The Brazil Project is a tri-partnership arrangement between SERVE, the Irish Redemptorists, and our Brazilian partners, Caritas Parnaiba. The SERVE partnership began in 2005 and is committed to a ten year cycle in this impoverished area of North East Brazil.

Since 2005 SERVE has annually supported the development programmes of Caritas, contributing approximately €80,000 per year which has led to over one hundred family homes being built, forty community water cisterns, sixty families helped through the income generation programme, and hundreds of children and young people benefiting from the nutrition and leadership projects. Finally, close to one hundred community leaders have benefited from the Barefoot Lawyers programme with a corresponding beneficial impact on community development and pastoral and social movements and human rights campaigns.

The project itself centres around the construction of family homes for families who would otherwise be forced to live in extremely sub-standard conditions. The construction project is based on a mutual cooperation between Brazilian workers, families, local organisations and the SERVE team. The emphasis is not on what we can teach or help them accomplish, but what we ourselves can learn and appreciate from their culture, society and work ethics, while working together to build links between the two countries in an act of solidarity and respect.

Apart from the community building project, SERVE is involved in other projects around the area, namely a water cistern construction project, child nutrition centre, and a Catadores outreach project.

House Building Project

SERVE is committed to building family homes each summer so that is where the main work will be focused. The volunteer group will be split into teams and divided among the various different building sites. The work will involve everything from the initial demolition and clearing of the existing accommodation to the building of a new brick house. Each site will have one or two native Brazilian site coordinators who will assist the volunteers in learning how to lay blocks etc. and then the volunteers will be set to work among the various sites.

There are various stages to the building of the brick houses.

– Demolition – Foundations – Brick-laying – Roofing – Plastering – Flooring – Electricity – Water – Doors and Windows

Amazingly, all parts of the building process are carried out by the one pedreiro (Brazilian Bricklayer) and his assistant. A builder in Brazil has the skills of an architect, surveyor, bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer, electrician and plumber!

SERVE volunteers will be involved in the initial demolition and laying of the foundations. Once the corners have been constructed, the bricklaying of the outer and inner walls can begin. Under the watchful eye of the Brazilian Pedreiro, the Irish get their first taste of bricklaying.

One of the most impressive aspects of the house building project is the involvement of the local communities who are encouraged to help with the work. Even more impressive are the young people of the community who turn up every day to lend a hand in whatever way they can. This is especially significant to the aims of the project which hopes to enrich and improve the lives of these young people by providing a safe and secure environment for them to grow up in.

Water Cisterns Project

SERVE has also had involvement and funded a community water cistern project near Luis Correia in Piaui, involving the construction of water cisterns for families suffering from water shortages in an isolated community. This community suffers from severe drought for much of the year and water that is available is heavily salinated and unsuitable for cooking and drinking. The cisterns provide fresh clean water for families by collecting rain fall during the wet season which can then be used during the long dry seasons.

The project is moving towards sustainability in that those receiving a cistern are expected to repay part of the cost of the cistern in small amounts over a number of years. The repaid money can then be used to part fund another cistern in the community. The volunteers may have an opportunity to visit this project and spend a night in the area.


Catadores are a group of people who are forced to live and work in rubbish dumps where they scrape and forage for recyclable materials which they hope to then sell for a meagre profit. Many Brazilians living in urban areas are forced to work in rubbish dumps and on the streets collecting and sorting rubbish in search for bits and pieces which they hope to sell to a recycling plant for a very small amount of money. These people are known as Catadores.

This life is harrowing for everybody involved but especially for the many young people forced to work in these conditions. Although illegal for anybody under 18 to work in these dumps, many have no choice but to work in these dumps to help their families make little money. To make the situation even worse, these young people not only work in these unsanitary and dangerous conditions but often live in these dumps and land-fills.

In the city of Parnaiba, the whole community of Parc Estevao is built up around the dumps and most people in this community work in the dump as their main source of income. They literally live in a dump, with piles of rubbish directly outside their homes. The SERVE volunteers will visit the dump, and see where some of the beneficiaries of the SERVE houses work and make their living.

For more information, read:

>> SERVE Volunteer Role Profiles

>> SERVE’s Development Work in Brazil

If you are interested in financially supporting this project in Brazil we would be very grateful of any donation you can make.

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Volunteering with:

  • Community House Building Project.
  • Construction of Water Cisterns
  • Exposure to Favela Community Development, Land Invasions, Catadores
  • Pastoral Da Criança – Nutrition programme
  • Language support to teachers

Destruction of old houses (Brazil)…….

…..And the construction of new houses (Brazil)

Other Areas We Volunteer in


South Africa