Volunteer Teaching in Brazil
There are experiences powerful enough to change one’s perspective permanently. International volunteering is one of these.
I taught at a community center just outside Recife, Brazil. The goal of the class was to provide job skills, both social and language. The students were mature, adaptable, and happy. Most of the time, I was the student learning the lessons of generosity, love, and sincerity.
On a day-long visit to a favela (shanty town) called "Rubbish Dump," a 3-year-old with dark bouncing curls came running toward us, smiling and yelling “Tia, Tia, Tia.” She chose me to receive the first of many loving hugs. I held her hand and we walked together, jumping over stale rain puddles that smelled of urine and rotten fruit. Luciana giggled the whole time.
On her eight birthday she will start working at the city dump, less than 50 yards away from her combination cardboard/sheet metal house. She will join her family and friends, crawling through trash, looking for recyclable items to sort and redeem for money at a recycling factory.
Our project coordinator, Miriam Thomas, told us that as long as the people have work to do and something to eat there’s a reason to party. Though Recife is one of the poorest areas in Brazil, it is famous for having the best Carnival. I left Rubbish Dump resolved to remembering the importance of finding happiness within.