Before we arrived in Brazil a few days back, my head was filled with various assumptions. I was anxious about the language barrier. Did I know enough Portuguese to understand my family? To understand others? Although these feelings seemed to be a reality, that fear was extinguished by my gracious and kind host family. I remember the first day being tough, where Google Translate was the main method of communication with exception to basic phrases. However, I found that living with my host family enhanced my understanding of the language. Day after day, Gordon and I spoke more Portuguese while our kind host mother and grandmother helped us in the learning process.
Along with learnign the language, I realized how important education is to the development of a healthy society. In America, we may be easily inclined to take education for granted. However, without education, children have no example to follow. If they grow up in bad circumstances without the benefits that education promises, they will follow in the footsteps of those around them. When my group went to a children’s afterschool program to volunteer, the directors talked about how many of their children come from impoverished regions and difficult home situations. To ensure that the children see somethign other than poverty, the children are brought to their facility, which is both a learning center and a play center.
I found this experience very humbling and heartwarming. I have insight now that no matter where children come from, they will always be children. Four hours was not long enough, but we could see in their eyes that we made their day. I helped children who appeared to be around 10 years old make paper plate masks and paper snowflakes. It showed me that although I was afraid of being misunderstood, I learned that both children and adults have empathy. They understood that I did not know their language well, and they talked slowly and even introduced themselves in English a few times to me. This experience convinced me of how much education benefits society as a whole.