SAO PAULO – Amid the holiday frenzy reigning in one of the biggest bus stations in Brazil, there is a quiet corner where a group of volunteers encourages passengers to send Christmas cards, a chance they also provide for people who don’t know how to write.
The Tiete terminal connects with 1,033 cities in Brazil and with five other South American countries, but in this season it also connects thousands of families sentimentally through the “Socicam Social Cards” project, thanks to which more than 59,000 Christmas cards have been sent over the past 16 years.
The snowmen, Christmas trees, the velvet tablecloth covered with Christmas cards with their respective envelopes – this little corner of the bus station is in marked contrast to the hustle and bustle of passengers carrying suitcases and who don’t take their eyes off their smartphone screens for one minute.
Here there is no hurrying, as shown by the three hours Carla Vedia, 27, spent taking the time and effort to write five long Christmas letters to her loved ones in the interior of Sao Paulo state.
“You take the time, it’s in your own writing, you’re identified with what you write. It’s personal and is worth a lot more than something you could post on WhatsApp. It’s more satisfying,” this public school worker told EFE.
Volunteers from the Bandeirantes youth movement also help write cards for people who don’t know how to read or write.
“They’re usually elderly people who never had the chance to go to school and they ask us for help. They’re very moved when they talk to us and it’s really an emotional experience,” journalism student Bruno Paroni, 19, told EFE. He has taken part in this project for five years.
Of those years of service, Bruno remembers so many touching moments, like the young woman who dreamed of seeing her children again in the United States, but a problem with her visa got her deported to Chile and from there they put her on a bus to Brazil.
“She was pretty desperate, she didn’t know how to contact her kids. I started talking to her and she was devastated. Later on she sent us a Christmas card thanking us for helping her calm down and for listening to all her problems,” he said.
Luisa Marquez, another of the volunteers, recalled the case of Rodrigo and his mother Ana Maria, who hadn’t seen each other for 20 years but never failed to send Christmas cards, until one day they ran into each other in the same bus station.
Then there was the man who every year only went to the terminal to send poems to his wife.
The Christmas spirit also fills teenagers like Eloisa Cristina Masera, an architecture student who sends messages all the time from her cell phone, but considers Christmas cards “something special” because “nobody does handwriting anymore’
“What we try to do is light up the Christmas spirit and put a little love in the midst of Sao Paulo,” Aline Cabral of Socicam, the company that runs the bus terminal and promotes the Christmas project in 24 stations around the country, told EFE.