An expedition of self-discovery
Just before the weeklong recess for Carnaval, seven students left Brasília for their Amazon Crossing expedition. Accompanied by three teachers, the group of teens embarked on a seven-day trip to Amazonas, Brazil; an expedition of service and social integration.
Amazon Crossing connects students with communities in the Amazon – to promote social interaction among people from different walks of life, and to learn about the art, culture, and customs of Amazon communities. Without cell phones or Internet, students interacted with people from an often-unseen part of Brazil — a place where people perceive time and space differently, unplugged from the digital world.
“Integration plays an essential role in the program. To be among these people and to gain a better understanding of their culture and lifestyle - that is the true highlight of the program,” believes English teacher, Mr. Joseph Rogers.
Students played soccer barefoot, went fishing, swam down the river with botos, and sang in the moonlight – unfamiliar activities to many but ones that reflect the simple yet happy life of Iranduba.
There were days of volunteer service. Students helped carry sacks of sand to a nearby nursing center that was under construction and helped their hosts with the many chores around the community center.
Grade 10 student, Mariana de Queiroga Morais, says her last day of the Amazon Crossing expedition had a bittersweet feeling; an amazing experience that sadly comes to an end. “I have traveled the entire world, but I know there will always be a piece of me here. I don’t know when, but I will come back. My work here isn’t done.”
The Community of Saracá
Located in the municipality of Iranduba in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, the community of Saracá is remote - a stretch of land between the rivers of Rio Negro and Solimões. Electricity reached the region only five years ago, and Internet is not yet available.
Apart from a local restaurant, Saracá Community does not have much to attract tourists. It is a three-hour boat trip from downtown Iranduba and is visited mostly by groups of volunteers. Surrounded by water and tropical jungle, hammocks and the art of fishing set much of the scenery.
The community takes the name of its founder, Raimunda das Chagas Ribeiro, who is known as Saracá. The seventy-three-year old woman dreamed of teaching uneducated children. A visionary, she opened a local learning center that supported more than one hundred kids. Retired, Saracá hopes one day to go to college.