As I sat packing my bags on my last day in Rio de Janeiro I was overcome with a variety of different emotions.
I felt sad to leave behind the beautiful sights that comforted me; the people who helped me to continue to learn and to grow; and the memories that I have made while exploring myself, my project, and the communities of Rio de Janeiro.
I felt excited for the next chapter of my travel year. I was looking forward to spending a few days exploring the Amazon river and rainforest and I was excited to land in my Guatemala, my final destination of my travel year.
I felt anxious about my return home as I am now beginning to fully understand and realize how different my life will be when I return.
I also felt proud as I thought about all that I have experienced in Rio de Janeiro and my travel year.
I have spent time with programs that are truly making a difference for the children and families in the favelas and Rio de Janeiro communities.
During my last few days with Project Favela, I was able to experience firsthand how the programs are making a difference in the lives of the children, families, and community. I saw people gather and watch a concert that Project Favela held at a local pizzeria where the children sang and danced to music that they had learned from a visiting band.
I was also happy to learn that the project is continuing to expand. On my last day I learned that the organization is now sending volunteers into a daycare program for children in one of the “worst” parts of the favela. I believe that getting involved in more community programs and services in need like the new daycare project is essential to ensure that the organization continues to positively help the community.
I hope that Project Favela continues to grow and to expand to include more local people and programs. I hope to someday see the programs further expand into the Rocihna community in a way that increases the involvement of local community members since most of the staff are international volunteers. I believe that Project Favela and the Rocihna community could really benefit by having a volunteer/intern program for Brazilians who are interested in social justice, social welfare, and helping their communities.
With new volunteers arriving every week, with the development of more programs sending volunteers into the Rocihna community, with so many dedicated and passionate volunteers and staff, and with a founder who has an incredible vision for the future of the organization, I am excited and thankful for the continued growth of Project Favela.
I am so grateful for all that Scott and Kristine have done to welcome me into their organization and for letting me see their programs. I enjoyed spending time with the children and will miss their energy and kindness! I will also miss the volunteers and staff! It was nice to see so many dedicated and passionate young women and men working hard to create a fun, educational experience for the kids at the daycare and the after school program.
I am also grateful for the chance to see the programs at the Julio Otoni Community Center.
After weeks of arts and crafts, drum circles, soccer and volleyball games, and tons of laughs it was difficult to say goodbye.
I have learned so much from the kind, compassionate, resilient, and strong children of the Julio Otoni Favela. I have learned a different mindset of how to view life and happiness. I have learned how we can truly do so much with so little. And I have been reminded of how truly blessed I am and how I must make sure that I appreciate all that I have and all that is truly important in life.
I appreciate all that the Julio Otoni community has taught me and I will truly miss spending time with the children and experiencing their unconditional love and compassion through their hugs, smiles, and laughter.
Even though my time here was short, Rio de Janeiro has truly left an impact on my travel year and my own personal journey.
As I struggled with personal challenges and insecurities while preparing for my return home in a few weeks, the beautiful people and places of Rio de Janeiro helped me to continue to learn, to grow, and to overcome.
I am continuing to understand and overcome my fears and insecurities as I learn how to embrace and accept the unknown with the vulnerability of an open mind and open heart.
I have learned that by allowing myself to be vulnerable I am also becoming stronger. I have learned that by being more open and taking risks, I am opening my eyes, my mind, and my heart to new experiences and feelings of freedom, love, and happiness.
I have truly fallen in love in Rio de Janeiro.
I have fallen in love with the beautiful city, sights, and beaches….
From Christ the Redeemer….
To Sugar Loaf Mountain……
To the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.
I have also grown to love myself and others in a new and unexpected way.
I feel truly blessed to have had such a memorable experience in such a short amount of time!
While it is with a heavy heart that I leave Rio de Janeiro, I am excited for to begin the final chapter of my travel year.
Next stop-the Amazon River and Rainforest!