Beginning to Volunteer

Salvador da Bahia Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 35 › view all entries
Graffiti on the way to school
After orientation on Monday, we had our first day at our volunteer placements on Tuesday. I was going to be working at a school called Frutos de Maes in the neighborhood of Alagados. Alagados means "flooded"... part of the favela is comprised of shacks built on stilts in the water. It can be a violent and dangerous neighborhood and the sanitation conditions are extremely subpar. My school had 250 kids from 10 months up to 6 years old. We were told that about 40% of the kids at the school lived in the flooded area. The school was founded in 1999 with the purpose of educating kids who otherwise would have no place to go. It also provided meals for the kids and tried to prepare them for elementary school.
Some of the older kids starting off the capoeira activities in the hallway.
The staff relied a lot on volunteers because there was a high turnover rate with the teachers and many of them were untrained and unmotivated.

After breakfast that Tuesday morning, we divided up into vans going to the different neighborhoods. The drive to Alagados was about 30 minutes and it was a ride I enjoyed day after day. We drove along the bay by the Solar do Unhao and the sailboats and the Mercado Modelo and graffiti. Public art and government-sanctioned graffiti are pretty common in Salvador. It ranges from horribly ugly to really interesting and beautiful. It provides you with something to look at and everyday you notice something new. Along the drive the scenery changes, and before you know it, you are in the middle of poorly built shacks and bumpy roads and street markets that made me blink twice to confirm that I wasn't in Ghana. All of our volunteer placements were gated and had security gaurds. We had to be dropped off right at the entrance and could get out of the van only after the gaurd opened the gate. There had been incidents in the past of people being attacked or robbed by locals so we had to be very cautious.

When we were dropped off at our site, I was really nervous. They pretty much plunk you there and let you figure it out. The school had a dirt yard with a dilapidated playground- an uneven slide precariously placed on rocks to keep it from wobbling, broken swings, and a motley assortment of broken toys. When I walked inside the building the noise immediately hit me. We walked past the nursery which was full of adorable screaming babies. Two of the volunteers had already been there for awhile so they went to their classes and the rest of us chose a class without a volunteer. I went into a room with the oldest kids and the only male teacher in the school. I had no idea what to do or say and he gave me a look that said "What are you doing here?" I decided to observe a more experienced volunteer for the day. The teacher in her class was the most productive and qualified in the school. She played games with them and sang songs and did samba dancing. Some kids were focused, some were all over the place. They were immediately affectionate and they came and talked to me, sat on my lap, and asked me questions. Later, they did capoeira in the hallway. It's amazing to see preschoolers who already know how to do capoeira, samba, and Afro-Brazilian percussion... and they seem to love it. After all of that, my co-volunteer did her activity for the day- necklaces with plastic beads and cut up pieces of straw. The kids were very excited about this simple project and proudly wore there necklaces the rest of the day.

A couple days later, I decided to take on my own class and found another preschool class without a volunteer. A little girl grabbed my hand in the hallway and just led me into her classroom. It was absolute chaos with kids running around and the teacher sitting at her desk, doing anything but teaching. She would tell them to be quiet every few minutes. "Silencio, por favor!" To the kids, the class was a jungle gym and the teacher was most concerned with the noise level. There was no teaching, no structure, and no discipline. I was terrified by what I saw, but at the same time, I felt that there would be a lot of room for me to really help and be creative with the projects I brought in...
AndiPerullo says:
PS Did the kids teach you any capoeira while you were there?
Posted on: Apr 27, 2007
AndiPerullo says:
Wow, I'm sure you were quite overwhelmed at first! But, the kids sound amazing.

Do you have any pics of the grafitti?
Posted on: Apr 27, 2007
lisa says:
wow... sounds familiar to the orphanages and preschools that i saw in Ghana..
Posted on: Apr 04, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Graffiti on the way to school
Graffiti on the way to school
Some of the older kids starting of…
Some of the older kids starting o…