Paint, soccer, blessings, and goodbyes: The last week in Chapadinha, Brazil

The final days of the community center’s construction were overwhelmingly busy, incredibly productive, and tremendously rewarding. We painted the building a light green, made the floor and roof of the wrap-around porch, lay the tiles of the doctor’s office and bathrooms, installed electricity and plumbing, and prepared for Friday’s community party. Each day, many more volunteers than we expected arrived to lend a hand, and lunch continued to be generously supplied by local wives and mothers.

Wednesday evening, after a long day at the site, the van we have been borrowing from the district’s church broke, leaving us stranded after sundown on the dirt road that passes through Chapadinha. Juliana and Danilo jogged to the closest house, and returned to the van with Seu Zé and Isael, two men who have been helping us with construction. They figured out what was wrong, but lacked a car to pull it off the road. We called one of our host families who has a car, and their young son and uncle came to help us tow the van to Seu Zé’s house. As tired as we were from a full day’s work, it was uplifting to be in the company of these several people whohelped us without hesitation and with warm generosity in the late evening.

Friday afternoon was the big inauguration party for the center. All of the community members we have come to know over the past month and many more from neighboring communities came to attend a mass led by Padre Kyti and enjoy a massive potluck, bonfire, and dance party. The Father led a thanksgiving service and several local leaders thanked us for the work we’ve done with the community and all of those who dedicated their time and resources to the project. He blessed the doctor’s office, and prayed for our safe travels and that we return to the community again soon.

Seu Roberto attended with his wife and eight year old son, João Vitor, who quickly became best friends with Seu Zé’s grandson of the same age. The balloons with which we had decorated the porch quickly came down to delight the younger children, and the examination bed in the doctor’s room was put to use for the first time as a changing table for a three-week old baby boy.

Last night at the party many Chapadinha boys and fathers suggested that we have another soccer game the next day. The four of us agreed, and after a morning of laundry and packing, we met everyone at the field for a few-hour game of 12 v 12 on the field we had made two weeks prior. Some moms came to watch, and made us all little bags of popcorn in the community center, which we enjoyed with soda after the game. We found out at the game that the dog who has been chasing our van, eating our food, and getting on our nerves, spent the night at the building. With events ranging from church services and soccer games, medical appointments and community dance parties, we hope the dog chooses to become the community center’s guard: a permanent resident in the place where we have worked with a truly generous, special, and welcoming village to build a space for education, celebration, and community.

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