Sunday, July 29, 2012

Never say never.

A 14 year old girl is crying in the favela.

It’s not what you think.  So that was a bad joke. But it’s not a joke. She’s crying, because Justin Beaber LIVE IN CONCERT just came on the TV. In the last few weeks I’ve learned more than I ever dreamed about Justin Beiber (I’m going to spell his name differently each time because I don’t care to look it up but also at some point want to give him his due credit).  Not only are the young adults in OUR (DIANA IS HERE!!!!) Sustainable Jewelry class obsessed with him, but also were the group of 16-teeny bopping English volunteers who helped us paint the school last week. Actually, JB, as they like to refer to him, was the common ground that helped these two groups from two entirely different cultural, language and socio-economic backgrounds connect.

brits + brazilians bonding over bieber's "Never Say Never" [escola de accao, complexo do alemao]
Aside from the official entrance of world’s biggest pop heart throb into my life, this week has been a very special one. I’ve seen a change in the students, a very positive one. After the culture shock, the fear and the language troubles have begun to settle, we’ve all opened up and have begun to build a sort of trust. When there is trust, creative expression exponentially grows and it's very apparent these days in the classroom.

...and they (ok, fine, we) also like Adele.

So what was different about this week? Well for one, Diana came into town and has officially joined the project!!! Her curiosity, passion for the project, sick portuguese skills, ability to connect wit the students so fast, "hit the ground running" mentality (literally....i mean last thursday after a 26 hour flight from paris I met her at the airport, we dropped her bags in my apartment and before she could figure out which timezone she was in we were on the rickety bus in route to the favelas)....ok i love this girl a lot, I could go on forever. Anyways, I think the students got a real taste for our dedication and the importance of their work, and with this understanding things have begun to flourish.
talented aritistas leaving their mark [escola de accao, complexo do alemao]
They requested extra projects to take home. 
They took the initiative to design extra clothing for next week's class.
They took the initiative to plan a small fashion show this week (Friday!).
They scheduled a practice runway session on their own for next week's "desfile'.
They are starting to improvise on the class projects ..."Can I make these earrings asymmetrical?"..."What if we use this old carton and convert it into a hat?"...."Oh! In my house I have the coolest old table cloth that we just threw away that would make an awesome skirt"....simply music to a favela fashion professora's ears!

favela fashionista striking a pose after putting finishing touches on the school [complexo do alemao]

So to that, I quote the fine words of Mr. Beiber and say "NEVER SAY NEVER". Never say that young adults in the favela don't dream. Never say that these kids aren't brimming with talent. Never say that there are not thousands of professional aspirations coming out of this marginalized community....Fabiani wants nothing more than to be a professional runway model [see photo above for proof]. Ali wants to be a stylist to the stars, and you better believe she has a sick sense of personal style. Juliana wants to own a fashion agency, and you Know that she'll make one h-e-double-hockey-sticks of a demanding boss. Wanderson wants to be the next Beiber, and ohh can he sing! (much better than justin himself). All of them extremely driven at such a young age, more so than maybe their “peers” in the “developed” world.

In the favelas….where does this inspiration and motivation go? Does every child growing up in the community start with this kind of drive and then realizes he doesn’t or will never have the resources or support and the dream dies? Or are we fortunate enough to be working with the start of a new breed of favelas generation with a vision and ability for change? In either case, how do we help them realize these aspirations, capture this creativity and LIVE these dreams? The feat seems overwhelming, but as my dad says we'll just "eat the elephant by the pieces." At any rate, thank you Justin for letting them dream.

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