My time volunteering at Fight for Peace
07/07/2017 – Tom Biggart began volunteering at Fight for Peace in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of 2017 and over the past six months has contributed greatly to the work of the communications and fundraising teams at the organisation. Here he shares with us his impressions of living and working in Brazil and what he will take away from his time at Fight for Peace:
A fresh faced gringo, I arrived in Brazil in January in the heat of summer, looking for work during my six months here but without much of a plan on how to find it and, I am embarrassed to say, having never heard of Fight for Peace. I knew I wanted to pursue charity work but I had no idea where to start. Having looked into and spoken to a number of organisations I was handed the huge stroke of luck of being put in touch with Fight for Peace Founder & Director Luke Dowdney. My initial impressions were that it sounded amazing, but looking back to that moment now I can say that I had no idea quite what I was getting myself into!!
Within a couple of days it became clear that this was a pretty special project. My first day in Maré, the complex of favelas where Fight for Peace Rio is based, was a fairly mind-blowing one. On top of stepping foot in a favela for the first time and everything that entails, I remember being blown away by the Academy itself. Immediately you see the gym and the blue walls of Fight for Peace as a sanctuary from the adversities of life in the favela – and the hum of happiness and solidarity that you feel when walking around is contagious. I remember staff showing me around the Academy, me desperately trying to take in as much of what was around me whilst muddling through introduction after introduction in my basic Portuguese to all of these new people. I settled in quickly though – you couldn’t not in a place that takes the notion of a family atmosphere so seriously – and I can now say, writing this on my last day at Fight for Peace, that this is the most amazing and inspiring thing I have ever done in my life.
I have loved my job roles – helping out on social media, updating our website and best of all, doing interviews with amazing people and then having the privilege to write up their stories – and the whole experience has been incredibly interesting, often humbling, but also utterly eye-opening. I think back to chatting with Camila Pessoa – the charming and impressive 16 year old girl who has overcome unthinkable adversity to become the third best wrestler at her level and age in the whole of Brazil – and I think how lucky I was to hear her tale and to write her story. Camila is just one of a host of young people who have found sanctuary, strength and inspiration at Fight for Peace, but who ultimately have helped themselves to move forward in their lives, and it’s a joy to see, and to be around these amazing children and young adults.
Most importantly, I have loved being part of a project which is doing so much for people with so little. Being from the UK, many people do not understand life in a favela (as I did not when I arrived), and I believe that it is only through organisations like Fight for Peace that the challenges will be conquered. It has been a pleasure and an honour, and although I am leaving Brazil to return to England and finish my university degree, I am sure that this will not be the end of my journey with Fight for Peace. I wish everyone at Fight for Peace the best of luck in their future endeavours – ABRAÇOS!