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17 Jul 2013

Assumption Volunteers in Rio for WYD

Just over two weeks ago, the Assumption Volunteers arrived in the ‘cidade maravilhosa’ – Rio de Janeiro.  We are spending 5 weeks here, volunteering at two different projects run by the Salesian organisation ‘Amar’. After this, we will take part in World Youth Day, with Pope Francis and millions of other young Catholics from all over the world.

 

Our group is made up of young Catholics from the UK - Kieran, Natalie, Rachel and myself (Becky), Martina - an Assumption Volunteer from Slovakia, and Isabel - a Sister of the Assumption. 

The first of the projects is a day-centre which aims to provide a safe haven for children who live on the streets. The house is open for young people to come and share meals, play football or simply rest in a safe and loving environment. It is such a simple initiative, yet it has been clear to see the joy and hope that it brings to the children every day. For us working at the project, it has been heartbreaking to see such young children forced into life on the streets, but the staff there have been truly inspirational. Their faith is so tangible, and their gentle witness to Christ through service is bringing hope to many people’s lives.

The second project is aimed at children and adolescents who live in nearby favelas (shanty towns) which are spread right across the city. Most of these children would have experienced drug and gang violence as part of their everyday life; the project provides school support and activities to allow them to experience another way of living. It has been a truly joyful experience to spend time with both projects, playing with the children, speaking with the staff and learning more about the social and political situation inBrazil. While the problems here are vast, both projects are bringing hope to many people’s lives

While the work is busy, we have also had lots of opportunities to soak in Brazilian life and culture. From long mornings sipping juice in our neighbourhood, Santa Teresa, to even longer afternoons on the beach, sunbathing and playing in the waves, we have all found some way to relax and get to know each other here in Brazil. The sisters and friends of the community here have been so welcoming, as has everyone we have met - we have all been overwhelmed by the friendliness of the city. And it is so alive! The buildings and streets are full of colour, and lively music is played constantly from the favelas nearby.

World Youth Day fever is spreading quickly! The convent is decorated head to toe in bunting, and will soon welcome hundreds of pilgrims. Having been so immersed in Brazilian culture over the past few weeks, we are all very excited to welcome Pope Francis and millions of other young people into this city, which we have all grown to know and love!