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MDF Beginnings

"The MDF springs from the hard dry floor" (Patrick).

At Vila Prudente, starts a task force to build a baby day care center


The Shanty towns starts to be urbanizeds by a task force with self management and srpings the Vila Prudente’s Cultural House witch after will be named The Cultural Center.

Is produced the movie Teto and Chão about the history os MDF and their battles


Second Conference of Habitat in Istanbul, Turkey

Concretion of the battle to the Title of Posession – MDF assembly at São Mateus to celebrate the publication of the first área benefitted with the land regularization.

Opening of RECIFAVELA – The Recyclable Collector’s Harvest from Vila Prudente Shanty town.

From 2008 until 2015 MDF done in partnership with APOIO, the Project with finalcial AID from EU and CAFOD the Urban Program, witch in a first period developed a Project called “Urban Poverty Reduction, Access toa the public housing policy’s in the city of São Paulo”. This successful Project provided to the Urban Program a second notice with the moto “Promoting na inclusive and sustainable city: The social, enviromental and climatic  vulnarability reduction in low income comunities


Patrick arrives at Vila Prudente.

The shanty town starts to organize themselves in a projetct seeking for a basic taxes for water and light services. MDF organizes a task force to build a sewerage system.

The Union of Great Sao Paulo Home Moviments is organized.

Presentation of a Law proposal writed by the people proponed the creation of Popular Housing National Fund and the The Uion of Great São Paulo Home Moviment is renamed National Union for Popular Housing.

Opening of Rigoberta Manchú Center

Law 10.257 passed creating na cities statute with great achievements to MDF with the creations of ZEIS (Special Social Interest Zones)

MDF’s 25 years Miss, celebrated by D. Luciano Mendes de Almeida, one of the great encouraging of the MDF shanty towns battle’s from Ephiscopal region of Belem,

25 Years anniversary of The Cultural Center of Vila Prudente – promoting peace culture and arts at the shanty town heart.

Looking back over the years that have elapsed since the late 1970s, it is both strange and humbling to recognise the abyss that separates the original utopian dream from bruised and blistered feet that travelled the hard stoney road to 'nowhere'.


I know that I have always been, and still am, a dreamer. But, I never imagined myself starting or founding anything. Following an intuition, yes. And then journeying with others in a kind of complicity which would hopefully lead one day to the recognition that it was more than worth it. And who knows, when the time was ripe, see that a flower had broken through a tenaciously impossible ground.


In any case, about the year 1979, a series of intuitions around an emerging but not yet fully born theme, began to take shape. This was a result of visits that Anne Boran, an Irish nun, and myself, had begun to undertake to many favelas in the eastern region of the city of São Paulo, from the time of my arrival in the parish of Vila Alpina in November 1977.

I had seen favelas before, on a visit to India in 1975, but there was an abyss between that and what I was experiencing in Brazil. An abyss, that is, between being a simple, though 'sympathetic' and compassionate observer on the one hand. And on the other, a sense that I was now a pilgrim returning to my own roots, so as to learn how to walk in solidarity with the sorrow and the hope of a world that had been systematically discarded.

Meditating on all this around the end of the 1970s, a few strategically significant things which facilitated the emergence of the MDF, became clear. First, the whole Ecclesial environment, especially the Basic Christian Communities, seemed to have been impregnated by Liberation Theology. Secondly, prophets of a new era, men and woman of diverse gifts and backgrounds, were to be found spread all over this vast land. And thirdly, a great number of young people had been 'contaminated' by this 'fever', and were anxious to head off to the 'peripheries' of the world, as Pope Francis now urges us to do. With all this, the scene seemed set for something
new to be born.


Checking out the memories from that time, I came across the first sign that something new could be in the air. It was a meeting with a young woman from Barretos, a city in upstate São Paulo some 600km from the capital. Her name; Eunice Michelini. She had come to live nearby in São Caetano, and became a frequent visitor to the parish of Vila Alpina. There, together with other interested young people, over the course of many conversations and long debates about the church, liberation theology, solidarity with the poor, and the immensity of the struggle for justice that beckoned from very near to all of us, the idea developed of forming a group to continue the process. And maybe go beyond just talking. This decision was in fact, the beginning of the MDF. And the first person invited to become secretary was Eunice herself.

Soon, Manuel Pinheiro who lived in the favela of Vila Prudente, and Paulo Conforto, (now a public attorney in the state of Parana), who had heard of this new 'adventure', turned up to find out what it was all about, bringing with him 23 other young people from a youth group in Santo Emidio Parish. With him was Marcos Zerbini, (now a state deputy). All three joined Eunice to form a team of 4. While the larger group of 23 became a support group for the fledgling initiative.

This was just the beginning. There were still all kinds of practical and bureaucratic issues to be considered. Fortunately, the Parish of our Lady of Mount Carmel in Vila Alpina, where I was stationed, gave us the use of a small room where we could have our meetings. In addition, a larger place called the Salao Mariano was available for bigger encounters. And Dom Luciano Mendes de Almeida, the then bishop of the Belem Region of the archdiocese of São Paulo, gave us his blessing and his support. We also made the acquaintance of two lawyers, Miguel Afonso and Henrique Pacheco, men of courage and compassion, dedicated to the cause of the marginalised.

In the wake of all this, people from near and far began to arrive. From the mountains and valleys of the impoverished regions of the country. From the distant favelas of the Eastern Region of the city of São Paulo. From Sapopemba, Sao Mateus, Iguatemi, Jardim Colonial, Terceira divisao...and many other places. Leading them with her song and her joyful enthusiasm, was Sister Iracema da Silva, whose presence along with that of Antonio Caetano, has become a legend among the people of the favelas . 

A major question still remained though. Namely, that of financial support for this fragile initiative, so as to be able to meet basic running costs and salaries for the team of four. Fortunately, Cafod (Agencia Catolica de Ajuda ao Terceiro Mundo) in London, through the good offices of Clare Dixon, whose presence among us now spans 4 decades, came to our assistance. Later, with the expansion of the work of the MDF, we would have complementary assistance from Trocaire (word that means Mercy) in Ireland, mediated by Sally O''Neill Kate O'Brien. In 2000, we began to receive the support of Caritas Australia, whose representative over many years was the very dear and unforgettable Sister Margaret Fyfe.

And so the story continues. New pathways opened. Harvests brought in. And new fields sown. New lives being born and forlorn hopes resurrected. Times of many battles against arbitrary eviction, state violence, indifference, at times, even among those most in need of inspiration. But there was no stopping the march for the social tariff of water and light****. The march for the right to remain on the land and be able to live without the constant threat of forced removal. Underpinning every step of the way, was what we call in Brazil, the 'Mistica'. A spirituality to sustain the journey. One that respects the religious sensibilities of the people. And that was fundamental for what we call the development of a 'Theology of the Sewers'. A spirituality, as Pope Francis reminds us*****, that is now also essential so that we may take care of the earth, our Common Home, which we have systematically wounded by our indifference and greed.

So many struggles that have left their mark on so many lives. Lives which perhaps owe the survival of their continuity in hope, to a small bunch of dreamers who had little more in their haversack than than a few seeds to throw on a fallow field.

* From the poem Densos Passos no Caminho

** Spanish Proverb

*** Poem in memory of Chico Mendes courtesy of the National Council of the Community of Seringueiros

****  MDF Climatic justice in the mega City

***** See Verbo Film 'The Tucum Ring'.

******* Laudato Si, Encyclical of Pope Francis  


Patrick Clarke Cssp

São Paulo


And the story continues in the historical stubbornness of together we build the future!

"The Future is an Invention of the People" Paulo Freire

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