Thanks to my amazing clients, I was able to make a small profit during 2017. It made me realise how enormously lucky and free I am, working for myself, being young and even having a bit of money in the bank.
Given my low amount of responsibilities here in Antwerp, I thought it was the perfect time in my life to give back.
My project - Anjos da Tia Stellinha
It was through an international organisation that I got in touch with 'Anjos da Tia Stellinha' in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I went to this city three times prior to volunteering, so I already knew my way around the city, got a basic knowledge of Portuguese, but most importantly: I had a strong gratitude to the happiness that Brazil had given me.
Anjos da Tia Stellinha works with children from a Favela called 'Morro dos Macacos', a slum where gangs rule the streets. Drug trafficking, shoot-outs and illegal prostitution (of minors) are no exception in these areas.
The children themselves ( ranging between 5 - 15 y.o.) all dealt with domestic abuse in some way.
Stellinha, the founder of the ngo, makes sure there are classes, playtime, lunch, free dentist visits, therapist sessions and so on. Other international volunteers and I would take over the teaching and playtime hours, so the children could get exposed to different cultures, knowledge and games.
Where it all went wrong ( & Why I quit )
So, I went to do a project that I believed in, shot amazing pictures and a cute video. So it must have been great right?
Well, not really. Even though working with the kids was amazing, there were plenty of problems. Remember that international organisation I talked about? They were responsible for my volunteering and stay in Rio. Sadly enough, my project fell in the hands of an incompetent person who more often than not didn't do their job.
This resulted in a bunch of problems, but the main problem was communication.
Since the kids only spoke Portuguese and my team didn't (except for my basics), teaching was pretty useless. Not only that, but half of my team only spoke Spanish, a language I don't speak at all. So not only didn't I understand the children, I didn't even understand the people in my own team. We made a complaint about this, resulting in the organisation promising to send a translator every day. However, in reality we had a lot of no-shows.
I don't know if you ever tried to teach to people who don't speak the same language as you do, but it might be the longest hours of your life. And when I tried to ask my Spanish-speaking friends to help me out, they would look at me confused.
In short: I ended up preparing classes on my own, working until midnight and getting up at 5am every day to make sure the preparation was done. After 4 weeks of doing this, I was exhausted. It was the last no show of the translator that did it. In a reply to my complaint, she responded: " You think you're here to change their entire lives in two weeks". Which is passive-agressive for: "You stupid idealist Europeans, don't bother me with your impossible ideas"
After finding out that some of the children didn't want to come to our classes anymore ( remember, they can face domestic abuse & violence when they aren't in our class) my heart broke. But I couldn't blame them, I wouldn't listen to a group of people for hours when I can't understand them. Later that day I found out that this international organisation was threatening Stellinha to pay a fine, because she had to end the project prematurely to give birth.
I couldn't imagine working for an organisation that actually tries to exploit a woman that spends her life helping poor children. Later that day I announced the end of my collaboration with the organisation.
Up until today I still talk with Stellinha and I hope that I will be able to visit her and the children next time when I return to Brazil.