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.
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.