verb, em·pow·er \im-ˈpau̇(-ə)r\
To encourage and support the ability to do something.
Take 14 gifted minds, add a trip of a lifetime to Brazil, and multiply that by a desire to effect change. What do you get?
Here at Black & Abroad, we value service and volunteer efforts that empower the African diaspora. Very often, we hear stories of those within our Black & Abroad community making time during their travels to help others. Recently, Deirdre V., (pictured below) shared an experience she and her friends had in Brazil that we felt was worthy of recognition.
“I heard about Project Favela through a friend of mine who attended Clark Atlanta University,” Deirdre shared. “She and a group of friends visited Rio last year and scheduled one of their days to visit the organization and volunteer. The Instagram videos she showed of them singing and dancing with some of the younger children was so touching. I told myself that if I ever got the opportunity to travel abroad again, I want to make sure I volunteer somewhere.”
Destiny made sure to align itself with Deirdre’s promise. A couple of weeks later, her friend Rickkay (pictured below in red) presented the idea of a group trip to Rio! The crew was ready for a trip to remember, but Deirdre had one more item she wanted everyone to pack for their trip. “I brought the idea of volunteering to our group of friends that planned on going to Brazil and they immediately said yes. So, I reached out to my friend for the information and the process behind everything. She guided me to www.projectfavela.org, where I sent a message inquiring about volunteering for a day with our large group.” Project Favela is an NGO dedicated to changing lives through education, the arts, and mentoring. The grass roots volunteer organization is located in Rocinha, one of the favelas in Rio. Their efforts are focused on changing lives through education and opportunity and breaking through the unjust social and economic barriers in the favelas of Rio. The group dedicated the last full day of their week long trip to spending time helping out the organization.
Within a few days, she was contacted by the Founder/President, Scott Miles and he directed Deirdre to Kristine Witko, who sits on the Board of Directors. “She was my point of contact for the entire visit and she is amazing! She was always great at getting back with me in a timely manner and is truly passionate about Project Favela and what they do.”
Once all the details were set up regarding the visit and the group’s schedule for the volunteer day, they were set. Deirdre stayed in contact with Kristine throughout the trip via WhatsApp and she guided the group to the Favela Da Rocinha, which is one of the largest favelas in Rio. “Our time in the favelas was great. We all felt completely safe and really enjoyed just being in the atmosphere of Rio. The kids were absolutely amazing.”
Once they arrived, the group was split up to work with different classes and to help out in the nursery. “Some of us were privileged to teach the children Math and English, while others got to sit down and draw and talk to them about their dreams and aspirations. There are future biologists, football players, and doctors in Project Favela!”
The kids also got together and sang “Happy Birthday” to one of Deirdre's friends in the group and taught everyone a dance.
“All in all, it was a great day and a humbling experience. We all honestly can't wait to go back and volunteer again! The board leaders of Project Favela loved the shirts. If I recall, I believe I heard one of them say they wanted a shirt for themselves!”
We commend Deirdre, Rickkay, and the rest of the travel crew for taking the time to make an impact in Rio! Thank you for representing and setting the standard for what it means to empower in true Black & Abroad fashion!
If you are interested in finding out how you can help, Project Favela has provided a list of school supplies that they would benefit from receiving. School supplies in Brazil, even shopping in the favela, is much more expensive than in the United States and a small supply donation is extremely helpful.
Here is a list of some things that are expensive or useful for crafts but difficult to find in Rio:
- Whiteboard markers
- Paper plates
- Glitter glue
- Pipe cleaners
- Colored construction paper
- Play doh
- Clear sheet protectors (for binders)
- Pencils, pens, crayons, and washable markers are also always welcome as well!
Project Favela also has an Amazon wishlist if you would prefer to help out with a book or two: https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3E978ZWD1OZYY/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v