Sunday, 29 April 2012

A week on from return...

Well, it's been a week back home and what a week of reflection it's been! I'm missing Brazil, the people and the team massively and find myself constantly looking at the photos. I'm so pleased that I have so many happy memories to look back on, but I'm determined it's not just going to be about the memories. It's given me a new outlook on life and has really made me think about what's important. Personally I feel more confident- more willing to challenge the status quo, and it's helped me realise that I can cope with the unexpected and adapt quite easily. We didn't call it the magical mystery tour for nothing!

Secondly, it's made me realise that the things that we take for granted in Britain (or even the things we moan about!) take on a whole different dimension in Brazil. In terms of taxes, what we see for our money, benefits and everyday safety and security we are very lucky. Conversely, we can learn a lot from Brazil- the work ethic there is second to none, but they also make time to relax and enjoy their family and friends. The reason 'Brazil time' was invented!

I'm going to keep the Brazil spirit alive by regularly meeting up with my team mates, hopefully continuing Portuguese lessons (so I can be fluent when I return!) and being central to taking forward fundraising for a very special project we had the fortune to visit out there.

Before my trip my knowledge of Rotary was sketchy, but this past year I have seen here, and abroad, the dedication and commitment of Rotarians to make a difference. It really is inspiring, and I will act as an ambassador for Rotary wherever I go now! Every time I tell somebody about my trip to Brazil, it's another person who knows abut Rotary and what it stands for. So thanks Kevin McKenna making me aware of this life-changing GSE opportunity and to West Wirral for agreeing to sponsor me. I look forward to telling you all about it! Thanks to my team mates and Steve- I couldn't have wished for better people to share this experience with and the sooner I see you all again the better! Finally, thanks to all my Brazilan friends and family. You know who you are. You have touched my life in such an unbelievable way from the places you took us to simply having chats which gave me a real insight into day-to-day life. I will miss you all and really hope to return.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A few more photos of the trip !!

" i know its a drugs dog but its still a pit bull so keep it away from me mate !"

Coracy and his ladies!

The lovely Miss watson !

Dirty Beer !

Help i'm Lost

Rolim de Moura v Ji Parana match

one of many meetings with the boss!

behind the smiles is a very tired team !

delivering a presentation to the special ops teams

The formidable Urso Branco Prison

The final Presentation

No More Photos PLEASE!!!

Chillin out in RIO

A walk around the Favela in Rio

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Many Thanks to many special people as the magical mystery tour has come to an end....

Well I suppose all good things have to come to an end and our magical mystery tour of Brazil has finished and the GSE team from District 1180 are all home. I'm trying not to think of it as the end but think of the new beginings such as new friendships, new founded knowledge of an amazing country and new opportunities to hopefully make a difference in the world.
As you will know from following the blog the five of us have been on an amazing adventure and had the wonderful opportunity to explore our vocations in another country, experience the culture of Brazil and the unbelievable kindness of our Brazilian hosts, the Rotarians and their friends. I feel very priveledged to have been part of the GSE team and I am extremely grateful to Rotary for giving me this amazing opportunity.
I have enjoyed updating the blog during our trip and it was great for the team to know so many people were following our trip from home. As this will probably be my last blog, I just wanted to thank a few people who made this experience possible for me. Although I know there are so many Rotarians who make GSE possible and I thank you all!! I am inspired by the work you undertake, the number of members in Rotary across the world and the way in which you make a difference to people's lives.
I want to say a big thank you to Hugh and Shirley Lloyd who made me aware of the GSE trip and encouraged me to make an application to be a team member. They have both been very supportive over the last year, including Hugh escorting me to fabulous lunches at Birkenhead's Rotary meetings!
Thank you to Birkenhead Rotary Club for sponsoring me and for always making me so welcome at your club, everybody is so friendly and lunch is always fabulous! Special thanks to Ray Thomas, Dave Martin and Gill Mackeen who I first met a year ago in Birkenhead Park visitors centre to discuss the possibility of me applying for the trip. When I think back to that meeting, I didn't have any idea of the extaordinary and amazing adventure I was about to embark on.
Thank you to the District 1180 Governor John McDowell and to Dave ,Rotary Foundation Chairman, it was lovely to see you Dave at Manchester airport on our arrival home.  
Thank you to our wonderful Portuguese teachers, Marina and Manuella who made learning Portuguese so enjoyable and I know have been following the Blog during our trip.

I can't put a big enough Thank you in to words to the people in Brazil who opened up their lives and their homes to us and made us all so welcome. I was completely overwhelmed by the kindness shown to us, by our hosts, by the Rotary Clubs we visited and friends of Rotary. There were so many of you that helped us and looked after us! It would be too difficult to mention all individually (as most of you know I can go on) but to mention a few;  A huge thank you to my first host Fabio and to Vera who co-ordinated our visit in Belem. Special thanks to William and Gerson Aoki who ensured our every need was catered for in Manaus. Thanks to the Rio Branco crew!!, particularly to my host Getulio and to Coracy who did an excellent job of co-ordinating our visit to Rio Branco (and managing our celebrity status)!! Again we were all overwhelmed by your kindness and have memories that I will treasure forever. Thank you to my hosts in Rolim de Mora, Amira, Salsol, Bruna and Rafael, it was lovely to share Easter weekend with you and moments I will never forget. Thank you to all the special people we met in Porto Velho, my wonderful hosts, Dr Ladner, Christina, Amanda, Glenda and Andraisa. I loved have three little sisters for the week and hope we will always be in touch. It would be fabulous if you could come to England to visit and will be welcome in our homes.
Thank you to all who were involved in arranging my excellent vocational visits, I learnt so much about Brazil during these days. Particular thanks to Dr Marra who inspired me in the work she does and whom I hope to stay in contact with regarding our shared interests with regards to female offending.

I look forward to working with Rotary and becoming involved in helping out the projects that we visited whilst we were in Brazil.

Finally (and I promise I am nearly finished), I want to say a huge thank you to our Team Leader Steve and my fellow team members, Liz, Ursy and Kat. We have got to know each other pretty well over the last 12 months and I hope I have four new friends for life. I have enjoyed your company, your support, learning about your professions, learning about your bad habits!! but most of all I have sincerely enjoyed experiencing this wonderful adventure with you and I know we all have memories that we will cherish forever!!

Muito obrigado a todos!!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Thank you to the amazing people of Brazil!

Just over a year ago I read a small newspaper article about joining a trip of a lifetime to Brazil through the Rotary. I didn’t know anything about the Rotary at the time but I did know that I wanted to go to Brazil! My initial contact with the organisation was through three members of the Birkenhead Rotary club: David Martin, Ray Thomas & Jill Mackeen . Together they arranged to meet me. They were warm, friendly and immediately put me at ease. Some weeks later I was invited to their Rotary club meeting and again I was warmly welcomed by everyone I met. The speaker at the meeting talked of  Rotary’s continuing work in eradicating polio and I was taken aback – this is an organisation making a real difference to people’s lives – and they wanted to support me in joining the GSE team!

Throughout the last year the support of the Birkenhead club has been phenomenal. They extended the hand of friendship to me and for me this is the essence of Rotary. From the minute we arrived in Brazil we were welcomed as old friends. The same warm welcome that the Birkenhead club had initially shown me was repeated in Belem, Manaus, Rio Branco, Rolim de Moura and Porto Vehlo. Rotarians opened up their homes and lives to us as if were part of their family. They didn’t know us but they willingly gave up their time to be part of our trip and make us feel at home in their country.

Again I was taken aback by the work that Rotary does. We visited Rotary projects in each place we stayed in Brazil. The difference that the Rotary makes could be seen first hand. More powerful even was the feeling that we as part of  Rotary could make a difference to people; we too could extend that hand of friendship. As a team we raised funds for the Abrigo Moacyr Alves orphanage in Manaus – a project that moved all of us. We are committed to helping a project in Rio Branco and hope to leave a valuable legacy of our time in Brazil. And it is this part of the trip that was to be the life changing aspect for me; a part that I had no idea of when I first read about a trip of a lifetime to Brazil.

It has been a privilege to be part of the 2011-2012 GSE team to Brazil.
It is and will continue to be a privilege to be involved in the work of  Rotary.
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to make the last year and my trip so special.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Coming to the end !!!!

Forgive me blog followers for not updating this week but I have had no internet access and have only managed to grab a few minutes here and there. I know the girls have been updating regularly and so  you are all up to date. I wanted to reflect on the week in Porto vehlo.
After the 9 hr coach journey we were all really tired. We loved the people in Rolim so it was sad to say goodbye. I went back to Fernandos  parents house and got a few hours sleep before meeting up with the team again later. We met with Rodrigo who we would see a lot of this week. He is a great character! A photographer, a drummer and works for the secretary of tourism. He speaks great English which is a great help to us. We visited the port area and had a walk around the city. We were all starting to struggle a little as the day went on and when we ended up in the shopping Mall to meet Fernando we were all ready for bed !! We saw the conference venue and  later returned home to an very welcome bed !
Tuesday saw a vocational day for me and probably the most varied for me and most enjoyable. I met the local commandant and then went to meet the special ops team. I delivered a small presentation which led to a rather lengthy Q and A session! I then had a chance to do a bit of work with the local dog trainer. He explained he learned his skills from the internet !!  I had a good exchange with him and he took my advice well. I found it quite frustrating as he was trying very hard but he just does not have the knowledge to train an dog and no support. I explained that his dog could be trained to a high standard in four weeks ( it was a drugs detection dog ) he simply thought this was impossible !!.
I was then taken to the training centre of the  environmental section of the military police. They deal with all crime related to the  forest and logging and pollution etc. It was an amazing place and the staff where so committed. It is so different from what I am used to but their job is very important. I explained to the students that the eyes of the world are on Brazil and what they are dong to protect the rain forest. The Amazon is the “lungs of the world” if it is not protected then this crazy weather will only get worse  and those who come after us will have a very different planet.
The education centre last year had 25,000 students in 11 months last year! They visit local companies and talk to them about the environment. They inspect wood yards and check that the wood is all legal etc. They protect the animals and release and captured back into the wild. There is a problem with boa constrictor snakes roaming into the city and the locals contact them and they release them back into the jungle along with any other stray wild animals. They have a nursery area where 125,000 plants are growing to replace the ones being torn away from the banks of the Amazon as the water rises due to bad weather and the controversial new power plant nearby which has turbines in the river causing stronger currents. This work is incredible and I was really impressed. So much so that the whole team returned a few days later  so as we could all see it.
I finished my visit off with a  boat ride in the police boat to show me some of the damage that is being caused by man to this important river. I was treated so well by the staff here  and the following day there was a big write up about my visit in the state newspaper.
I finished off my vocational day with Kelly and Liz at Urso Branco Prison which was a bit of an eye opener!  It has one of the worst human rights records in the world and has been the scene of many bloody riots and prisoner disputes. Naturally we were shown the nicer parts but believe me you would not want to end up in here it was a bit scary at times! We had four special ops guys with very large rifles follow us about so I felt a bit more comfortable!
Not much happened then really till the conference began. Fernando the coordinator here is under a lot of pressure as he is also in charge of the conference. We  have been left with “ free time “ quite a lot and we don’t really want any as our time is short in Brazil now. The trip is definitely winding down  and so the conference was the next thing on the agenda.
The opening was long speeches in Portuguese which was hard work but necessary I suppose!  We were in our best uniform and everyone wanted their photo taken with the Brits !!   Friday saw us on a trip out to the children’s school where we delivered  a whole stack of Liverpool shirts to the kids. Every child got a shirt and the lady who ran this school for very poor children declared that this will now be the school uniform !! They were delighted ! the shirts were given to me by the community section at Liverpool FC, it was worth every extra kg in the bag to see the delight on their faces!  Thank you LFC!!
Friday evening was the talent show for the conference and time for us to make a show of ourselves which we did very well!  The photos tell the story!  We also held our auction and raised over £500 !! this will go to an Orphanage in Manaus which was a venue of many tears when we visited.
Our final presentation was a great moment. We changed the photos to ones of Brazil. Lots of our new friends and hosts were in the audience and  to the sound of the Long and winding road we finished our tour of brazil.  It was very emotional and everyone was on their feet, there were many tears as we looked into the audience and we realised the effect of our presence in Amazonia. It is incredible how attached one can get in such a small time. These people have done so much for us and ask for very little in return ( except for maybe a million photos !) The whole experience for me has been made by the team. I am very proud of what we have achieved and how we have touched the hearts of so many people. The delight of children’s faces as we give them football shirts and the uncontrollable tears of the lady who runs the crèche in Rio Branco on her own for 30 children will stay with me for a long time. The walks through the jungle, the intense sometimes unforgiving  heat, the footie matches, the food, the boats along the river Amazon were all amazing but what will I miss the most?
The people…….just amazing people. I will also miss being with my team. They have made my job easy and we will, I hope, be close friends for years to come.
We have just spent our first Day in Rio. I have travelled all over the world  and I can honestly say I have not seen a view like that from the top of sugar loaf mountain it is truly spectacular. Only one thing missing…… Maria. I hope to return one day and share the same experience with her, I cant wait to tell her ( or bore her ) with all the Brazilian tales!!
That’s not to say I wasn’t in good company, and fantastic company they have been. We have had some wonderful  compliments paid to us by the Rotarians of  district 4720 and I think we can safely say that we have left our mark. We wanted to let the Brazilians know that we had visited there district and made a difference and I think we can hold our heads high and say we have achieved what we set out to do and more.
Thank you Kelly Liz Ursy and Kat for being such a great team Im proud of you all.


Lots more photos to follow !!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 16 April 2012

And the emotion doesnt stop there.............

Áfter the standing ovation and emotion final presentation we had yet another 'deeeelicious' (as Kelly says) lunch with the biggest ribs I have ever seen. Definitely not Ursy's idea of a relaxed lunch but us meat eaters induldged greatly!!! The finale of the Conference was Governor Arno's dinner held at the Rondon Hotel. Everyone looked extremely glamorous and the team scrubbed up quite well too! Again it was extremely emotional to say goodbye to all the wonderful and beautiful people we have had the priveledge to meet on this amazing trip. Kelly had to drag me out the hotel with tears in my eyes from all the kindness shown to me these past weeks.
Sunday was a day to rest after the hustle and bustle of 4 weeks travelling. R'n'R was given to us in bucket loads on behalf of Rodrigo and the beautiful Tres Capelas resort his family run. We drank plenty, ate plenty, and chilled plenty whilst listening to an excellent complilation of hits from the pool side! Belezaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!
To round off an excellent stay in Porto Velho we met up at a very tasty Italian restaurant to sample once again the delights of Banana Pizza and cheers to the people that made our stay here so welcoming and legalllll!!!!! Muito Obrigada a todos........Beijinhos x x x x x x x x x

Saturday, 14 April 2012

It all gets a bit emotional...

Today was our presentation at the Rotary District Conference and I think I can say it took us by surprise how emotional we got. As it was our last presentation of the trip we included a photo montage of our time in Brazil with Steve suggesting The long and winding road as the soundtrack... Actually, on reflection, we should have known there would be tears. What made it more emotional was the fact that so many people who had worked tirelessly to make our trip so special were there in the audience. Infact, we weren´t the only ones with tears in our eyes, which then made us cry more-agggh.

Again I think I speak for all of us when I say that we`ve had one of the best experiences of our lives and we are incredibly grateful to Rotary and our individual clubs for giving us such an incredible opportunity. No holiday would ever have given us the insight into the culture and life in Brazil as this has. We know how lucky we are and we can´t wait to tell you all about it.

On a slightly different note, last night was an experience of a whole different kind. We took part in the conference talent contest (non-negotiable apparently hmmmm) in what can only be described as improvisation act devised after 10 minutes locked in a room. Let`s just say Brazil football shirts, Union Jack umbrellas, a flashing dickie bow and a very wet Steve. I am just hoping that this is one part of the trip that will remain locked in the vault of embarrassing moments. haha.

Tonight is the district Governor`s meal and we look forward to sharing the event with Arno Voight and his wife and many Brazilian friends we have met along the way.

We also brought with us  some items to auction. A liverpool shirt tranmere shirt and everton ball signed by the teams were very popular and we also had various other items that we managed to smuggle out of the UK !
We were delighted that in total we raised about £550 !!!  This will go to the Orpahange in Manaus  and will be managed by Willliam who will keep us updated on what the money is used for !!!!  A great night was had by all !!!
liverpool kits are delivered to a school in a very poor area of Porto Vehlo. A lovely 

Ursy's worst nightmare !!  BBQ  like i've never seen before !

With District governor Arno and His wife Soldi  at the conference

£550 raised in an auction!  Unbelievable!! 

Im singing in the rain!!

Governor Arno with his signed Liverpool  shirt ( also signed by Romario )

A new school uniform for the kids!

Lots of tears and a standing ovation as we deliver our last presentation.