On the 23rd of June the Gandhi Voyage travelling group reached Brazil, a country known for its energizing samba, colorful carnival and fantastic football.
The group started with a visit to Cidade de Deus (City of God), a district located in Rio de Janeiro, with a population of almost 50,000 inhabitants which evolved from a process of eradication of the favelas (shanty towns) in 1966. A warm welcome was given to the delegation by members of IofC who work to engage people in social work and run education programs to improve the lives of marginalized people. In this, one of the most dangerous suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, where a film was made in 2002, people share a strong sense of determination and faith. A true source of inspiration and hope for Brazilian communities.
We also had the chance of visiting Lins de Vasconcelos place, located at the Morro Sao Joao neighborhood. This area, a formerly dangerous favela, was gradually transformed into a quarter with a community centre and a high quality public kindergarten thanks to members of IofC Brazil.
A heartwarming occasion followed with a visit to the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Rio de Janeiro where Brazilian women gathered around the statue in a beautiful dance to honor Mahatma Gandhi.
The group then had dinner with members of the local IofC team where the first sharing of stories and exchanges took place.
As the World Cup (2014) and Olympics (2016) will soon come to Brazil, the country will have a great opportunity to share its gifts with the world. This became clear at the the Coopataxi Cooperative where Professor Rajmohan Gandhi addressed the taxi drivers who have a story of working with integrity, honesty and good service towards their work and customers. He addressed them with the theme 'In an atmosphere of competition, how can we create a climate of cooperation?', and touched on the wonderful opportunity they will have to share their work with the world in 2016. The taxi drivers are getting ready and have started taking English lessons.
Prof Gandhi addressed about 150 politicians, business and civil society leaders at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. A small IofC presentation was followed by music and dance as well as by stories from others in the local and travelling teams.
After arriving at the Sitio Sao Luiz, the IofC centre in Petropolis, Rajmohan Gandhi met with municipal authorities of the city and families from both Rio and Petropolis. The government representatives talked about the important work carried out by the IofC conference centre in the past 40 years. The meeting ended with a small reception and refreshments in which the delegation met with the people of Petropolis.
It is well known that young people are the largest age group in Latin America. Through the ‘Youth Changing Lives Program’ some of them are getting to know more about IofC. An informal gathering with some took place where they shared the challenges they see in front of Brazil. Professor Gandhi asked them what they as a group felt called to tackle to make their country better, as well as what each of them needed to work on personally, in order to contribute to change their country.
Later on, a group of 20 young air cadets arrived after four hours drive to meet Professor Gandhi and the community. Their commitment to serving Brazil was an inspiration to all and showed us that future Brazilian soldiers are taking steps towards building a world of tolerance and mutual understanding. The night ended with a beautiful cultural presentation with Capoeira, Samba and traditional dances.
The visit to Brazil ended with a meeting with community and dock leaders of Rio de Janeiro, where visions, dreams and initiatives for the future were shared openly.
The traveling delegation left the country full of inspiration thanks to the committed work of the Brazilian team of IofC in the region. We appreciated every part of the programme and also the quality time we shared with the local team in the evenings to talk honestly about strategic actions and challenges for the future of IofC Brazil.
This article was co-authored by Fabiola Benavente and José Carlos Leon Vargas