Anna Randolph
Anna Randolph
Brazil 2015 - 2016
Oi! My travel takes me to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for six months to work in arts-focused community development with the organization International Volunteer Headquarters. By supporting art education programs in communities throughout Rio, I hope to promote art as a vehicle for social change. Read More About Anna →

Carioca Culture


They aren’t lying when they say traveling abroad impacts your perspective. Even in the short amount of time I have been here, I have absorbed so much from simply experiencing Carioca culture. Perhaps the greatest moments I have experienced thus far involve the completely altruistic nature of the Cariocas. It seems that no matter the language barriers or the overwhelming diversity the exists among the many people in Rio, there is always a willingness to accept, an interest in listening, a desire to understand, and a readiness to support others, no matter how small or large the need. Everywhere I turn I find someone who will welcome me as a friend and honestly want to get to know me. What’s greater is that even with the vast economic and social disparity within Rio de Janeiro, I have met so many people who continuously venture to foster meaningful connections within their communities.

I’m so incredibly privileged to do the kind of work I’m doing in a culture that whole heartedly embraces and values supporting others and making their communities stronger. There are many people here that not only have very little, but also have very little access to resources. Perhaps one of the most essential needs though is to feel cared for, loved, and valued. And from what I’ve seen, these aren’t mutually exclusive. While someone is working to increase social resources in the favelas, they are also extending warmth and endearment to everyone they interact with. For example, take Retalhos Cariocas. The organization shares their artistic knowledge and skill with its surrounding community, and in doing so they also get to know who they work with and begin to build strong, lasting relationships with them, no matter how vastly different they may or may not be. I’ve discovered this same approach and attitude in almost every encounter I’ve had here, and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to practice it in my work with JIVE, both at Retalhos Cariocas and in the arts center.

The studio at Retalhos Cariocas

The studio at Retalhos Cariocas

Silvinha, the local woman who started RC, holding some of the art we make at the studio.

Silvinha, the local woman who started RC, holding some of the art we make at the studio.

Lotus flowers made from recycled materials for an upcoming exhibit

Lotus flowers made from recycled materials for an upcoming exhibit

Sun catchers made by kids at the local community center during art class

Sun catchers made by kids at the local community center during art class



I’ll leave you with a final thought for now. In the last few weeks its been difficult to compare my previous work and studies at school with what I am doing in Rio. I’ve been struggling to understand the meaning of my time here and the value of my work. But it is with the lessons I am learning in Rio that I am reminded that social change is only possible through small changes, and those small changes can have a big impact.

Until next time.








What being free feels like


Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

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.


The incredible view from my bedroom door


Sunset over Ipanema Beach from Arpoador Rock






Where is My Mind..

Much love and light to the best friends a girl could have

Much love and light to the best friends a girl could have

It occurs to me that my entire life has been a series of images. For those of you that don’t live inside the walls of my brain, let me explain. With every step I take in my life, every adventure I embark on, every experience I have, every goal I strive to achieve, and every aspiration I set out to make a reality, I begin by envisioning myself doing it. Quite literally, I approach every situation by imagining myself in it, what it would be like, and what it would mean to and for me. Once I have that image, I take a mental snapshot of it and tuck it away. I do this so that later, if and when I come to a crossroads in a path I have chosen for myself, experience doubt about the choices I have made or my ability to achieve my dreams, struggle with moving forward, feel excitement or success about what is ahead, or encounter unexpected obstacles or gratifying surprises, I can revisit that picture and look at it to remind myself that I will be the woman in that image one day, and soon that mental snapshot will be a concrete picture.

Still confused? Let me give you an example. When I set out to get my college degree, I visualized myself at graduation. While my college experience evolved and changed with time, I always held on to that image. I could see myself walking across the stage, similar to what a friend or family member might see from the audience. I also imagined what it would look like to be handed a degree and look out across a see of graduation caps. In this picture, I could feel every emotion I thought I would experience: excitement, joy, catharsis, sentimentality. I could see and experience something that had not even happened yet, and on my lightest and darkest days I could think back to that image and remember just what it would be like to reach my destination and accomplish my dreams. In a way, I have a futuristic photo album filled with pictures of things that haven’t happened just yet.

But sometimes it isn’t that easy. It’s hard to visualize yourself doing something you never thought you would actually do. At least for me it is. I have always wanted to travel, but somewhere along the way my dreams of exploring the world seemed to grow further away until they all but dissolved.  Despite receiving the life-changing opportunity to be a Lumos Traveler, I’ve struggled to imagine myself actually living, working, and being in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil because I was previously uncertain I would ever get the chance to trek across the globe.

But here I am. One day away from venturing out of my home in Nashville to a place I will call home for the next six months. And then I remembered an important message that a very special person in my life taught me: “You’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I think all along I’ve been not only holding doubt that my dreams are about to become a reality, but also trying to package my entire time in Brazil into a singular box, and ergo, I can’t visualize myself in Rio. But by allowing myself to “get comfortable with” and embrace my own discomfort and uncertainty about the multitude of experiences that lie ahead for me, I realized that that beautiful thing about traveling the world is that there is no such thing as a singular story or experience. Certainly, there is no way that a single perception of myself in Brazil would suffice for the thousands of moments I will have there.

So tonight, as I am surrounded by those I love and adore and who love me back, I sit here thinking about what lies ahead for me in Brazil. And while I might not have all the details, what I can imagine will not even begin to scratch the surface of the pilgrimage I am about to embark on. And I’ll tell you what – I couldn’t feel more captivated, confident, and excited.