograph of the individual team member, taken sometime during the 3 week mission. It was a very special gift and it will be treasured for life. After a final photo shoot we all said our final goodbyes to the children and Dora.

We got back to the girls house about 6pm to find Caio waiting to drive us to the airport. We said a sad farewell to Hedi, Tauane and Paulette then left the house for the last time. Some of the team went with Caio and the rest with Robert and Silvana. The traffic was pretty bad as we drove through the centre of Sao Paulo and it took us over 2 hours to get to the airport. The check-in was quite straight forward so we had time for a coffee with Robert, Silvana and Caio before we had to say our farewells.

The 11 hour flight was a bit uncomfortable but I think most of us managed to get some sleep at some point during the flight. We collected our boarding passes for Glasgow at Heathrow and had a few hours to spare before our next flight. It was so nice to be able to do such simple things like washing our hands in warm water and ordering a normal cup of tea!! We arrived in Glasgow to find our baggage, friends and loved ones waiting for us.

Our time in Brazil has been a very special experience that we will never forget. God has definitely been part of this mission and we have been truly blessed by being able to be part of it.

Esther on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 21 – Thur. 29th July – Big Clean Up

2010 Group Posted on Wed, August 11, 2010 14:08:00

Today was primarily a “clear up and clear out” day. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve made a significant amount of mess. The dust sheets cover any available bits of floor, the paint tins are dotted around in many different “convenient” spaces throughout the house, the tools have been flung far and wide and of course, not to mention all the dust and debris that’s been piling up day to day. So, today’s focus was to leave the house in a useable condition – if not even a little better than when we arrived.

The boys put the finishing touches to the arts and crafts room. It’s an unbelievable transformation. Three weeks ago it was literally bare brick, and now it’s freshly plastered ready for painting. Clearing up did give us a chance to really see the difference our work has made to the house. It will all make for a very good “before and after” show when we return! Home Makeover eat your heart out.

The kids came as per usual and we made some keyrings and played games with them. It was nice to be a little less work focused today and be able to really give our time to the children. There is a sense of familiarity now between the children and the Tios, that we’re all part of Casa Semear, but the reality of our imminent departure is sneaking up on us. It doesn’t feel like it’s been three weeks. We’ve achieved so much but the time has gone all too quickly it’s been hard to take it in.

In the evening the whole team went out for a last meal to a very nice churrascaria called Buffalo. There were all nine of the Scottish team, plus the whole Meikle family, Dora, Dorothee, Caio, Hedi and Tauane. By sheer coincidence Delton and his family were there too celebrating the birthday of one of his kids. It was like a great big family celebration. The food was wonderful, even more than the last one, and of course the boys put us to shame with their capacity to eat more food that I thought was humanly possible.

It was a great way to spend our last proper evening together, just basking in each other’s company and sharing all the memories we’ve created in the last three weeks. On the way home in one car, myself, Esther and Tauane had a “High School Musical 2” sing-athon. I’m not sure many other people in the car appreciated our entertainment but we had a great time anyway!

Tomorrow is our last day at Semear with the kids and we’ll spend the rest of the time packing and getting ready to leave. Tonight has been a wonderful, warm, family evening which I’m sure many of us will remember fondly when we think of our time together.

Amie on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 20 – Wed. 28th July – Family Visits

2010 Group Posted on Thu, July 29, 2010 04:24:07

Today was a fairly productive day for the team at Casa Semear. Most of our efforts are now put in to finishing things off as we leave in two days and it would be good to leave having completed a couple of projects. The girls finished off painting the corridors and door ways. Everything now looks much brighter and fresher. The boys work hard to finish of the arts and crafts room and it’s looking great! When we arrived the walls were just bare brick. Now they are gradually turning in to nice, smooth plastered walls ready for painting. It’s been a grand effort. However, in attempt to remove some ‘dead space’ Senhor Louise extended the floor over the stairway to create some storage space. This involved him balancing perilously on 3 thin beams only three stories up with nothing holding him up. My nerves weren’t really up to watching it but I managed to get a quick photo for evidence. It may have been mentioned before but health and safety does not exist here! Thankfully the job was done without any fatalities.

Left to Right: Aline, Mum, Alexandra (below), “Wee Agatha”, Amanda and Alan.

This afternoon Silvana was venturing on some family visits. She regularly visits the families of the children who come to Casa Semear and offered to let us come with her today. We went in pairs to avoid over-crowing the small houses and over-whelming the families. Esther and I went together and on the way we met Aline and she invited us in to her home. Aline is the sister of Alan, Casa Semear’s resident artist. There are about 10 people living in their two-room house. Note: that doesn’t mean “two bedrooms” but quite literally two rooms. To say that lack of personal space is an issue would be an understatement. However the family were incredibly welcoming and allowed us in to their home. It was a real privilege to visit the children in their homes and gain an insight into their daily lives. Those who visited the families today agreed that it was a benefit that we already knew the children rather than simply visiting strangers. Alan showed us some of his sketches and I showed his Mum a photo of the paintings that I have bought from him. Although neither of us spoke the same language it was a special moment being able to share in each other’s lives even so briefly. It is somewhat sad to see these families living in cramped houses with open sewage systems running near by, but today personally I didn’t feel sad. I felt hopeful – hopeful that the work of the Abba team at Casa Semear will enable these children to reach their potential and provide opportunities for them to work their way towards a successful life, whatever shape or form that might take.

No doubt the team have mixed feelings about our pending departure. It’s been a long three weeks in which time quite a lot has happened. Sharing in the lives of Robert & Silvana, Dora, Dorothy & Caio, Hedi (AJ), Tauani and Paulette, has been an immense privilege. Everyone we have met has been so incredibly welcoming and it is extremely humbling to see people who are working on the “front line” and living by faith day to day. The work on the house has progressed extensively and I think it’s safe to say we have achieved much of what we set out to do. We can only hope that we tie up most of the “loose ends” the next couple of days as we prepare to head to home.

Amie on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 19 – Tues. 27th July – New Project Started

2010 Group Posted on Thu, July 29, 2010 04:07:43

Dry, dull. Team gathered at Casa Semear at 9.10am. Esther led devotions.

Caio brought the paint for the kitchen corridor. His wife Dorothee had chosen turquoise. Unfortunately Dorothee was unwell today and could not join us.

We had planned to continue with the following tasks:-

a) Fire ahead with cementing, plastering and painting the art room walls;

b) Finish painting the toilet walls;

c) Sand corridor ceiling and paint it;

d) Continue painting the kitchen corridor;

e) Paint the bathroom ceiling.

Robert was anxious, however, that, seeing how well the team had worked up till now, there were 3 other major jobs that were preying on his mind and he wondered if we could discuss them with Senor Luiz, to see what would be possible over Tues., Wed., and Thurs. (we leave on Friday, or so we thought!). The three “other jobs” were:-

1) Build a temporary balcony outside the art room windows (which are 200 feet above ground level) and cement and plaster the outside wall.

2) Build the concrete staircase from ground level up to the first floor level of the flats in the backyard.

3) Knock down the lower half of the wall in the art room, expose the open light well, (which is only 100feet above ground level), and build a concrete floor over this 4 sq. metre area which would then become a large storage cupboard for the art room.

No.1 was dismissed immediately as insanity, as it would have meant attaching a rope around the pensioner (i.e. Gavin), although willing, and lowering him over the window with his bucket (of cement) and trowel! (Only Esther and Ray were concerned. The rest of the team were worryingly silent!)

No.2 was declined as it was felt by the time Senor Luiz had built the shuttering to house the staircase steps, ready to be filled with concrete, the team would be in their beds!

No. 3 was the winner, which then knocked the planned programme on its head.

So, the day went like this:-

1) Orlando cleared the blocked drain in the art room sink;

2) The children arrived for their Bible club at 9.30am with Robert;

3) Senor Luiz was asked to make out a list of what materials were required;

4) Craig and Caio were despatched in the Kombi van to buy this;

5) Sand, stones, cement and chalk, were delivered to Casa Semear within the hour;

6) The guys started to bag the large amount of rubbish in the back yard, ready for uplift by the cleansing on Friday;

7) The girls carried on with their painting tasks;

8) The lorry arrived with its’ full load, and deposited it in the street;

9) The Combi was parked in the street and caused a traffic jam as nobody had the keys, so we had to push it out the way;

10) The guys shovelled and bagged the stones and sand, and carried what was required up to the art room,

11) A leak was noticed coming out of the water pipe at the front door;

12) Senor Luiz, just at that moment , put his chisel through a water pipe, and we had to turn off the water until he could fix it;

13) Ray polyfilled the wall in the art room;

14) Senor Luiz fixed the burst pipe;

15) Craig returned with all the concrete beams ordered by Senor Luiz;

16) The guys mixed the concrete and the new floor was laid as the base for the art room cupboard;

17) Walls were plastered and rubbed down, ready for painting;

18) The children’s club came in at 3.30pm and some of the team were engaged with them until 5.30pm.

Work then progressed as planned. It became another long and exhausting day but much was achieved, ready to progress tomorrow. We finished at 7.00pm.

Gavin on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 18 – Mon. 26th July – Work, work, work

2010 Group Posted on Thu, July 29, 2010 04:06:49

Hot, dry, sunny. The team arrived at Casa Semear at 9.15am.

Craig led devotions. Afterwards, I allocated tasks and everyone set themselves to them. Again, today, we had Caio, his wife, Dorothee, Robert and his wife, Silvana and the children.

In the morning, there was a bible study from 9.30-11.00am, with children from10- 13years, and in the afternoon, there was the children’s club from 3.30-5.30pm. We had good fun with all of them.

Caio ran me up in his car to Leroy Merlin, to buy more paint, roller handles and paint brushes. Once back, the girls continued with the various painting tasks while the guys got stuck into the art room, cementing and plastering the walls. It is hard work, and makes for a long day.

Silvana and Dora made the team our evening meal at Casa Semear. This was Robert’s idea as he wanted the work to progress, because he knows it won’t get done when we all leave to come home.

Didn’t stop work till 10.00pm! The younger members of the team also worked hard, on & off, throughout the day, as did Robert. We had our evening meal at 10.20pm.

We left Casa Semear at 11.00pm.

Gavin on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 16 & 17 – Sat. 24th & Sun. 25th July – The Beach

2010 Group Posted on Mon, July 26, 2010 04:40:52

Caio who helps Robert and Silvana with the work at Casa Semear kindly invited all the team to his father’s beach house at Bertioga which is east of Sao Paulo.

After much deliberation and arm twisting a number of us decided within two seconds to take him up on his kind offer Gavin, Craig and Douglas decided to remain and push on with the work as they felt we required to progress the Art Room in order to achieve a completion before we returned home. The rest decided we had really had a very hard weeks work and a day i.e. Saturday to recuperate would keep everyone’s spirits up and make us more effective for the remaining week!!!

The team amicably agreed to split with those who treasured a rest going to the beach house and those who wished to press on with the work remaining at Casa Semear. They did say they would pray for rain so that we did not enjoy ourselves too much!! We decided to leave late on Friday night at approximately 11.00 pm arriving at the coast at 1.30 am rather than have another early start.

The beach house was much more palatial than we expected so we went to bed looking forward to waking up in the morning to glorious sunshine. However the three musketeers had clearly been on their knees most of the night and we woke up to the type of weather conditions one experiences on a Glasgow fair fortnight. We chilled out literary until the rain became a drizzle and ventured down to the beach with our brollies. The tourists looked a bit conspicuous as Brazilians don’t have brollies they just get wet!!

After a sandwich lunch we went with Caio and Dorothy to his favourite surfing beach which involved a short ferry trip and a half hour walk, over the hill arriving eventually at a beautiful sandy beach with large breakers crashing onto the shore. The hardy including the writer ventured into the water to experience the power of the sea it was all great fun. We all had giant pastel’s ( not wax chalk more deep fried pasties very healthy and I don’t think !!)

We all went to bed hoping the three musketeer’s had worked so hard on the Saturday they were in no fit state to pray for further rain and lo it came to pass. The next day was a scorcher so much so even Amie and Esther got up at 7.15am in order to be part of Caio’s party that returned to the surfing beach (Pousada beach).Ray, Ruth, Stuart, Robert and Silvana opted for a longer lie and relaxing time at the pool. Caio gave the early risers surfing lessons Esther tells me she is now a semi pro having stood up first time on the board while Amie feels she requires further practice next stop Tiree!!!

All good things come to an end and we set off for Sao Paulo at lunch time as Caio had to preach at his home Church that evening.

We went to Roberts Church (Portuguese Baptist) in the evening which was a wonderful experience. The worship was up lifting with a Soul Band that had us all swinging. We were warmly welcomed and had to stand to polite applause. The preacher spoke on worship in its fullest context and thanks to an interpreter we were able to enjoy his preaching it was very biblically based and an emotional message.

The team are now refreshed if a little tired from their weekend surfing and swimming exertions but ready to hit the art room and finish the painting of the toilets the last remaining task before we head for home.

Ray on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 16 & 17 – Sat. 24th & Sun. 25th July – Casa Semear

2010 Group Posted on Mon, July 26, 2010 04:32:32

The group were once again split and unfortunately the workers were without transport. After contacting Tim from Abba about the sick Kombi he very kindly offered to drive us over to Casa Semear in the truck or “the beast “as it’s more affectionately known. This made for a slightly later start than normal.

The plan for the next couple of days was to stay at Casa Semear anyway so once there we were fine. Gavin had walked as usual, so the three of us, Snr. Luiz was away for a long weekend, decided to kick off as we meant to go on and had a cup of tea. A constant challenge between the workers was “how many cups can you reasonably get from one tea bag”. Douglas suggests 10 but I feel 6 was our limit. Try it for yourself and leave comments to tell us how you get on.

Keen to get a start on things and get as much done as possible before the beach bums sun and surf worshipers came back it was full steam ahead into the plastering of the arts and crafts room. The day before had seen Snr. Luiz setting us up some flat reference surfaces to work to so that we could really progress things right from the start.

The plastering “brazilian style” is tough and no matter how many times Luiz shows you, when you do it, it’s never the same. However in saying that we were kind of getting the hang of it. We had a system that seemed to be working well. Gavin was tackling the high bits, due to his need for extreme sports, a double height trellis was created with a chair on top of that. Douglas and I worked as a team and as he fed the right mix of concrete into my tray I had to flick it at the wall. However when the fancy smoothing was needed it was Gavin who did his magic. Without Luiz to check our work as we went it was what we thought that mattered.

By the end of the day, with a stop for lunch of course we were pretty pleased with the progress, while it was no where near completed, the room was looking better with each plastered wall. Even from this stage we could see there was a real chance of getting the room plastered and painted before we would have to go home. This spurred us on even more.

We decided on a fairly reasonable finish time for the night and agreed an early start in the morning would help things seeing as we were actually staying at Casa Semear.

As it was just the three of us a trip to the restaurant area of the Interlagos shopping complex was in order. Gavin set off early to get washed and changed and Douglas and I followed about 30 to 45 minutes later. The shopping mall is about a 30 minute walk from Casa Semear. I’m sure there are a few shortcuts you could take, but we felt it wise to stick to the main road that we knew. The option was always there if we wanted a taxi back at night but later it turned out to be such a nice night we just walked back.

By the time we returned it was time for Bed, and my best efforts to have a conversation with Douglas were being hampered by my inability to keep my eyes open.

The early start on the Sunday morning was a great idea and in no time, after a cup of tea of course, we were back in full swing. Our main objective was to get as much done as possible for the team returning. Having progressed around the room at low level, we needed to move the platforms in order to get the high level as well.

With a quick break for lunch, good old French toast, we decided to call it a day after a few hours and a good clean and tidy up. Gavin had just left when the beach goers returned. Everyone was suitably impressed with the progress. And everyone agreed that the room should be plastered and painted by the time we were to leave.

The plan had always been to go to Roberts Church in the evening so with everyone back together again and a quick exchange of stories then it was across town to the Girls house, picking up Gavin on the way, to get ready.

See the following account of the Sunday for details of the service.

Craig on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 15 – Fri. 23rd July – Work, work, work.

2010 Group Posted on Mon, July 26, 2010 04:05:19

Hot, sunny, dry.

Team had arranged to meet at Casa Semear for 10.00am. At 11.33am the team arrived in 2 Combi vans. Tim had gone to the girl’s house and delivered one Combi van while Robert took the other Combi van to get the exhaust repaired.(what with the state of the roads here, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the exhaust had split in two and one piece was dangling underneath the van)

Today we were joined by Paulette and Tauani from the girl’s house. Douglas led devotions.

Work tasks were allocated as follows:-
1) Check paint situation(Ruth);
2) Check Polyfilla requirements(Ray);
3) Any more gloves required?
4) Windows going in today. Will require filling in round the edges.
5) Corridor ceiling to be filled and painted (Ray).
6) Toilets walls to be rubbed down, painted:boys-lower half wall blue; girls-lower half wall green.(Ruth, Amie, Esther)
7) Break up concrete on floor of art room, then put in rubbish bags(Matthew & Stuart)
8) Sand inside entrance to be bagged(Matthew & Stuart)
9) Lower part of wall inside front entrance to be painted white then red door to be placed against it to protect it from future deliveries of building material.(Esther)
10) Furniture inside front entrance to receive new covers and delivered to a family in the favella.(Paulette re. the covers; Robert and co. Re. delivery)
11) Paint to be scraped off ceiling wall in kitchen(Paulette, Tauani, Esther &Stuart)
12) Bedroom & kitchen corridor to be scraped and painted(as above)
13) Senor Luiz to show Craig, Gavin, Ray, Stuart & Matthew how to plaster.
14) Douglas very happy to assist where required.
15) I suggested buying a large watch for Robert and setting it at Brazilian time, although one hour earlier!

Craig, Gavin & Robert drove up to Leroy Martin and purchased extra paint, sand paper, water filter and gloves. Robert said he hadn’t had any breakfast, and would Craig and I mind if we had a coffee at Leroy Martin. Despite our ardent protests, Craig and I enjoyed a beautiful roll with a soft cheese centre washed down with an Americano coffee. Robert had a hot sausage roll and a can of coke. Oh, I nearly forgot, I also had a melt in your mouth, mouth watering, dark chocolate truffle( well, they were right in front of me on the counter top and you really couldn’t resist them, could you?)

Back at Casa Semear, everyone was working hard, so, Craig and I walked down to the local supermarket and bought lunch. The water melon went down a treat, as did the favourite drink, Guarana.

After lunch all worked progressed very well as planned. Some of the team helped with the children’s club from 3.30pm to approx.5.30pm.

Senor Luiz showed the guys how to plaster the walls in the art room. We had a lot of fun learning from (and being corrected by) Senor Luiz, and, surprisingly, the end result was very encouraging. He is some guy and greatly appreciated.

The team finished at 6.00pm and went back to shower and change. Robert took the Combi van in to get the oil leak fixed and we then had the use of the truck, which is a frightening experience to drive or be driven in! Well done to you Craig! It took Craig 2 days to find third gear in the Combi van, but once mastered, he now drives like a true Brazilian, specifically-don’t stop for anything or anyone, don’t even waste time indicating (that would mean taking your hands off the steering wheel), don’t use your brakes-just lurch out from side streets and take pleasure from watching the other vehicles scatter out of your way and, periodically-toot your horn -if you have one! There is a truckers rally at the local racing circuit on Sunday and we thought we could put Craig forward for it. He would cream the opposition!

We all met again at 8.30pm and, just before moving off to enjoy an evening buffet meal, we witnessed two cars and a motor cyclist crashing right in front of us, right in the middle of the main carriageway!

At 10.00pm, some of the team left in the minibus, with Robert and his family, to stay overnight at a beach house. This was at Caio and his wife, Dorothee’s invitation. It was a two hour drive and meant they could all have a long lie in the morning before hitting the surf, sand and sun on the South Atlantic coast!

Craig, Douglas & Gavin opted to decline the invitation and continue with the work required at Casa Semear. We didn’t mind in the slightest being left with no transport, no food, tired arms and under pressure to progress plastering the art room walls, while they were all swanning off, sunning themselves, relaxing on sun loungers, drinking ice cold drinks, enjoying good food and being waited on hand and foot!

At that, we called it a night at 10.30pm.

Gavin on behlaf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

Day 14 – Thur. 22nd July – The Roof

2010 Group Posted on Fri, July 23, 2010 00:27:44

Second earliest start of the trip resulted in a pre 7am wake up. The men found this to be of no problem as usual. The women not so much…. Gavin led devotions on John 9 and tied the story in with peoples view of impairments and this related to his previous role as headmaster Gadburn Special School.

Major construction work had to be completed today on the house in the back (affectionately nicknamed ‘Casa Dora’). Several tonnes of concrete mix had to form a roof on the house and provide a floor on the second storey. The girls finished the rest of the plastering and then had the task of sanding the corridor and even got the painting started. One of the kids from the club, Alan, is a brilliant artist and has been designated a section in the corridor to work his magic and produce another mural in the house. The team spent about 6 hours completing their various tasks and then the roof was finally filled, after some effort from Senor ‘machine’ Luiz and ‘Tank’ Orlando.

Lunch was made by Silvana and Dora and it was an awesome, traditional Brazilian dish called feijoada. This is a kind of black bean stew made with various meats including beef and pork. As with virtually all the food the team have been fed it was delicious and many had a spot of seconds. And in the case of Matthew and Dora some sneaky thirds were had. Feijoada was followed by Silvana’s home-made passion fruit mousse. Again, delicious was the word that comes to mind again.

The kids arrived at half 3 as usual and a woman from Ghana named Shella came and helped. Various games were played and this blogger failed to win a game of Portuguese Monopoly deal much to his disappointment. The kids produced all the usual banter and it was great to see them smile, have a laugh and just be kids despite all the troubles at home. Its times like these that make the trip worthwhile.

After the kids departed at half 5 the team were beyond knackered and after a quick trip home some reflective banter was had before most chilled and slept. Hope everyone is doing good.

God bless

Stuart on behalf of the group.

Photo Gallery can be found here

Douglas’s blog can be found here

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