Visiting the Living & Learning project made a lasting impression on Patrick and his family, so much so that his birthday celebration had a Brazilian theme, with live Samba music, caipirinhas and a fine rendition of ‘The girl from Ipanema’. So I am told.

Patrick had requested that rather than personal gifts his friends could, if they wished, make a donation to VinB; and they did. £859.00.
A testament of the love felt for Patrick and of the generosity of his friends.

Following on from yesterday’s post, my understanding of what is spiritual is widening with the example here of spirituality made manifested through the coming together of people in close fellowship and in the reaching out to a wider fellowship.

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Volunteering… spiritual quest and experience

On Friday I learnt that the ‘Going Global’ course was oversubscribed. On Sunday I learnt that the number of pilgrims on the St James pilgrimage to Santiago has risen from 4,918 in 1998 to 145,877 in 2009. Whilst pondering the latter it brought to mind the former and together made me realise that there are many ways to discover and express ones search for spiritual fulfilment.
The tendency is to equate church attendance to spirituality, which is but one path, actively seeking self-knowledge is another and yet another is seeking to help others.
Have you considered volunteering as a spiritual journey..learn more

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Kind words from a VinB friend

“So good to access the blog and hear all the news from Rio. Good luck to you all and especially to Georgina and Will as they settle into their life in Rio and begin their project work with Beth and everyone involved with the children.
It was about a year ago that we arrived at the Covent. Michele and I well remember the wonderful children at the school and the exciting time we had in Rio. Especially our end of day rooftop gatherings which were not to be missed.
We hope to re visit Rio and the Convent again.”
All the best as you progress with the projects. Please give our hellos and love to Beth and all the staff and to the Nuns in the Convent.”
Kind Regards Jay & Michele, Cheshire UK

It’s heart warming to have good wishes and encouragement from friends of VinB and to know that the blog is keeping us in touch with each other and the projects.

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Just a large helping please…

“What’s will the food be like ? ” is one of the questions we are asked most often by volunteers.

The answer is that there is plenty, but little variety as the the mid-day and evening meal will usually have rice and beans as the staple dish with salad and veg accompaniments. Some days there are other savoury choices and of course volunteers can extend the menu with a little home cooking in the volunteer house.

That said we are always a little anxious about how volunteers will take to the food but Georgina is clear about her opinion of the food.

It will be interesting to hear how Gabriel, our Brazilian volunteer finds the food during his Newcastle placement.

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“Very happy to be in London”

Said, his mum.
Gabriel, an expert on European football made it to the national stadium despite reporting that he is kept very “busy” by Helen on the Assumption lay volunteer training course. Gabriel, son of Beth, co-ordinator of the Living and Learning project, plans to stay in England for one year, he will make his home in Newcastle volunteering in the “Good neighbour programme”.

We look forward to sharing his perspective on volunteering in the UK.

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A saint..and a party bring out the best

Brazilians as we all know are world leaders in the art of partying and finding good reasons to do it, and those in the Living and Learning project are no exception.
Saturday saw the culmination of  a week of preparation as the children and their families came together to celebrate the feast of St John, with a theme of traditional dress and dancing. Our on the spot reporter Will comments that the:

“friendly atmosphere and tasty food made for a great night.”

Obviously a not to be missed fun night for all involved, but there are also some powerful elements at work which I want to draw out.
1. The dedication of the monitors and volunteers in helping to organise the event carries the implicit message to the children that they are worth time and effort and are valued as individuals.  Beth the co-ordinator reminds us  often of the role those in the project play in developing the childrens’ self-esteem, because it is from this that aspiration follows.
2. Bringing the families together in a spirit of joy builds and sustains the community.
3. The event was used as opportunity to raise funds which demonstrates the will of the children and staff to be self-helping.

Well done to everyone, as always I feel humbled and privileged to be part of this community.

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Gabriel’s back..

Remember Gabriel our physics and philosophy student whose special interest is bio fuels; he is back in Rio showing Georgina and Will the ropes, helping out in the Living and learning and working on an exciting fund raising idea before heading up to Cristino Castro.

Here’s the idea what do you think ?

“In 2014, from the 13th June – 13th July, Brazil will host the football world cup. Fans from all over the world will flock here in their tens of thousands to cheer on their team and soak up the atmosphere.

VinB is looking at putting together a World Cup tourist package, offering accommodation in the convent, transport to and from the airport, to the games, to the big screens, all run by 4-5 returning volunteers who can offer their experience and knowledge of Portuguese and Rio. After the convent’s costs are all covered, the profit can go straight to the project.
There’s a lot to work out, but how many other places in Rio can offer the following:
– Evening drinks on the roof looking out over Botafogo Bay
– Swimming Pool
– Sunday Mass
– a-side football on the court looking out to Sugar loaf mountain – maybe run a mini- world cup
– Connection with the local communities
– 18th century convent and grounds
– Peace, tranquillity and security away from the hustle and bustle of Rio life

And the beauty of it all is that while you’re enjoying the above, the project gets invaluable funding and exposure.

Even more excitingly, if the idea is a success for the World Cup, imagine the potential for the 2016 Olympics which are solely based in Rio!

As I said, there’s still a lot to work out and so we’d really appreciate any advice or input.” Gabriel

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Learning Portuguese

Wellington ... our cool tutor!

Finally, we have found a great little scheme for volunteers who want to  get started with learning a little Portuguese before and during their placement.
Developed by Sam Watten the scheme is based on learning the most frequently used words, each of which is accompanied by a pronunciation guide and  delivered in a warm supportive  hand holding style.
In addition, Wellington, monitor with the Living and Learning Project, will be supporting Georgina and Will  (our latest volunteers) with a  weekly Portuguese class. VinB will be meeting the full costs of the training programme.

Just a couple of days ago they wrote:

“…with Wellington’s help (and animated teaching techniques) we’re making progress and are eager to learn!”  – Georgina

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Meeting the kids..

Georgina finds a space to help the children prepare for San Joan

“Although it may sound a cliché, the first thing that struck Will and I upon meeting the kids was how open, friendly and enthusiastic they all are. Before we set off, we met Margaret and Joe for a final catch up and Joe described the backgrounds of these kids as if they were from some of the poorest estates in England.

I don’t think either of us were expecting such a warm response from them all, as they have happily held our hands, hugged us and make such an effort to involve us in their games and activities. This week we have been preparing for the San Joan festival on Saturday, involving making lots of decorations, chopping bamboo and so on.

It’s exciting for us to be involved in something of this kind, as we will hopefully have the opportunity to meet some family members of the kids and should raise funds for the project.” Georgina and Will

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1 week in! Georgina

…news and insights from Georgina a serving volunteer in the Living and Learning project :

“It’s difficult to believe that we’ve been here in Rio for over a week now. The time seems to have flown by and I’m becoming increasingly aware of just how short a time 5 weeks is to be here on the project and to still make a positive contribution.

What I love about life in Rio and on the project is, never knowing what to expect. I think my first example of this would be our accommodation here at the convent. Having been forewarned of the simplicity of the convent, we hardly anticipated luxury lodging yet it was still an initial surprise to see how sparse the volunteer house is, and how freezing cold the shower is! Despite this, this place is already like home. Photographs cannot do justice to the views from the roof of the convent. Simply reading up on the roof with Rio sprawled out below is incredible. The food here at the convent, although simple and somewhat repetitive is something we both have really taken to. Will’s purchase of tomato ketchup has made mealtime all the more enjoyable for him as well!

Santa Teresa itself is an unexpected place. Gabriel, Will and I went for a wander around the old, bohemian neighbourhood. Despite Gabriel knowing Rio so well, we were still able to stumble upon areas with incredible views and architecture that even he had not visited. We’re lucky to be able to stay in such an interesting and fascinating place.                                                   Georgina

Next post… ‘meeting the children’

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