Paulina has sent us this beautiful testimony about her volunteer work in Rio de Janeiro. During her time in Salgueiro, a pacified community in Zona Norte of Rio, she has been working in the ecological garden of the community. At the same time she was caring for children at the local school, and enjoyed playing and drawing with them. She even taught some English to them. As she says, things move at a different pace in Brazil, you have to be patient. But after a while things start to work out greatly, and you get the support of the nice and welcoming people in the favela.
I had the opportunity to volunteer in Brazil with Iko Poran for three weeks in August 2013. My project was located in Salgueiro, a pacified community very well known for having one of the most famous samba schools in Rio de Janeiro.
In the mornings I worked in an ecological garden that provided food to the poorest families in the community and to the local school, and in the afternoons I helped in what they call “the library”, which is a space where children from the neighborhood come to hang around playing, drawing, painting or learning English.
My volunteer time in Rio was a very nice experience that I’ll never forget. One of the most important things I learnt is that you have to try to not to give up if at any time you have the feeling that the project is not fulfilling your expectations, or that you are not helping enough. You have to always keep in mind that things in Brazil move at a different pace… The best approach to this situation is to face each day with renewed illusion and to always show a positive and proactive attitude.
The best part of the gardening project was meeting the people who work there: nice, friendly and welcoming people, who quickly opened the door of their home to me and their hearts.
In the project with children I learnt that just with our presence, we prevent these kids from being in the streets exposed to dangers and possible negative influences. I also learnt that what really matters is the love you give and that you receive from them in huge amounts. It’s almost amazing to see how their smiles can light up your day and also motivate you to keep going and value the work you are doing there.
This experience also allowed me to meet amazing people. I’m talking about the other volunteers from different nationalities that lived in the same house as me, and also the Iko Poran team. They’re all lovely people that I hope to see again someday!– Paulina Dañino