Brazil Expedition March 2010 by Megan Wolfenden
Wow – what an experience. I cannot put into words how amazing it was to go to Brazil and experience so much in a few days. The More Project team kept us safe while showing us the incredible work that they are doing and the beautiful Amazon Jungle and its treasures.
We went to a school in the Amazon. We got there by boat and the scenery was phenomenal. The MORE project donated school supplies to a school that the community had set up for teaching children from neighboring areas. As enough money came in to the community from Acai harvest, the community was able to pool some funds and build a school and pay teachers. Education can break the cycle of poverty and that is what this school is doing. It was wonderful to see these happy well fed children getting an education and benefitting from the community.
We saw how the Acai was harvested, sent to market and processed and could see that MonaVie has the highest of standards when it comes to partners and the quality of the facilities used to process the Brazilian fruits. The markets were bustling with excitement and we felt safe (didn’t hurt that there was a security man with us). So much fruit and fish comes into the markets each morning and everything was fresh and diverse.
But the most fulfilling and humbling part of the trip was The MORE Project. At the Believers school we spent hours playing and dancing, laughing and hugging the children. They felt safe, happy and protected there. It made me wonder what life was like for them before they attended this school. (We had a glimpse of what life is like when we went to the Favela – I will never forget the boy who had gunshot scars on his stomach and he asked Sergio for a job). The kids do get to go to regular school but because it is only half day, there is so much more they need to learn. Also, because these children are from the Favelas, their teachers do not always put in enough effort and children as old as 13 could be passed through each grade but still come out unable to read. At the believers project they are fed a substantial meal, (which may be their only one for the day), they learn Portuguese, English, Math and other skills but also get to play in a safe and happy place – not on the dangerous streets of the Favelas. The older kids also get to learn life skills, English and trade skills like hairdressing and jewelry making. The older kids become role models for the younger kids. And then there is the Mum’s houses and Dad’s houses. This is where children end up if they couldn’t stay at home for various reasons. These kids get a house Mum and Dad, full board, a safe home, love and encouragement and must go to school. They are supplied with minimal school supplies and they each have a cubby hole of possessions and clothes. They are Safe and get a second chance in life. Sergio’s Mum overseas all of these and despite her senior status she works harder for these kids than you can imagine. She explained how she prayed to God for the funds to help these children and miraculously funds would (eventually) appear. There is so much more she wants to do to help these children. Sometimes she gets a call from an agency asking if she can take in more children but she is at capacity and it breaks her heart to send kids away. He was very grateful for the same donation of school supplies we made (Some of the Black Diamonds brought whole suitcases of supplies) but they need more.
One little girl at the Believers project grabbed me and stayed with me the whole afternoon. She could not speak English but she knew that after all the dancing and running around I was really hot and just wanted to cool down. She asked her teacher if we could go into one of the classrooms and she led me to the room and stood me in front of the air conditioner and proceeded to teach me a Portuguese game. I promised her I would be back! Until that time we have sponsored her and will keep in touch. All the kids were so beautiful and affectionate and my wish is that they always have The MORE project there to go to as a safe haven and place to learn life skills so that they can go into the world as young adults and prosper and stop their cycle of poverty. Already the generations are coming back to the Believers project as teachers and helpers because of the way it changed their own lives and they want to give back.
The new adult school will not only allow the expansion of the Believers school for the younger kids but will allow for many more adult classes. This will also help people to get employment or start their own businesses. The Baker beside the Mum’s house is owned by a former student and I highly recommend you get there and taste their incredible custard tart. There are many angels at work at The MORE Project.
When you can, get there and see for yourself – get involved in one of the many volunteer projects going on down there – stay at the beautiful Larsen Lodge and lose your heart to the beautiful people in Brazil.
In the meantime, whatever donation you can afford – know that it will be used for its maximum benefit and people there are truly grateful and in need.
Black Diamond – Australia