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The Impact of Social Justice Theatre in Rio: A post by Brittani Chew

20 Jun

Although I grew up in a multi ethnic household, it was not until high school when I started to critically understand the effects culture and identity can have on individuals and their interactions between and within communities. For me, it was specifically invisible communities that caught my attention because of the complicated history often associated with society’s choices. I think it’s easier to ignore problems that cause fear than to find the root problem, and in a time where fear is seemingly more prevalent, I felt the need to get more proximate, more empathetic, more proactive in being an ally which ultimately lead to applying to this study abroad program. Fast forward 3 months later when I found out I got accepted into the program I was both nervous, anxious, and excited. How does one ethically enter into a community that in many ways does not belong to one and have positive substantial impact?

Brittani at the Escadaria

Katelyn Torres, Brittani Chew, and Nia Willis at the Escadaria Selaron.

My name is Brittani Chew, and I decided to join Prison Arts Creative Program (PCAP) because I wanted a better understanding of the community within the prison. This past semester I facilitated a theatre workshop with Christa at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional facility, which is also the only adult women’s facility in the state of Michigan. It is one the most transformative things that I took part in and possibly my favorite thing I’ve done so far.

It is the last week in Rio, and I still find myself looking forward to theatre classes.“Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Move your arms up as if you are a tree,” Professor Carmela Soares. Many of these classes, despite the chaos, are structured with exercises that contain purpose and meaning behind them. For example, similar to facilitating prison workshops, it’s important to start with name games and get to know everyone in a group before moving onto other exercises. After sliding and ducking through legs, speaking gibberish, and touching multiple body parts of people I met 50 mins ago, I found myself near a water station in record time.

Public transportation is how most of the UniRio students get around the area and how the U of M students got around these past few weeks. Buses magically avoid collision when they zoom past each other, and traffic laws seem to be merely suggestions. On a rainy Wednesday, I visited the hospital and participated in Professor Miguel Vellinho’s program called Hospital como Universo Senico. As we were rehearsing our songs, a patient dressed in purple pants happened to drop by and started singing and dancing with us. She told us she is 80 years old and that she is happy to be around “youthful and happy energy and that before that she was just normal and then became very energized.” Our set list contained both Brazilian songs and American ones: Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” “Stand by Me” by Otis Redding, “South American Way” by Carmen Miranda, “Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes. As a group we visited the pediatrics center, chemotherapy room, as well multiple patient waiting rooms.

In addition to singing, we were giving “happiness consultations.” It begins with the UniRio student, Diego playing on strings in order “to listen to the heartbeat.” It turns out the man getting the “happiness consultation” was there because of heart problems. As we pulled from a box and read aloud the advice, his wife clutched his hand and started to tear up.

Theatre and art for the Brazilians seems to be another way to speak their minds, and it seems to be one the ways they can openly criticize their government. In many ways though, it can be hard because one can find this work to be isolating because many people choose to ignore them. I’m still coming to terms of how I should move forward from this whole experience, and I think in the capacity that I can help and with theatre as a medium I have come to a satisfactory yet unsatisfactory conclusion. I can’t help but wonder as I move through life, how I want to shape my world and in doing so, hopefully others along the way.

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Not Just Clowning Around: A post by Erich Eberhard

19 Jun

It’s impossible to be mad at a clown.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to shadow the clowns of Enfermaria Do Riso (rough translation “ward of laughter”). This group has been sending UNIRIO students to the local hospital for over twenty years to bring joy to a place that’s otherwise pretty bleak. Wednesday morning, our clowns were Baqueta (“drumstick”), a 6-foot-something junior at UNIRIO who’s costume was carefully curated to exaggerate his lanky limbs – short pants, long socks, and an oh-so-tiny vest – and Caprichosa (“Capricious”) an UNIRIO senior and clowning veteran who’s slight stature and colorful tutu made her a perfectly absurd compliment to her partner.

Erich's hat

Becoming the clown is no easy task. I sat in a backroom of the hospital as Baqueta and Caprichosa stripped out of their street clothes and powdered their faces. Baqueta, who spoke some English, told me a little bit about the art of clowning as he touched up his makeup – a look he has developed himself over the past year.

According to Baqueta, the job of the clown is not to make people laugh – but to interact honestly with the world around him. This is to say, Baqueta had no prepared jokes for the staff or wacky rubber chickens to throw at the children – contrary to the common image of a clown we have in the US. Rather, he and Caprichosa “play” – in the space of the hospital, and anyone with whom they cross paths. This often entails trying to solve a problem, and in doing so, creating a new problem which sparks a cycle of what looks like incredible incompetence, though, in reality, is a clever game requiring the clowns to think quickly on their feet. It’s quite difficult to explain without seeing, frankly. There’s logic to the world of the clown, his actions aren’t random, nor are they rehearsed. Through the right lens, his behavior is perfectly sensible – it’s the disconnect between our world and his that makes him so charmingly funny.

The conversation stopped when Baqueta and Caprichosa slipped on their bright red noses – our UNIRIO friends were gone, and the clowning began.

Wandering the different wings of the hospital, the clowns exercised an impressive amount of freedom – the likes of which you’d never see in a US hospital. We followed closely behind as they stumbled into private meetings between patients and staff, obstructed busy hallways while playing with a door, rummaged through cabinets of medical supplies to find syringes so they could spray a particularly combative child with water, and even sneak up to scare the director of the hospital during a board meeting moments after being told not to interrupt the meeting. There was no hesitation – ever. No second-guessing their actions. The clowns were so fully committed to their roles that every breach of privacy and personal space and professional etiquette felt completely natural. And, most impressively, not a single person was upset.

One of, if not the, best things in the world is seeing someone lose the battle against their laughter. A hospital is supposed to be serious place. People here are ill, families are frightened, doctors are professional and prestigious – an image that many probably find comforting when it comes to their healthcare. When we go to the hospital we conform to this rigidness. Maybe its because we’re tired, maybe it because we’re frightened. Maybe its because it’s what everyone else is doing.

And then come the clowns.

We don’t want to laugh – don’t want to let these obnoxious intruders win us over. After all, we’re tired and frightened and so is everyone else – who do these clowns think they are! Don’t they know a hospital is a serious place for serious business! Can’t they just leave us alone!

You start building up you wall to defend against their antics – you pretend to check the time or read a magazine. But then they find an opening, a crack in the brick, that little sweet spot that tickles you just right. Maybe its something they say or a face they make, but you can’t help but crack a smile (or if its really good, laugh through your nose). And just like that they’ve got you on their side, laughing at their absurdity. For a moment you’re no longer working through that tedious paperwork, for a moment you’re no longer worried about affording a treatment, for a moment you’re no longer a ten-year-old boy who’s spent 6 months in a hospital bed.

And then they go. Despite their best efforts, Baqueta and Caprichosa haven’t fixed a thing – just made it all a little easier.

How Brazil Changed My Thinking about PCAP: A post by Kaitlin Prakken

18 Jun

My name is Kaitlin Prakken. I graduated from the University of Michigan in April, where I studied Psychology and Organizational Studies. When I joined the University’s Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), I was surprised by how immediately I felt that I understood PCAP’s purpose and method. Though I have participated in other organizations on campus, I had never understood or agreed with both an organization’s principals and practices right away as I did with PCAP.

Pico da Tijuca

Katelyn Torres, Kaitlin Prakken (me!), and Ashley Hails at the summit of Pico da Tijuca (we hiked up here!).

PCAP’s director and my professor, Ashley Lucas, has told my classmates and me that PCAP believes that art is a human right. To carry out this purpose, PCAP trains U of M students and community volunteers to facilitate creative arts (creative writing, music, and theatre) workshops in prisons, youth facilities and community spaces in Southeast Michigan. I believed in the necessity of this objective right away because I had learned about the capacity of creative expression to support physical and emotional health in psychology and public health courses, and I had experienced this power firsthand while taking creative writing classes in college.

 I co-facilitated two workshops in two Michigan Department of Corrections facilities through PCAP this year. At the end of each workshop, I felt inspired by the capacity of PCAP to create connection among individuals with different identities and backgrounds. I wanted to come on this study abroad trip about theatre in Brazilian prisons and community spaces to see how programs like PCAP might create connections among communities in Brazil and between us Americans and the Brazilians we meet.

It is the third week that my classmates and I have been in Brazil. We’ve had the privilege of learning about how theatre supports community building in many places: prisons, hospitals, and community centers, from individuals in several different theatre programming organizations. We’ve had conversations with incredible people from these organizations, comparing and contrasting our experiences with community theatre. A conversation with Professor Ana Achar, the director of Enfermaria do Riso, which brings clowns to visit patients in hospitals in Rio, inspired me and caused me to re-frame how I think about PCAP. Ana said that the purpose of her organization is to highlight the health that exists in hospital patients, who are often defined by their lack of perfect health.

I realized that I had been conceptualizing PCAP’s purpose and work from a deficit-approach. I thought that the best description of PCAP’s purpose was that it seeks to provide incarcerated men, women and children with the tools needed to create art, a human right they do not have access to. However, the focus of this purpose is on what incarcerated people do not have. However, I realized that PCAP’s work is very similar to the work done by Ana’s organization. PCAP seeks to highlight the creative potential that still exists in incarcerated people, who live in a system that tries to convince them that no potential exists within them.  This new conceptualization stems from a place of abundance. Focusing on what prisoners do have seemed more respectful of the innate humanity that we at PCAP acknowledge in prisoners, rather than the things that they lack access to.

View from Big JC

View of Rio from the top of Cristo Redentor.

Changing my way of thinking about PCAP’s purpose has helped me to notice new things on this trip.  Although we already visited an infirmary where senior citizens gather to practice theatre last week, when I visited again this Wednesday, I kept noticing how the actions and movements of these old women seemed silly and youthful. Last week, I noticed how loving the women were, but I was anxious about their health. I worried that someone might fall or hurt themselves during an activity.

However, after re-conceptualizing how I think about our theatre work I paid attention to different things in this workshop this week, which shaped how I interacted with the women. Because I was thinking about how much energy women had this week, I didn’t hesitate to suggest games or activities that I might have been hesitant to suggest last week, when I was worrying about the women’s mobility and/or memory. Instead, if we ran into a problem, I figured that we would solve it creatively. I think that this mindset is important for me as a facilitator because it expands, rather than limits, the creativity and possibilities that exist in the group.

We also watched a play this Wednesday that was created in part by a man named Edson Sodré who lives in an “open prison,” which means he gets to attend classes at the local university during the day but returns to the prison each night. We got to hear him speak about his life and why he was involved in the production during a panel after the performance. Sodré explained that he joined a theatre group while he was incarcerated because the group met in a room that had access to a sewage pipe large enough climb through and escape the prison. His escape plan failed, but the man continued attending theatre class. He spoke about how the theatre classes helped him to find freedom in his mind, even while he was incarcerated. Perhaps the creativity that PCAP seeks to highlight in incarcerated people is also freedom, as Sodré stated. I think that acknowledging the freedom that still exists in prisoners could be a powerful thing if done in the right way.

I think that shifting from a deficit-approach of thinking about PCAP’s work will make me a better facilitator. I hope that this way of thinking about community arts is helpful to others doing this kind of work, and I’m grateful to Ana, Sodré, the beautiful students we have met, and everyone else I have met here for shaking up how I think about PCAP and what’s possible in our workshops.

Theatre in a Prison with Mothers and Babies: A post by Alex Bayer

17 Jun

My name is Alex Bayer, and I am entering my senior year at the University of Michigan. I am a psychology major and ultimately hope to be a therapist who works with youth. I’ve always had passion for the arts—I was a dancer for 15 years, participated in theatre throughout middle school and high school, and discovered how much I love creative writing during college. I heard about the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) during my freshman year of college and was instantly intrigued by the idea of bringing different art forms (creative writing, theatre, and fine arts) into a prison, where people are constantly denied of their humanity and self expression. Although I was intrigued, I was also slightly hesitant. I was well aware of the stigma attached to incarcerated people and didn’t know enough about the prison system to justify why I wanted to involve myself in this type of work. After taking a study abroad course in Copenhagen, Denmark, called the Psychology of Criminal Behavior and visiting various rehabilitation programs, my frustration with the prison system in the U.S. escalated. By my junior year at the university, I made the incredible decision to join PCAP.

water

Alex on the dock behind a restaurant where we ate in Florianópolis.

It’s safe to say that PCAP has changed my life. Compared to all other classes I have taken at U of M, I have never been surrounded by a group of such intelligent, open-minded yet skeptical, and passionate individuals. I facilitated a workshop at a youth facility in Detroit with Adelia and Kaitlin, who are now two of my closest friends. We went to Lincoln every Sunday at 5 PM and led a group of 10 boys in various theatre games. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with these boys, and going into that facility soon became the highlight of my week. We continued our workshop into the summer, and only stopped because we were all going to Brazil, where we would have the opportunity to visit prisons and hospitals and exchange our knowledge and excitement for the work we do with Brazilian students who engage in similar work.

We are now in our third and final week of our experience in Brazil. Today I went into a prison with two students from UniRio (a university in Rio) and four students from the PCAP program. We went into a facility with mothers and babies, made for incarcerated women who are pregnant during their sentencing and can keep their babies for the first six months of their lives. After six months, these women are forced to find someone else to take care of their baby or hand that baby over to the government.

view from the mountain

Before arriving to Rio, I had never visited a women’s prison, only the juvenile facility I worked in during the winter. Going into the women’s facility was much different than what I had experienced in the past. I never went inside this facility; we played theatre games with the women right outside of their rooms on a deck. As we walked up to this deck, we passed a church built for the women in the prison. We then approached a group of women on the deck, and they were all holding their babies or gently rocking them in their strollers. At first, I was so distracted by the cuteness of the babies. The women welcomed us and seemed happy for us to play with their kids; many of them even handed us their babies to hold for a little bit. We began the workshop with a name game, but at this point, a lot of women left. Many of them were preoccupied with other tasks, such as breastfeeding or changing diapers. After the name game, we played a couple of games that involved dancing/singing/hugging, and we got much more comfortable with one another. During these games, we had a rotating group of about 3-4 women, depending on who could participate in each moment.

Following the games, one of the women suggested having a group discussion instead of playing more games—a suggestion I would have never heard when I worked in a facility with teenage boys. The woman began by asking Asma, one of our group members, about the hijab she was wearing. The woman was curious as to why Asma wanted to cover up her hair, and explained that Brazilian women are often very comfortable with displaying their bodies in more revealing clothing. Although Asma was put on the spot a little bit, she handled the pressure really well, and the woman was thankful for her willingness to answer the questions. The woman admitted that she has never really talked to anyone from the United States and does not see many people wearing a hijab, so she wanted to educate herself. These questions sparked openness among the whole group, and a lot more women came to the deck to join the discussion and ask more questions to all of us.

In class in Floripa

Our PCAP group in class with Prof. Vicente Concilio’s theatre students in Florianópolis.

The discussion was just like it would be with any group of women I met in Brazil—our group shared experiences with these women, and they did the same in return. It felt natural, and I quickly forgot I was in a prison. At the end of the discussion, we hugged and kissed the women goodbye. It wasn’t until exiting the prison that I was reminded of where I was. Right in front of the prison, a police car was parked with a giant rifle sticking out of the window. My heart immediately sank. I knew that it was used for intimidation and that I wasn’t in any personal danger, but it reminded me of the intimidation tactics that are constantly used against the women I just talked to for the past two hours. I was reminded of the fact that these women aren’t free; the fact that these women will have to say goodbye to their babies soon; the fact that one mistake a person makes could lead to being incarcerated and put in inhumane conditions.

Thinking about these facts cause a lot of frustration, but I then remind myself of the people I am surrounded by and become hopeful again. Such strong, resilient people who also recognize the problems with the prison system surround me. Of all aspects of this trip, the people are why I am most grateful—not just the PCAP group, but everyone I have met on this journey. I am beyond grateful for the various professors and students from Brazil who not only include us in their work but also welcome us with wide arms and make us feel at home. The Brazilian students who speak English continuously translate for us during conferences and classes. All of the students we met have taken a huge interest in us, asking us questions about our lives, showing us around, and teaching us about their culture. Although I knew I would have an amazing experience with the entire PCAP group and our fearless, nurturing leader Ashley, I had no idea how much I would connect with the Brazilian students here. I am looking forward to the rest of my week in Brazil and will always carry the love I have received from all of the people here.

The City Behind Bars: A post by Renisha Bishop

16 Jun

Why are the darker skinned people and indigenous people treated the worst in every country? Why are the rumors, stereotypes, misconceptions so standard across the board for these people? They are poor. They are dangerous. They are uneducated. They are criminals. WHY? Is it that the people in control are afraid of their potential? Their strength? Afraid that they would actually be smarter, more creative, intuitive, in fact more powerful? So powerful that they would actually be on the top and not the bottom.

It really saddens me to think about the mistreatment, discrimination, abuse that people face globally. For some reason, I only believed that racism existed in the United States but I was so wrong. My friends here in Brazil quickly dispelled this myth for me. I thought I wouldn’t have much in common with them, but we share much more in common than I ever imagined.

Renisha mural

Prior to coming to Rio de Janeiro, I was told that it was very dangerous, that I shouldn’t walk around by myself. I really feared for my life. I was paranoid for the first couple of days. I thought there would be people just waiting to rob me for the little I had. Once I got adjusted and saw more of the city, it seemed just like any other major city in the US. Rio really reminds me of Los Angeles for some reason.

I’ve been to two different prisons here in Rio; both are facilities for women, but one had a wing for women with infants. During our workshop with the mothers, I was able to hold a two-month-old for almost the entire workshop. It was a different experience, being inside of a jail with babies. Babies are a source of innocence and pure joy, but the reality of their futures is dark and unfathomable. The women are able to keep their babies for up to two years legally, but since the facility is over-crowded, they are only able to keep them until they turn six months. Then the babies go with their mother’s family or are given to foster homes. Most of the women don’t have any family to raise their children until they’re out of prison, so the babies are given to the foster homes. It’s a hard process for women to give their babies away. I felt the pain of uncertainty while being inside of the prison with them. It was such a stark contrast. The happiness and innocence of the babies but the heaviness of the women. I was glad that we were there to take their minds off of their realities for a brief moment with theater games. But it’s always sad leaving workshops knowing that once we leave it’s back to reality for them.

The other women’s prison I went to was very different than the first. As soon as we got there, it was a small room near the gate with a small opening where the sun could barely peak through. These two women came to the small hole to speak to us. I was very disturbed that two women were in that small room, and we were told to not speak to them. Once we got into the prison, the other incarcerated women warmly welcomed us affectionately with hugs and kisses. We all sat through my professor’s performance about families who had loved ones incarcerated. We were all deeply moved by the various monologues in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. I left the prisons and returned to a chic neighborhood that had bars around the houses and apartments. It’s a crazy dichotomy. Everyone is behind bars for various reasons. Who are the real criminals here?

Renisha Bishop is a recent graduate of The University of Michigan. 

Racial oppression in Brazil: A post by Ashley Hails

15 Jun

Hi my name is Ashley. I am a rising senior at the University of Michigan, studying International Studies and Sociology. I wanted to go on the GCC Brazil study abroad experience with Ashley Lucas for three reasons. First, I have always wanted to go abroad. I think it is important for me to get out of my comfort zone and to learn first-hand about another country’s culture. Secondly, this study abroad trip aligned with both of my majors. As an International Studies major, it gave me an opportunity to learn about a country within my region of focus, Latin America. As a Sociology major, this trip helped me learn about the power that art mediums, such as theatre, can have on creating social change in prisons universally. Lastly, I was very interested in the concept of this class. Prior to taking Ashley Lucas’ class during the winter semester, I only knew about the prison system based on its portrayal through the media. After our weekly readings, discussions, and having the ability to co-facilitate weekly theatre workshops in a prison, my views on prisoners and the prison system completely changed. This abroad experience gives me an opportunity to continue to learn about the relationship between theatre and prison systems in other countries. Now that I know about the impact of theatre in the United States, I wanted to continue to learn about it in Brazil.

We have done a lot during this trip ranging from theatre classes with students from the University of Rio to facilitating theatre workshops in a Brazilian prison. However, on June 9, we were able to do something a little different from our usual theatre activities. Myself and a few members of the group were able to go on a tour of downtown Rio. It was a great opportunity to see a part of Rio that I have yet to see. Downtown was very busy with a lot of people. There were many shops and vendors that reminded me of a scene from a movie. There were also beautiful landmarks throughout downtown Rio that was remodeled for the 2016 Olympics. We were also able to stop by an art museum where we stood on the top floor and had an a breathtaking view of the ocean.

The last stop of our tour was the Instituto de Pesquisa e Memória Pretos Novos. This is a museum that was built under a cemetery where African slaves were buried. Inside of the museum there were many African artifacts and students researching about the history of African slaves. The museum even showed us a graphic video detailing the slave trade from Africa to Brazil. As a black woman, it was hard for me to watch and process the tragedies that transpired not only in the United States but in Brazil as well. Before leaving the museum, we were able to see an archaeologist at work. In the museum, there is an area where archaeologists can dig to find bones of slaves. We were able to see an archaeologist recover a fully body of a slave woman. It was painful to see the physical body of a slave. I left the museum feeling sad and frustrated. It is still hard to process the mistreatment and the continue mistreatment of people of color worldwide. Unfortunately, violence against black bodies did not end with slavery but it continues with the criminal justice system.

Ashley H mural

I chose this picture because I think it represents the strength that black people have despite being silenced and all the harm they endured.

People of color have been targeted for centuries. From slavery to police brutality, people of color are continuously being harmed by the system that is supposed to protect them. The prisons in the United States is disproportionately filled with people of color. Unfortunately, it is the same in Brazil. I believe going to this museum reconfirmed to me that the issues that is not only affecting the United States but it is a worldwide phenomenon.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done within the prison system. Coming to Brazil and seeing racial problems similar to the United States makes me want to be hopeless that change will ever happen. While I want to give up, I know that I can start to create change by continuing my work with programs such as PCAP. It is remarkable the work that PCAP and UniRio’s program, Teatro na Prisão, do to find ways to create an expressive outlet for prisoners. While I know I cannot solve all the problems with the prison system overnight, I know that I can start somewhere.

The Excluded People: A post by Asma Ali

14 Jun

Growing up  in the common American discourse of prison walls, my understanding and notion of prisoners is often the common negative stereotype of the hyper-masculine aggressive male. This stereotype allowed me to exclude them from society, and to rationalize their oppression. It was not until my senior year at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor that I first entered the prison walls. I mainly did this through an organization called PCAP- Prison Creative Arts Project. PCAP seeks to bring a diverse group of students, from different courses of study, inside prison walls to do theater workshops/games with the men, women and children locked inside the walls. It was through my work with PCAP at Cooper Street Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, that I learned that the men incarcerated were not this imaginary villain I had in my mind and that they do in fact share common notions of love, respect, and family, that the general population holds dear. I also was stunned at how receptive the men were to theater games. They themselves said that theater games allow them to express themselves in a way that they would be unable to outside the prison walls. Theater games also allow them to put their guard down and provides an avenue for emotional relief. This is particularly why I was interested in going to Brazil. I wanted to see how those oppressed and prison walls are in a different country and if theater is an effective tool in a different land.

Asma

Asma in the Tijuca Rainforest

Perhaps the most eye opening moment in my trip to Brazil thus far has been going to the Favelas. A favela is similar to the American notion of “ghetto” but more extremely cut off from the rest of the city. The streets have no addresses, the homes have no numbers, there is no public sanitation system, amongst a wide array of other problems. The favelas are walled off from from the rest of the city, with no city bus or taxi entering it. Those who live in the favela are not counted in the Brazilian census, it is as if they do not exist. They were also the site of Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” Everything I’ve heard, from the news to the guy sitting next to me on the airplane to Brazil, have told me about the dangers of favelas and that to go in there is basically me “asking for trouble or to get hurt.” I recall thinking on the bus ride that if I get hurt I’m blaming Ashley on my death bed.

Katelyn at waterfall

Katelyn Torres at a waterfall.

When we entered, I was utterly shocked at how well favelados (people who live in favelas) built a community without any governmental help. They had their own shops, their own radio show, they managed to provide themselves with their own clean water supply, the children are taught more than one language at school, amongst a large array of qualities. This is by no means to say that they are happy and thriving, but rather from my observation- they managed to do the most with what little they have. Rather than feel scared, I felt a sense of community. Even when I went to the fruit market, the men would offer me free fruit and refused to take my money.

churassco

Our group eating traditional Brazilian churrasco.

The group of adults I worked with in the favelas were the most adorable group I encountered in the longest time. They each gave the tightest and longest hugs and would proceed to compliment me and Erich ( the other facilitator from UMICH). I was shocked to see how shy many of the participants were (which is very different than other Brazilians I have met). I was not sure if it was our presence and the notion of wealthy Americans – poor favelados, that made them shy or if it was another factor. Interestingly, by the end of it they were all dancing and singing.

desserts

Desserts at the churrasco restaurant.

What I assumed was going to be a less-than favorable day turned out to be my favorite day of the trip. I caught myself realizing that the same stereotypes I had of the incarcerated men, I placed on favelados. Essentially what PCAP and this Brazilian trip taught me was that we are all connected in our desire for humanity and compassion, and that is regardless of our situation or location.

Branco

This cat lives at the Mango Tree Hostel where we are staying. His name is Branco, which means White in Portuguese, and Asma has fallen in love with him. She feeds him all day long.

 

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