In 1984, Catholic seminarian Joaquim de Melo Neto decided to relocate to an open landfill in Conjunto Palmeiras, the largest favela in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza. Preparing himself for ordination, he wanted to experience extreme poverty first-hand and help the community thrive. Upon arrival, he saw over 25,000 people living without water, electricity, sewage, or fixed income, sharing the land with countless rats and vultures.
After helping the community to organize itself, Mr. Melo began using his knowledge of European cooperatives to instill a sense of belonging and solidarity among the residents of Conjunto Palmeiras. Under the slogan “No-one beats poverty alone,” the favela became an official neighborhood, with basic sanitation, running water, and electricity.