Finding a sense of community a world away
By Anthea Williams
Laughter is universal and so it seems is soccer. Deep in the dense rainforest of Brazil in the state of Amazonas, across the Rio Negro, you will find a small village populated by over a hundred indigenous people called the Dâw. Among other university students, Tasha Nicole Lechowicz – a Nutrition and Family Studies student at Brescia – was given the opportunity by Global Youth Volunteer Network to help an orphanage and the Dâw community in Brazil.
“First contact” as Tasha puts it was in the Amazonas where her team worked at an orphanage. Here they were encouraged to play with the children. Raquel (the guide) instructed the volunteer team to organize soccer games and excursions to the beach. Raquel stated how important it was to just have fun and “love the children.” The volunteers' other duties involved cleaning and clearing rooms to make space for new children, in addition to help empty food trucks when they arrived.
The second point of contact was on a plot of land called Warua on which the Dâw people live. Community and family are central to the Dâw lifestyle, so it is very important for them to spend time together. Thus they enjoyed spending time getting to know the volunteer team. Tasha observed how much the Dâw children loved to play, saying, “They are all so unbelievably full of energy. They never wanted to stop playing volleyball, soccer and, cards.” It was not all play with the Dâw villagers though. Tasha also taught English to the students, who, even though they knew very little, were happy to try.
In celebration of the volunteers, the Dâw asked members from the community to present speeches and perform an Acai ceremony and dance. The leader of the Dâw, Francisco, and his wife, Dora, shared personal stories and, having spent so much time with the volunteers, moved everyone to tears with their speech. Dora explained to Tasha why the Dâw live the way they do. Tasha relates, “Our guide Diego said that living simply was the way of life for the Dâw.” They washed their clothes and bodies in the Rio Negro. They slept in huts with hammocks. As volunteers it was the first time I had to dig my own ‘bathroom,’ which was a hole in the ground.
This experience was wonderful; it gave me the space and time to breathe and relax, to feel at peace. Our lives today are so fast-paced. Living with the Dâw helped me to appreciate my own life and the various opportunities I have access to. It also illustrated the importance of the bigger picture and not to sweat the small stuff.