About volunteering in Rio with Iko Poran
So, you've made up your mind and you're coming to Brazil to do great
things. I'm sure you will. Only they may not be precisely the same
things you were thinking on the plane coming down. At least, that was
my experience. I'd like to share some of it with you, and give you
some things to think about as you prepare yourself.
My visit to Rio began in March of 2007, and I came to help Iko Poran
develop its English language program. I believe I was in some ways
successful in that. What I didn't really realize, or what I was unable
to really digest until I had been there for awhile, was that the goal,
in my case, teaching English, was only the stated goal, that something
more subtle and most likely more important would happen in the course
of my stay. The truth is, while you are here ostensibly to teach
English or dance, to work on a photography project, paint a favela or
update a website, please consider that that is only your stated goal.
In many of the projects, the real goal is to give the members, often
young people, a place to be where they are around people who care
about them, off the streets, and hopefully out of the line of fire.
You contribute to that, the unstated but main goal, just by your
presence and commitment. By being there, you are giving them a chance
to get to know not a foreigner, but a person, and you get to know them
as people, not just as poor people. In short, you make contact, you
make connections, you make friends.
That's not to say that you're not also supposed to be doing what you
can to teach English or whatever. I know, too, that many volunteers
feel under prepared to do what they feel that they are here to do. My
advice is to do the best you can with what you have to work with, and
bear in mind that just by being there you are accomplishing a lot.