An Interview with "Dona Nilsa" - Founder of Casa De Maria

I can describe the founder of Casa De Maria “Dona Nilsa” in three words loving, devoted and fearless . In my eyes she is like the Brazilian “Mother Theresa” – dedicating her life to the poor and need – among the streets of Brazil. I had the pleasure of catching up with Dona recently who kindly shared her stories, thoughts and dream with me! Just to warn you some of stories she shares are a bit hard hitting.

What Inspired you to start Casa De Maria?

“I saw children eating the inedible on the streets of my city. It made me sad. So I went to my cupboard and offered what I could. I tried to cook up whatever spare food I had as regularly as I could and serve it up from my house. My ex-husband didn’t agree with what I was doing and beat me regularly for giving away our food. I continued to cook up and give food away because I believed I was doing the right thing, we separated and I continued to provide food for those in need.

Casa de Maria – Street View

I found out that the local market, threw out bags of food every day. I decided to walk everyday and carry home as much food as I could so I could cook more meals for more people. The owner of the market found out what I was up to and lent me their truck so I could take more food home. My church heard about the work I was doing and blessed me by donating a building, the same building where Casa De Maria stands now to help provide food for people. And this is how it all started!”

How many people do you feed a day?

One Casa De Marias of the volunteers preparing some carrots

“We make approximately 380 litres of soup a day which is about 250 plates of soup. But every day is different as we rely completely on donations.”


What does Casa De Maria provide?

“We not only provide food, we offer a place to wash, a place to learn. Volunteers tutors come and provide a service to help the children of the favela get into college.”


Casa De Maria – lunch time ques have started


How Long has Casa De Maria been running for?

“The Church donated the building about 14 years ago – so officially about 14 years!”

 Work doesn’t stop over Christmas – it just means extra special celebrations!


Do you have any restrictions to the service that you provide?

“We are only able to serve up soup for most of the week. We try and save some of the food each day and hope there is a donation of something special like spaghetti or maybe even some meat so we can serve up  a proper meal once a week.”



How do you provide the food that you serve every day?

Casa De Maria's Volunteer preparing the daily soup


“Volunteers!! – Everyone who works at Casa De Maria is a volunteer. Our volunteers work with us because they enjoy helping those who are need and seeing how much a difference a full belly can make to someone. Our volunteers have faith in making a better world by helping others.”

How do you think that BELO will help you and Casa De Maria?

Char and Maria (BELO) with Dona Nilsa and Casa De Maria Volunteer

“We believe BELO can give us stability, we rely solely on donations of food, donations of money to fix things, we have no stable income to pay for what we do. We never know if we are going to have enough food or resources. So, we hope they can help give us stability and maybe even help us grow to help more people in need.”


How do you dream that Casa De Maria will grow?

Entrance to Casa De Maria

“It makes my heart sink when it’s time to close Casa De Maria for the day and all our homeless visitors return to the street with no bed to sleep on. I dream of one day we are able to develop “Casa De Mara” provide a safe place to sleep at night. I believe this will help give people hope that they can progress and help give them a better destiny”


I hope you have enjoyed learning about the amazing Dona Nilsa as much as I have enjoyed meeting her. Have a lovely day!

With Love From,

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