This summer the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund allowed me to travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with IVHQ. International Volunteer Headquarter is a programme which connects volunteers from all over the world with independent local volunteer organisations. The use of local organisations who know what is needed in the community, the consistent number of volunteers and the selection process for volunteers and the training given to them, means that their approach to volunteering is both responsible and aids sustainable development.
The organisation which I worked with in Brazil is called ‘Jive Brasil.’ I volunteered on their childcare programme and was placed in a Crèche in a Favela called Cantagalo. Even though this area is only five minutes away from the world-famous Ipanema Beach, poverty and crime are rife. Shoot outs are regular and gangs have a large presence there. Crèche Cantagalo, therefore, is a safe place for parents to send their children aged 2-4, five days a week, where they are cared for by a mixture of local staff and volunteers. The Crèche is free for the children to attend; they receive two meals a day and take part in activities, song and dance and play together. My role in the Crèche was to support the staff, supervise the children and help with other tasks such as feeding them, brushing their teeth and putting them down for a nap.
Whilst in Rio I stayed in a volunteer house with twenty other volunteers. This was an amazing part of the experience, I made some lifelong friends on the trip from all over the world. In our spare time we would go to the beach, relax and of course go sightseeing to land marks such as ‘Cristo Redentor’ and ‘Pão de Açúcar.’ One weekend we even visited the tropical island of Ilha Grande which was a highlight of the trip.
Even though the trip was amazing it wasn’t without its challenges. Rio is a fantastic place, however it can be very dangerous; I witnessed a lot of crime whilst I was there which was scary at times. Moreover, the language barrier was definitely a challenge; even though I’ve studied Portuguese at University for a year now, trying to understand the fast paced Brazilian Portuguese of the staff at the Crèche and converse with two year olds in it was definitely something new.
However, the positives of the trip totally outweigh these challenges. The chance to experience Brazilian culture and practise my Portuguese was really beneficial and will help me greatly with my University studies. The trip also helped me to develop as an individual; I’ve become more confident and independent and was humbled by my experience in Rio. However, first and foremost, the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund allowed me to do my part in helping run the Crèche, which is such an amazing place. The opportunity to learn, have fun and make friends and the safety that it provides to the children make it a really valuable part of the community.