There has never been a more appropriate time to say the last week and a half has been an absolute whirlwind. After trekking around the city with a group of volunteers from around the world for the better part of Monday, I found myself in a small favela called Sao Cristavao early Tuesday morning. While Sao Cristavao is one of the smaller favelas surrounding Rio, it is constantly buzzing with activity.
It is in the middle of all the buzzing that you’ll find a small non profit art studio called Retalhos Cariocas and a community center where I volunteer. At Retalhos Cariocas myself and several other volunteers assist a local woman in creating art works from found, donated, and recycled materials to showcase at local events that benefit the community. But thats just one part of the story. Retalhos Cariocas also works to share their artistic knowledge with other women from around the community, thereby imparting valuable, useful skills to the women who participate, and ultimately emphasizing art as a sustainable tool for social change. As if that wasn’t enough, JIVE Brasil, the organization I am volunteering through, partners with a community center where I come in the afternoon to work with local children in exploring artistic expression through dance, music, and crafts.
I have always found that artistic expression, of any sort, has allowed me to discover so much about myself and my own potential. What’s more is that some of the most valuable connections I have made in life have been through art. So to be able to share what is closest to my heart with people who have very limited access to artistic resources and communities leaves me with not only extreme gratitude, but also excitement about seeing what art could mean for them, and peace in exactly what I’ve done and what I’m doing.
My heart is full and what’s greater is that it is supported by a city that seemingly has nothing but beauty to offer. And while that may sound a bit too trusting in a city that houses over six million people, for eleven days I have constantly been reminded of the grace and magnificence that surrounds me. Eleven days in Brazil. Eleven days in Rio de Janeiro. Eleven days of full smiles, laughs, excitement, beauty, peace, and serenity. Eleven days of feeling free. While eleven days isn’t long at all, I feel as if I am exactly where I am supposed to be.