Well I have been back in the UK for 10 days now so I think it is time for a reflective post of what I have learnt whilst I’ve been away. I have been asked this question a lot and my answer is simple – many things! I’ll try and unpack them a bit for you…
Mental Health in Brazil and our NHS:
This was something that I was particularly interested in finding out about here. Whilst I did not have much opportunity to witness any psychology sessions with the girls, I did see a little of what they were being taught around keeping themselves safe. I had a brief but interesting conversation with Rose around what the mental hospitals are like in Brazil. It seems that whilst in the UK we are still fighting stigma around mental health and wellbeing, Brazil is particularly underdeveloped in this area. Rose informed me that some patients in the hospitals would not even have beds. This is obviously not uncommon for developing and third world countries, and even in the UK this was not so uncommon for us 50 years ago.
This trip has also made me particularly thankful and proud of our NHS. Andy informed me that if I was shot, I would probably be waiting in the A&E department for the hospital for 13 hours, or even longer. Whilst there are many frustrations and things that can be improved, it has taught me to be thankful for our standard of care given, the (almost) immediacy of treatment and the fact that it is free for everyone.
Coming back to Western society has also taught me to be cautious of our over-developed nation and our wealthy and spoiled society. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having nice things, it has just taught me to be thankful for the things that I do have, and not so demanding of the things that I want or feel I need.
One thing that was particularly evident in Brazil is the divide of classes and the fact that there is no middle class in the North of Brazil. Andy pointed out en-route to Recife one day the spot where a favela had been knocked down and the residents forced to move out and build their houses on stilts over the river. This was to make way for a particularly Western shopping mall full of top-end brands and businesses. This is because favela land is cheap, and technically is not owned.
The main thing that I will take away with me is that ReVive is a house of love and joy, in the midst of extremely painful circumstances for all the girls. Every day I woke up to laughter, chatter and an overwhelming feeling of God’s love being given to all who walk through the doors (and lots outside the house too). Despite the hardships, these girls are all caring, warm and funny girls who welcomed us with a smile and a hug, even though life has shown them the opposite of this. Seeing this special community certainly helps you gain perspective, but mostly it has taught me that thankfulness, praise and coming closer to God in a time of hardship is far more healing that turning and running away. Obviously it has taught me much more than this but I’ll stop for want of boring people!
- The people – Andy and Rose, all the girls and all the staff – you made our time an absolute joy and I feel I have gained a second Brazilian family! Keep in touch!
- The culture – despite being quite nervous about a laid-back approach, I actually enjoyed this adopting a more chilled attitude towards things!
- The music and the dance and the vibrant Brazilian culture – particularly the music blasting from the cars!
- The hot weather – for obvious reasons. My tan is already fading!
- Guaraná, coxinhas and pão de queijo!
- Frogs in the toilet!
- Rice and beans…
I have no doubt that I will be going back to Brazil at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future (Andy and Rose – if you will have me?!). I thank God that he has given me a real heart for this country and blessed me with ideas for my future as a mental health nurse. It was the best experience and possibly the best/craziest 3 weeks of my life and for that I am truly thankful.
- Please pray on for Brazil as a country, for the healthcare and education, and particularly the difficult government situation in the country at present.
- Please pray for those living in the favelas and poorer parts of the country – that they would be recognised as having a voice and a place in society. That their communities would be treasured and their homes respected.
- Please thank God and pray on for all those mentioned in these blogs – the girls, the staff (Andy and Rose, Elise, Becky and Evaldo, all the educators, Iracy, Gordo, Salomao, Leto, the social workers and psychologists working with both the girls and the families, and for anyone else I have forgotten), and for other volunteers (Abi who is still out there and Debs who will arrive in September).
- Please thank God for my time out there and for Rosy and Sophie’s time, and pray that God would continue to use this experience to shape my thinking, to grow me and to give me clear ideas, visions and plans for the future.
Thank you! 🙂