Helping Underprivileged Children Of Lençois
A Volunteer Project in the Chapada Diamantina Region of Brazil
Article and photos from original article by Lies Ouwerkerk
Independent Travel Columnist
Routes into Languages North East ambassador, Natalie Hoskin, has been working at Casa Grande offering underprivileged Brazilian children a chance to develop and progress. Originally a charming guesthouse for independent travelers set up by Olivia Taylor, Posada dos Duendos is now a centre for many of the local children who are from poor familes or who who do not attend school regularly.
Development of the Project
A generous Dutch traveller gifted the pousada a nearby run-down house to fix up for use where Volunteer-run Projecto Casa Grande (Big House Project) is now situated. It currently caters to two groups of about 20 children, one coming in on mornings, another in the afternoons. Natalie, volunteering as part of her Year Abroad, comments, “In the beginning I felt quite overwhelmed and sometimes discouraged. I quickly realized that I had to give up some of my illusions and too idealistic goals I had previous to coming here. I had dreams of making big changes in the lives of these children, and motivating them to pursue a higher education. During my time here, I have learned to see them in their own context, to set smaller goals, and to celebrate the little victories instead: empowering a boy who could not complete the alphabet past the letter e, to proudly spell and write his own name, or teaching a girl who was not able to count past three without skipping to ten, to properly add and subtract small numbers.”
Founder, Olivia Taylors' wish list for Casa Grande keeps growing. She hopes for closer ties with the schools in Lençóis; for a permanent, paid staff member; and to start providing food, as many children’s diets are limited to rice, beans, and cheap sweets only. And last, but not least, there is a plan to buy an adjacent lot and create a playground, a garden, and an area to raise some animals.
For Natalie Hoskin, the gains of volunteering here been great. She has been able to take advantage of the many outdoors activities that the pousada organizes for its guests, from trekking and mountain biking to horse riding and kayaking. She has worked in return for meals and lodging. And of course, Natalie brought her already existing knowledge of the Portuguese language near perfection during her stay in Lençóis.
What she has found most gratifying of all, however, is the fact that she could give love to children who don’t receive it at home. “It will be very hard to part from them” she concludes, “and although it was a pretty demanding job and I had to learn a lot as I went along, I would not like to have missed a second of it. It has been an absolutely invaluable and life-changing experience for me, and my view on life is now totally different from what it was before.”
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