Sonia and Paloma, two different VOLPA experiences in Brazil

Paloma: "The reality of maraba, my reality in Marabá"

Marabá is a city in the North of Brazil, in the state of  Pará, in the Amazonia area. When we think of the Brazilians, football, samba or the  caipirinhas come to our minds: they are only a very small part of a very large culture since Brazil has a great diversity. We find in their people and their culture the influences of the past, present in daily life: descendants of European colonies, of Africans and natives give name to terms such as caboclo -mixture of native and European -, negro -African descendants - or white- European descendants-. Curiously, in the birth certificates, together with the name and date, the colour of the skin is specified: white, black, brown... The skin once again is a label for social exclusion.


The area of  Pará has gone through different productive and export phases. Before, rubber brought about richness and changes in the urban space, changing the environment and the culture. The same happened with the species, gold, mining... At present the importance goes to aluminum and wood sale.
Because of all this, we find several conflicts in  Pará. On one hand the devastation of the "floresta Amazónica", the opening of metal industries, conflicts related to the expropriation of lands and the extreme poverty in one of the states with more richness and resources of Brazil. On the other hand, cultural conflicts, invaded lands, expropriated native reserves and devastated cultures in ignorance´s silence, the silence that comes from easy money.

Marabá, is characteristic for not having an identity of its own or traditional. Its culture is a mixture of other cultures, other states. Habits and traditions from the migrations of those who came in search of work from states such as  Maranhon, Piauí or Amapá.


This city welcomes foreigners looking for richness and hides poverty slums on the other side of the street. It is one of the most violent urban places of the north, where in the last three months over 14 youth have died, victims of drugs, accidents, suicides and murders. Inefficient education, high birth rate among the youth, prostitution or child exploitation are in the hidden side of the coin that is hidden and not everybody knows. In the same city live  the very rich and the very poor. There are different volunteer works in the city, the majority of them run y religious. The Christian faith is a strong anchor in social life. Volunteers belong, in a great majority to the local church. Currently I am the only "lay" person carrying out Fe y Alegría´s work in cooperation with  Entreculturas through the VOLPA programme. I work in two infant schools and in the afternoon I teach Spanish to teenagers and help in the Youth Pastoral programme.

After almost a year here, I slowly start feeling to e part of their culture, their people, their way of life. I start to go out alone, to speak Portuguese... Marabá´s reality becomes "my" reality in  Marabá, that which fills and changes me and defines my new way of seeing.


Sonia: "Now I meet new challenges"

After studying political science and a specialization in International Cooperation, I felt the need to see with my own eyes the reality I had been studying for so long so as to know exactly what I was talking about.

I got to know Entreculturas and the VOLPA Programme in my specialization, and shared with them the belief that education is a tool for change.
I arrived a month ago from my one year experience with Fe y Alegría Manaus, a forgotten reality in Brazil. It has been a very intense year in the sense of knowing oneself and getting to know others, that is to say another reality, other ways of living. I sincerely think that I would never have imagined what I saw and lived.

Sonia at "Encontro das Aguas" near Manaus, a place where Black and Amazon rivers come together
without losing their characteristic color. For her, this is a symbol of how her encounter with a
different culture enriched both sides without losing their identity

Now I meet  new challenges, to combine living in the North with my election for the most deprived. Not to forget everything I have lived is a difficult challenge, with the "saudades" of those burning lands, but I hope and I wish to achieve it.

I would like to thank the "angels" that appeared in my experience and made it easier: Margareth and family, Enrique, Viviane, meninas, Fr.Roberto, Ana, Mateos Matías, and all those who passed through my life and to all Fe y Alegría Manus. Thank you.