The last trip I was able to take for the Foundation was to our programs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil last month.
In what seems like a lifetime ago, this trip was a whirlwind of visits in one week to seven programs across Brazil. I was constantly on the verge of tears for three reasons:
PROGRESS: At each location, there was evidence of immense progress from the participants by the depth of their learning from the computer classes. Seeing the younger children master Microsoft Excel, craft fluent and articulant personal stories on Word, and witness powerful PowerPoint presentations was truly magical. But, also seeing the older participants showcase their mastery of the English Language, Robotics, Advance Computing, and knowledge of Adobe was even more wonderful. It is clear and apparent these children and youth are fulfilling our mission, and most rewarding to watch as they gain these skills over the years that will make them a success in their futures. Sharing these experiences with one of our largest donors: Carlson Family Foundation and CWT from Minnesota and their local offices in Sao Paulo and Rio, was even more special as they were able to also see, through teary eyes of their own, the difference they were making and receive the thanks they so richly deserved.
THE ARTS: We were once again blessed to have Georgina Pazcoguin, from New York City Ballet, join us at the favelas to teach ballet. The younger girls and boys were transfixed watching her perform before them. Some of the participants we work with attend a ballet studio in the heart of one of the most dangerous favelas in Rio de Janeiro. So, they were the more wonderfully excited to partake in her classes and learn about her life as an artist. Hearing the boys and girls ask questions and reveal their own inspiration for dance was, again, magical.
THE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS: I have never had my face imprinted onto a cake before or have had a child from a favela perform Happy Birthday perfectly on the violin. I was even more blessed to have all the birthday celebrations together with my two sons, Zack and Josh, who have spent their lives taking off their Spring Breaks, and now vacations from their jobs, to share me with this other family that I love.
As we now all collectively remain isolated to protect our world, I will always cherish the memories of hundreds of hugs to the cries of Tio Andy, musical and dancing performances, and the ultimate sense of community. OSF will always continue to make a difference in the lives of these children and youths and I look forward to returning to a world of hugs and love.