It has been nearly two months now since I got back from Brazil and this has given me time to reflect on what I gained from the trip. It will certainly be an experience I will never forget, however some parts will stick with me particularly strongly. The generosity of our hosts, the passion of the partner organisations and of course the enthusiasm felt for the Church at World Youth Day.
Looking back I am very grateful to have gone with CAFOD. While World Youth Day was an amazing experience, it would not have been the same without the time spent seeing the work done by some very inspiring people. World Youth Day was a big party, I am certainly never going to forget sleeping on Copacabana Beach with three million other people but Sao Paolo was (for me) a chance to see the strength of the human spirit and the power of compassion.
Everywhere we went we were met with hospitality and generosity from complete strangers. Food is an essential part of Brazilian culture and we were treated to endless plates of rice and beans (all of which tasted amazing) and invited into their homes to join with their families. Everyone had a story to tell and it was fascinating to hear all about people’s lives many of whom really had the odds stacked against them. While some of it was very difficult to process, our time was also dominated by singing, dancing and laughter.
Our relationship with MDF was also something that became incredibly special. While we spoke different languages and had about two and a half weeks together it felt like we’d known each other for years. We came together as two groups and by the end were indistinguishable. They completed our group with their friendships which will hopefully last for many years to come (and they also made up for our shocking lack of musical talent).
Over the course of the trip there were also many very thought provoking conversations about how to proceed in making a difference for the future. While an awful lot was discussed and conversations went on for hours, a few simple messages have stuck with me:
- You cannot do anything by yourself, community is essential for everything.
- Change will come slowly, not many people change the world in one action, change has to drip into a lake.
- You have to fight for life, from birth some people have the odds stacked against them and their battle for basic rights such as housing are not guaranteed.