This project is based in Borel and work with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The project is ran by Neto and his partner Andrea. They have a football programme, a nursery for children under the age of five, a music room, a women’s craft project and a health clinic. Lieke and her partner are responsible for and run the football project and look after the volunteers. This project has permanent or long term volunteers and many youth that come for four or six weeks as part of YWAM.
I was very excited to teach the women English but realised earlier on that it was going to be different to my previous teaching experiences. These women had a basic understanding of English and I had no local volunteer translating for me. So essentially, I translated everything I taught. The lessons we had certainly helped with this but my pronouncation needed much work. These women were very patient however, and it was good fun trying to practice my Portuguese with them.
This was the first time I learnt to communicate without words. I couldn’t openly express how I felt or what I was thinking because I didn’t speak the language that well so I had to express myself through my body language and facial expressions. It was quite the experience. Most of the volunteers here were very understanding and many of those that were part of YWAM tried to teach me Portuguese during our breaks. In turn, I helped them with there English.
I also volunteered in the nursery with the children. These children learnt early on that I didn’t speak Portuguese and accepted it. This didn’t stop them playing with me or hugging me. I feel in love with most of the children I looked after. And again, I learnt to communicate and interact with them without using words. I felt there love, warmth, energy and kindness everyday. I tried to break up fights and resolve matters despite not speaking much Portuguese. The staff here are so warm and friendly and I wished I was able to converse with them more.
Once a week, I also taught a intermediate English class which I loved. We had thought provoking discussions about religion and politics. We talked about the World Cup and why there were so many protests. I was intrigued to hear about how locals felt about their crime rate and poverty. I felt lucky to hear them share their dreams and aspirations with me.
If I wasn’t teaching or working with children, I helped out wherever else I could. We painted a bunch of garage cans to encourage the locals to recycle. I helped the women in the kitchen preparing lunch and some afternoon did the washing. I became part of their family, their beautiful world and I wanted to do everything I could to help preserve it and improve it. Some of these women couldn’t speak English but again they were able to interact with me and tell me what needed to be done. I admire and respect them greatly. They shared their world with me, with someone who spoke very little Portuguese and someone who is a outsider. I was never made to feel unwanted or different. I was loved unconditional and accepted as I was.