Maristely, 18, lives in a favela (slum) in São Paulo, Brazil with her family.
Dark and cramped, favelas are groups of irregular, self-constructed houses often built on land that no one wants to live on due to threats of floods, landslides, or their proximity to roads and train lines. Many locals face daily discrimination from the wider community.
When Maristely was growing up, her family’s house, like many others, was made of cardboard and had no electricity, water or connected sewerage.
Caritas Australia’s partner, the Movement for the Defence of Favela Residents (MDF), is changing lives across 40 favelas in São Paulo. MDF understands the difficulties of favela life such as dense population, limited space, a lack of available jobs, constant threat of eviction and widespread poverty.  
Through MDF, Maristely’s family, along with thousands of others, now has access to clean water, electricity and connected sewerage. They also have a certificate of home ownership which provides greater security and means they can no longer be evicted.
Across the favelas, up to 70 percent of families experience violence in the home, and there is a dominant gang culture. This culture of violence is closely linked to a lack of self-esteem. MDF attendees participate in sessions which address their identity, favela history, and issues around drugs, gangs, violence and unemployment.
The program promotes peace so young people can attain education and employment, rather than joining local gangs.
“Being a part of MDF has given me awareness of my dignity … I know that to live in a favela is nothing to be ashamed of … Because of my perseverance, I live in a better place and we are recognised for that,” said Maristely.
Your donation to Project Compassion is helping Caritas Australia end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.

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