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My Country. My House. by Lisiane Medeiros

24th July 2020 by Morven Macbeth

My country. My house.

I’m an actress and theatre educator who lives in a city called Porto Alegre, situated at the extreme south of Latin America in a country called Brasil. A very large country. And it’s common for people around the world to think it is constantly hot and sunny out here, with everyone on beaches. But it isn’t quite like that; Brasil is a very diverse country, culturally and geographically, and down south it’s very cold during winter. Last night, for example, it was 4ºC outside and it snowed in cities a few miles from here!

I tell you this so you can picture my country as a place of contrasts. And some of these contrasts are even more evident when we talk about social inequality. Some have very much and some have very little. This inequality is strongly reflected in Brasil’s educational system. We have private schools with very rich students and who follow high standards, to public schools with no infrastructure and with students who hardly have something to eat.

At this moment of pandemy, the whole world has been fighting not only the sanitary crisis, but the different global realities. In Brasil, just as in many other countries, our schools are closed down and distance education is not a sufficiently comprehensible method to be applied efficiently in Brasil, further evidenciating our inequality of access to basic needs like internet access.

While the privileged parcel of the population is wooed by the novelty of education through digital means, another huge parcel sees itself forbidden to enjoy the minimal compensation for the system’s stoppage, due to not having access to computers at home or for having to sell their own mobiles to buy food. Many families are losing their jobs and income during the economical crisis we’re going through; due to the pandemy and paralization of several productive classes and also due to the historically awful and cruel government which currently destroys our country in every known sphere.

We have reached more than one million infected people and more than sixty thousand dead. This, also, is a reflection of the Brazilian education, with a big part of the population unable to comprehend the gravity of the pandemic and denying to follow the prevention protocols.

But, as I told you at the start of this text, Brasil is a country of contrasts and, in contrast to all of this unfortunate reality, there are also good, intelligent, socially and politically engaged people, which compensates the irresponsible government with independent social organisations and solidarity actions in help of those who live in vulnerable situations. Groups that make and distribute food for unhoused people, others who distribute basic-needs’ products to families with no job or income, free facemasks for vulnerable communities, teachers who search for ways to compensate the educational difficulties and Brazilian artists of all areas creating free online content, softening the effects of social distancing and contributing to the conscientization of the necessity to respect the protocols during the pandemic.

Another good news is that my children who have participated in HouseDown are safe and well! This project allowed a beautiful experience of self-knowledge when they made the drawings in the classroom and this continuity of the project serves as a stimulus of hope and certainty that we can get through this moment with positive global actions.

My sincere warm feelings for all of these people, big and small, who participated in HouseDown. And my special thanks to Morven Macbeth and imitating the dog.

Lisiane Medeiros – actress and theatre educator, Brasil

July 2020

Drawing by one of the children who participated in the HouseDown project from João XXIII School, Porto Alegre

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