When I first came to Prainha, I was saddened by the lack of resources in the local school. The teachers do their best for the children under very difficult circumstances, very little in the way of resources or , in the case of the nursery, virtually nothing. The nursery was not receiving any governmental funding for resources, there were no toys, no paints, very little paper, in fact the cupboard was pretty much bare.
I am a Montessori teacher, I have worked in private nursery schools, and in a North London Primary school as a support assistant to children with special needs. I am therefore, very aware of the differences between a school in England (where generally the schools are struggling with lack of funds) and the school here.
On one trip back to London I spoke to my dear friend Rilene from Amazonas Capoeira, with whom I first travelled to Prainha.
Rilene, her sister Rijane and brother Boneco agreed to help me do some fund raising within their classes. A few days later they told me they had spoken to Mestre Joaozinho da Figueira from the group Marazul who had also offered to help. I am very grateful to them, and all of their students who were so generous.
With the money the capoeira schools raised, we bought some much needed art supplies. Some of the money has been held in reserve, this will be used to help fund the building of a play area for the nursery ( as soon as a suitable location is secured, this is dependant on the shifting sand dunes. For some reason the sand dunes have recently altered their course, engineers are assessing the situation as they don’t want to build in an area that is likely to be under sand in a few months).
Last year, I spoke to some other dear friends. Karen, a teacher at Brookfield school, and Hannah from the Brookfield PTA. They suggested I speak to the Head of the school Dilys Hillman. Dilys very kindly offered to help with more fund raising, in return I would talk to the children about life here, the school and why we needed their help. The children were a most marvellous audience, a real credit to the school.
Hannah organised a bake sale by the PTA and the money raised was donated. Karen did her usual splendid job of organising international evening at Brookfield, the funds from that were added to those from the bake sale. Dilys added in a some from the summer fair. All this was way more than anything I could have ever hoped for. I was almost speechless (unusually for me). I am again very, very grateful to Dilys, Karen, Hannah and everyone from Brookfield school.
I had enormous fun spending all the money in various toy shops, I tried to get things that were of educational value, and things that looked like they would last.
The following is a copy of the thank you letter I sent to the children of Brookfield School, but it is equally a thank you to all of the teachers and students of Amazonas Capoeira and Marazul.
Thanks to all of you, I was able to fill five big holdalls with toys for the school in Prainha Do Canto Verde. As there were four of us travelling together and we are allowed two pieces of luggage each, we had an allowance of eight bags, so five for the school and three for our things, it was hard getting them all to the airport but we made it.
When you go to another country, after you get off the plane, you have to show your passport to the customs and immigration people. Sometimes they want to see what you have in your luggage. I was hoping they wouldn’t ask me, I didn’t want to have to undo eight bags and explain why I had lots of dolls, toy food, cars and things, thankfully they let me pass with just a nod.
The morning after we arrived, I sent a message to the head teacher to tell her I had returned and had toys for the nursery. I asked if someone could come to my house to decide how and when they wanted to take all the things to the school. That afternoon the deputy head and one of the teachers came.
When they saw all the things you had helped me to buy they cried out in surprise, they had expected one or two carrier bags full and couldn’t believe all the fantastic things I was able to bring them. The two teachers looked through the toys, every now and then squealing with delight, expressing amazement and generally being thrilled with everything.
Today the toys were collected from my house and taken up to the school to be laid out in an empty class room.
Now surprises are not always nice and the children of Prainha have grown used to having some very odd surprises, (like watching a donated film, in German, nobody had a clue what was going on). So when the children were told that they would be getting a surprise, it is understandable that they were a little nervous when the door to the room was opened and they were told to go in.
Remember that for most of the children, the toys in that room were more than they have ever seen in their lives, it was like a treasure trove. First the children just looked at the toys, too afraid to touch. Then, with a bit of encouragement they began to open the boxes, pick up the dolls and push the cars around, the level of noise grew as each child called to another to play with this or look at that and the adults were having just as much fun!
Some of the children went from one thing to the next, feeling things, then putting them back, others spent time with just one thing, some just stood and stared. The dolls were very popular with the girls, some of whom used the shopping baskets I had bought as cradles and carried the dolls about the room, playing with them just like little children everywhere play with their dolls. The boys loved the cars, everyone said they were the best toy cars they had ever seen, most of the cars we get from the local towns are made of plastic and break very easily, to have shiny metal cars is something special.
I hope you can get an idea of what it was like from the photo’s I have sent with this letter. All the time I could hear children saying “Puxa!” that’s the same as saying WOW! To see so many smiling faces was really wonderful. The Deputy turned to me and said it made her feel very emotional, watching the children’s happiness, surprise, surprise that made me cry, just a tear or two.
The time passed in the blink of an eye and all too soon it was time for the children to go back to their classrooms, ready for their mum’s and dad’s to take them home. Understandably the children were reluctant to leave but the teachers explained that the toys would be there for them, at school everyday. I don’t think they will have any problem with children not wanting to come to school now. Some of the children had made a little pile of toys that they hoped to take home with them, it made us laugh, we had all known that some of the children would do that, you can’t really blame them either, it’s quite normal for a child not to have any toys at all.
The toys have to be shared between four classes, when we divided the toys up it didn’t look quite so impressive, yet its still so much more than they had before.
The head teacher said thank you to me and said how wonderfully generous you all must have been. One of the other teachers said that I had done a fantastic thing, I had made so many children so very happy. She said she believes that when you give something to someone who needs it, you are blessed and good things will come to you. I think we must all share in that blessing because I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you.