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Megan Wolfenden’s Expedition Experience

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.


Megan Wolfenden
Black Diamond – Australia

“Our Experience”

By: Guest Bloggers Marina & Marv Didyk

When my husband, Marv, asked me where I wanted to go for my 50th birthday there was no hesitation on my part! The MORE Project in Brazil was it, and we never looked back! From the moment I saw the Momentum DVD and listened to Sergio Ponce and Katy Holt-Larsen, there was something in my heart that tugged at me for a long time.  It wouldn’t let go and the more I learned what The MORE Project was all about the more I knew I had found what I had been looking for in the “give back” part of my life!  We have been so blessed in our lives with a beautiful , healthy and happy family and wonderful careers and now at this stage of our lives we find that we need and also want to help those who haven’t had the opportunity or even thought to dream about the kind of life they could have.  How can we not give back?   I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding birthday present! 

Travelling to Brazil and living in the Mona Vie Village has changed our lives and it is not easy to put my feeling into words. We happened to arrive on the opening day of the daycare and Mindy Relyea, Mirna and Gabriel Ponce, our Expedition leaders, walked us up to the cereche (daycare) to visit the 60 kids all under 4 years old that first morning.  The kids were so friendly and affectionate and hugged us so tight.  I remember thinking…wow…they are so happy!  One little girl sat in the corner with a really sad face while all the other little ones were running around hugging everyone and laughing.  I gravitated to her right away and went over and sat on the floor in the corner with her for quite a while and she just kept staring at me with big brown eyes and I wondered…”what is your story, little one”….I talked to her in English for while, knowing she couldn’t understand me but the feelings portrayed from one’s heart is universal and she slowly came around with a little bit of a smile and then finally she came to me with a hug and I know I will never forget that moment ever.  Gabriella is two and Marv and I sponsored her that day.  How could we not?  We worked on the renovations for the daycare deck for 10 days and she was there every day watching us and we would stop for play breaks instead of coffee breaks and we would just hang out with her.  We met her Mom and her brother and went to their home next door in the favelas.  It was hard to see how they live, but what really touched us was that her family is a really proud family and Gabriella is loved so much….they just don’t have much….but they have dignity and are proud and they are happy.  It sure taught us so much and we came away from  Brazil feeling like we were the ones that received so much and not the other way around!  We never knew our hearts could grow that large!

It was such a great experience working in the Village and getting to know the Ponce family and truly seeing what it is that they are doing.  Helping one family at a time break the cycle of poverty and provide them with the tools to learn and bring hope back into their lives so now they can dream and their dreams can now become a reality.   

Thank you to the whole MORE Family, thank you for all that you do. The Expedition experience is one we will never forget and the bonds and friendships that we developed.

If you really want to have a life changing experience go down to the Village and immerse yourself; you will come away a better person and it will change the way you look at life!

Marina & Marv Didyk

Katy Holt-Larsen Talks About the Flood Relief in Brazil

2010 Expedition Dates

February 28th – March 7th

May 9th- 16th

August 8th-22nd (youth trip–ages 14-18)

October 17th-24th

Diamonds in the Rough

This week a group of Black Diamonds are setting out on their own wonderful journey of heatbreaking wide open experiences at the MORE Project in Brazil.  The MORE Project hosts at least 4 Service Expeditions every year that everyone is invited to participate on.  It is just once a year that we host the Black Diamonds on a breakneck speed, whirlwind tour of the projects and impact regions that MonaVie touches in the north of Brazil. And then we roll up our sleeves in Rio where the MORE Project is centered.

This is brief report of one our wonderful volunteers on the VIP expedition last year…

Stefany Allongo

9/4/09 – Day 5: Rio de Janeiro

All the experiences up until this point – swimming with the pink dolphins, fishing for piranhas, shucking acai berries – are nothing compared to what I experienced today. It was life changing.

We began today by landing in Rio de Janeiro and heading to Village MonaŸVie, the property where the distributors stay when they visit. It’s also the site of a glorious future for the children of the community. Still in the construction and planning stages, when completed the Village will house up to 500 children who would otherwise be lost to the system. It will also be equipped with a pool, playground, soccer field and other amenities that cater to the children’s needs. The vision for this place is extraordinary. I can’t wait to see it completed!

The MORE Project is comprised of a handful of programs that cater to the local community.

  • The Believer’s Project is a version of day care for children 2 – 12, where the can come when they are not in school. This is a safe environment where they can learn, play and grow.
  • The Taking Off Program is the next step for children 12 – 18, where they can learn practical skills.
  • The Professional School offers 18 different classes for adults to learn a trade. From computers to English, from jewelry making to hairdressing, these classes help these people find employment to better support their families.
  • The Nehemiah Project is how we affect the living conditions in Vila Ipiranga. One by one, money is raised to fix the homes of deserving individuals. On this trip alone we were able to raise the money for 4 homes!
  • The Mother’s House and Father’s House are where those children with no family come to find a home. It’s a beautiful place with amazing spirit!

There are other programs and more in the making, but these few are the ones we were able to experience first hand.

At The MORE Project, I spent the afternoon playing with many kids but there was one very special boy with the most beautiful smile named Joe. We were kindred spirits from the start. Though bound to his crutches due the fact that his legs don’t work properly, he is still extremely outgoing. Having been bound to wheelchairs and crutches for significant parts of my life, I empathized with Joe and his desire to push his body, not letting the paralysis define him.

Our afternoon consisted of a few rousing games of foosball. I’m definitely not as good as he or the other kids were, but that was ok because they didn’t gloat during their victory. Instead they tried to teach me techniques on how to flick my wrist so that I had more power when I hit the ball. Try understanding that in Portuguese!

As Joe got tired from standing at the foosball table, we moved to a nearby bench. There was broken conversation full of laughter as we tried to make one another understand. Then Joe decided to teach me a Brazilian hand clapping game – similar to “Miss Mary Mack” – called “Ela Morena.” However, unlike the games I had played as a kid where speed was the objective, in this game there were rules. You begin by joining hands and swinging them back and forth. Then clap 2 times and with a show of fingers pick a number between 0 and 5. If you and your partner choose the same number, then you hit each other’s hands twice. If you pick different numbers, then you hit your chest twice.

Sounds easy right? Not so much when the concept of same and different numbers is lost in translation. But Joe was persistent and after about 15 min, I finally understood. It’s a slightly addictive game and we played up until the moment I had to leave for Vila Ipiranga. Our last game took place on the steps of The MORE Project entrance. My heart yearned to stay with him, but I know I’ll be back to play another round.

At Vila Ipiranga, we saw how these kids live. Some of their homes are falling apart. Some live 8 or 9 to a room. As I looked at all these homes, my heart was filled with bliss because though they have nothing they were so happy. They played in the streets where dirt and broken piping mix, not knowing anything different. Their joy is infectious. You couldn’t be sad when they were so happy, all you could do was figure out how you can help even just one child or one family.  Some times I think they help us more than we help them.

That’s when I made a promise to myself (and now you all know), to work this business so that I can come back to Brazil and give one of these families something MORE to be joyous about. Whether it’s by sponsoring a new home or helping put one of them through school. These kids need to know that there are people out there that are willing to help them reach their dreams and I want to be one of those people. I want to be of significance. It was a wonderful revelation! Knowing this, a note to all my friends: please help keep me on track to reach my goal.

Service and Learning–Angels showed up from everywhere!!!



Trip Notes & Video: MORE Project Brazil Expedition 2010

Posted by Rick Parlante on Thursday, March 11, 2010 · Leave a Comment

When I signed on to the MORE Project Brazil Expedition, I knew we were going down there to change lives. What I didn’t realize was that the life most profoundly changed, would be my own.

Having been involved with the MORE Project, donating money and even sponsoring a child from here in the states, I thought I knew what to expect when I got down to Brazil. I was wrong. The first-hand experience of being there is nothing like I ever dreamed.

Brazil in many ways is a dream – a beautiful, tropical land. And in other ways, it is a nightmare – 6 million people living in Rio De Janiero alone with over one million of them living in “favellas” – Brazilian for ghetto; 1 out of 6 people living below the poverty level  – 25 million in the country living on $2 a day; and 7.5 million Brazilian children living on the streets – many of them sold for prostitution.

Poverty is nothing new to me; I’ve seen horribly poor areas in countries all over the world. But nothing compares to the depth of poverty we experienced in Brazil. There are 1,140 favellas in Rio De janiero alone where families live 4 or more in an 8 x 10 room. These “homes” consiste of mattresses lining the dirt floors. When it rains, the room becomes muddy and damp, but the occupants have no where else to go. They somehow make do.

But these are only numbers – the real story of Brazil is told in the faces of the poor – in the faces of the children. It was wonderful to meet the children we’ve been sponsoring face-to-face. So wonderful, actually, that I came home with the hopes of sponsoring four more: Gabriella who is 2 years old and her brother who is 4, Ingrid and Douglas both at age 14.

We met with Sergio Ponce, one of the driving forces behind Monavie Village, who’s vision began with sixty needy children and now encompasses 2,000 children and adults – a number soon to double. Monavie Village includes a brand new day care facility which opened while we were there. They also have created a mother’s house, Believers one and two and a professional school.

Monavie Village is a ray of light in an otherwise dark world. Looking across the landscape at a favella, as far as you can see – there are discarded people. Amazingly when you get closer to them – to each individual – there is HOPE in their eyes. How, amidst all this poverty and lack, can there be hope? I believe that the MORE Project which stands for Monavie Operation Rescue along with Monavie Village and all the support and educational programs have planted these seeds of hope in the favellas. Through us – the Monavie family – and our deeds, this discarded population knows that there are many, many people in the world who DO CARE and love them. The rehabbed homes we help to build shine out from the shanties that surround them like beacons of hope for all who live there.

You and I and everyone that drinks and distributes Monavie are part of that hope. Every bottle sold helps to change the world for the poorest of the poor in Brazil.

Introducing the MORE Project Expedition Blog

Xiaoli Mei with one of the children at the Never Better House Daycare.

The MORE Project is so happy to bring you stories of our expeditioners from the field.  February 28th through march 8th we had a group of 13 participants join the team in Brazil and serve on a construction project and with the kids at the brand new day care center.  While they are down there doing so much good for others, don’t forget the wonderful change this kind of service brings to our own hearts.  The MORE Project’s own Mindy Relyea lead the group and sent this note back to us on the second day.

“U would not believe our day! Sooo productive.  Our construction guys built a two teired railing all around the never better for the toddlers…then covered it with mesh…we painted all the walls of the out door kitchen, put rock and gravel to create a new  path on both sides of the property leading up to the house….hard long labor, but soo great! Louisa made a beautiful lunch that we ate outside with the workers and women of the crèche. Lina is beside herself she is so happy and the group is full of pride and new calluses! Then we weeded all the gardens, which is perfect because the soil is soft and wet…it’s been such a wonderful day… Sergio has been with us, so supportive and upbeat!”

Laura Hernandez with her new Sponsored Child–the start of a very happy “family”

Mark Your Calendars


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