A STUDENT has returned from a life-changing trip to Brazil to work in the country’s poverty stricken communities.
Aisling Gallagher, 21, of Gladwyns, Laindon, visited families in Sao Paulo on behalf of UK Catholic aid agency CAFOD.
She saw how the charity is campaiging for better housing and a halt to evictions, and met community organisers who are working to improve life in the favelas, train teenagers for work, and educate people about their rights.
Aisling then headed to the World Youth Day gathering in Rio de Janeiro, alongside almost three million other young people.
She attended festivities, including a mass with Pope Francis on Copacabana beach, where the pontiff called the young people to a “life of service”.
Aisling, who is completing a part-time degree in youth ministry at St Mary’s in Twickenham, said: “It was an amazing, life-changing experience and I was really inspired by the care, dignity and respect with which CAFOD works with its partners to fight for the rights of people in the favelas.
“The thing that struck me the most from my experience was the community spirit of thoseImet living in poverty.
“They made me feel like part of the family when I was invited into their homes. It has been strange coming back to such a different environment from the favelas and it has really changed the wayIthink.
“When you see pilgrims from all over the world, you really do feel part of something bigger.”