Cabrini faculty joins Catholic Relief Services to end slavery

By Jackie Turchi
September 29, 2006

Shane Evans

Five Cabrini College faculty and staff members embarked on a 14- day solidarity journey to Brazil. With the guidance of Cabrini Missionary Sisters and Catholic Relief Services, along with translators due to the Portuguese language barrier, they all traveled to Sao Paulo and the poor interior region of Brazil. Their mission was to learn about the problems of social justice in this country.

The travelers were Dr. Jerry Zurek, professor of English and communication, Dr. Mary Laver, director of applied catholic social teaching, Dr. Adeline Bethany, professor of fine arts, Dr. April Perrymore, assistant professor of psychology and Ann Servey, associate professor of business administration.

While traveling throughout Brazil, the faculty and staff focused on establishing a stronger bond with our Cabrini affiliations located in Sao Paulo. Zurek said, “It was neat to feel a part of a worldwide organization.”

Here they spent time and stayed in a convent at Mother Cabrini High School with the Cabrini Missionary Sisters. Perrymore said, “Meeting the Missionary Sisters was special to me. It was heartwarming seeing the Missionary Sisters, spending time with them, also heart breaking due to the social injustices, but it ended with hope.”

Traveling to Sao Paulo and the interior near the Amazon, they learned the disturbing facts of how human trafficking works. Brazil, because it is a very poor country, many people will do anything to provide for their families. The way human trafficking works is that rich land owners will lure poor adult males hundreds of miles away from their families with false hopes for a better-paying job. In the end they are never paid for their labor and become indentured to that land owner.

CRS plays a vital role with these social justice problems. They have facilities for run-away indentured slaves to go to. Here they are safe and can hide from their slave owners. These facilities restore the hope of a run-away slave and give them a second chance at life. Here CRS educates these ex-slaves on how to start up a business and teach them how to make tools and supplies so they can sell them to make money.

While the faculty and staff were there, they witnessed first hand hard-working ex-slaves making charcoal and wooden tools.

Laver received a beautiful lamp made out of chicken wire and the remains of sugar cane, which form a papier-mache-like material. This was stretched from one end to another wrapping around the chicken wire with a light placed underneath and then painted yellow.

Throughout Brazil many courageous families are on a mission to help save slaves. While in Brazil the faculty and staff members were introduced to an incredible family. The courage and passion this mother and father along with their three daughters, have for saving people who were manipulated into slavery is remarkable. Just two days prior to meeting the faculty and staff, this family of five had to move two towns over due to death threats they have received because they help slaves.

Even though some people in this country are corrupt and cause social injustices and poverty, this family still holds onto their faith. When in conversation with our faculty and staff they were asked, “How do you feel about your lives being threatened?” Their response was, “Our lives our in God’s hands.” Their belief is so strong these powerful words help guide them through this dangerous movement that they engage in everyday.

This solidarity trip was to learn and become informed about the injustices throughout Brazil. Throughout this journey faculty and staff all have noticed a common personality trait that the Brazilians possessed. They always welcomed others with arms wide open.

Laver said, “Extraordinary hospitality. Cabrini Sisters that live in poverty couldn’t wait to serve us.”

The faculty and staff visited a Brazilian woman’s home where they sat in a small room with no walls, only blankets draped from the bamboo ceiling, one chair and a couple of boxes for them to sit. Once settled, she offered everyone fresh coffee. Laver said, “Solidarity around a meal over and over.”

“As poor as they are, they were still giving,” Zurek said.

Living in poverty and danger, Brazilians have a strong belief in their faith and in the arts. Bethany said, “Theater groups address social justice problems through plays based on the issues happening in Brazil.”

These plays inform the community of the social justice problems through plays, dance and singing. While the faculty and staff were there they were able to experience the dance called capoeira, which was performed by school children ages 8 to 12. Bethany described the dance as a “form of martial art, which possesses discipline for children and helps develop self-esteem.”

Perrymore said it was hard for her to put her experiences into words. In the field of psychology she focuses on an individual’s perspective. “There is so much more than yourself there in community,” Perrymore said.

Laver said, “Such a powerful sense of community Brazilians have.” Since the trip Laver has learned numerous things about Brazil and herself.

She said, “I learned from Catholic Relief Services and Cabrini Sisters that the way to answer social problems is in the community themselves if you really listen.” Laver truly believes that humanitarian work is a matter of unlocking the inner courage that is a community. She said that she saw how important it is to find people in a community and strengthen them to be a leader.

Zurek is strongly passionate about this movement and informing people about what is happening in our world. Zurek is proposing to create an online organization in which college students across the country can use technology to communicate with people in poor countries. The proposed Catholic Campus Global Solidarity Network is in its early stages but may soon be able to connect and inform people here in the United States of social justice problems in other parts of the world.

Bethany said about the program Zurek is working on: “Exhilarating, perfect wrap up for what we did.”

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Jackie Turchi

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