An Introspective into Impacto Vivo

Sophie Auvin - Brazil


December 7, 2018

Thursday, December 6th marked my last day at Impacto Vivo, a local
organization providing an after-school program to low-income kids. In this
moment I am incredibly conflicted about the project closing and being
forced to seek out new opportunities. While I never would have left the
organization on my own, part of me is relieved to be leaving Impacto Vivo.
My time there was spent fluctuating between frustration and self-doubt, and
working there was incredibly difficult. I believe part of that difficulty
came from my own naivety. Entering Impacto Vivo, I was convinced that I was
going to be the change, that the organization and the kids would be better
off since I had been there. In reality, I don’t speak Portuguese, know how
to teach or work with kids, or have any relevant skills to be successful in
a volunteer organization. I thought I would excel at Impacto Vivo, that I
would change the entire organization, but I spent my first there sitting in
a desk watching other volunteers, qualified volunteers teach. Impacto Vivo
did not need me at first. They were, in all honesty, over-staffed with
resources and classrooms underutilized. Then, when a music teacher was
unable to come, an opportunity to teach my own class opened up. The first
two or three classes were English, as requested by the Pastor, but none of
the kids wanted to learn English. Classes were spent trying to wrangle the
kids while they protested learning English. Even when I switched from
English to arts and crafts, teaching brought a whole host of problems.
Kids, my students, would call me stupid, tell me I wasn’t speaking
Portuguese and that I should go back home. In the beginning, I would go
home feeling frustrated and useless. After I began teaching, I would go
home questioning what I was doing in Brazil. I spent so many nights crying
and obsessing over my Portuguese. In the middle of all my frustration and
sadness, there were moments with the kids, bright spots that made the
experience bearable. The day we made hand turkeys for Thanksgiving or
minutes spent playing between classes those were the moments I had
envisioned in my head. But, my reality was different. It was hard and
mediocre and left me wanting more from myself and Impacto Vivo. There is
though, a sense of what if, what could have been if I continued to work
there for the rest of my time in Brazil. Would I have made the changes I
wanted or gotten through a class without scolding the kids? I’ll never
know. All I know was that my naivety only added to an experience at Impacto
Vivo that was riddled with challenges. Impacto Vivo was disorganized and
jumped between over and understaffed, but it also provided a great service
to the community and will leave a gaping hole where it once was. I am proud
to have worked there and am regretful for its closing. My time there erased
the naivety I entered with and made me a more effective volunteer. I am far
more pragmatic about the impact if any I will leave in Brazil and have
Impacto Vivo to thank. So, as I try and process its closing and that I
won’t see the kids anymore, I am also looking forward to the summer and the
rest of my time in Brazil. I am looking forward to working with new
organizations now better equipped to be a volunteer here in Brazil.

Sophie Auvin