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IMPACT program helps rebuild after Salvador cultural center fire

Semester at Sea voyagers spent their last afternoon in Salvador, Brazil rebuilding and repairing the Arte Consciente Recreational and Cultural Center after it suffered a devastating fire on October 30.

   dsc_0215The In-Country Program was already scheduled to visit the center but changed the itinerary to better serve the needs of the recently damaged spaces.  

‘Serendipitous’ drum donation

The electrical fire destroyed the majority of the center’s percussion instruments along with one of the facility’s studios. The MV World Odyssey has held drums in storage that were abandoned or have been donated over the years and are a collection from all over the world.

“How serendipitous that an IMPACT Program, with SAS history and future affiliation, has lost their musical instruments, specifically drums, while we are sailing intodsc_0368 port with an excess of instruments,” Assistant Executive Dean Rita Enders said.

Upon hearing of the fire, SAS jumped into action to inventory which drums could be donated to the center.  Voyager dependent, Rick Jelley, spent several days prior to the November 1 arrival in Brazil packaging and organizing the instruments in preparation of their donation.

“We made a drum manifest and chose a wide selection of instruments that could be used by everyone in their program,” Jelley said. “They were going to get much more use out of them than we were.

Over 15 drums of various sizes and types, and several other instruments were given to the center.

“We’re on this trip around the world and the stars just aligned for us to have these drums when they needed them mdsc_0399ost,” said University of Virginia student, Kristen Stiller. “This isn’t just a coincidence.”

The rest of the day was spent cleaning up other fire-damaged areas, painting the kitchen and several of the studio spaces, and interacting with the local youth.

History of the Center

Arte Consciente was founded in 2003 by alumni of two larger social projects in Salvador Brazil. Together, they saw the local neighborhood decline  into drugs and violence, and collaborated to create a space for local youth to escape through music, dance and sport. The project has played a pivotal role in abating violence in the area, which had claimed many lives of the local children between 1996 and 2002.dsc_0320

Marco, a circus school teacher; Fabio, a boxing champion and trainer; Alex, a percussion master and songwriter; and Tito, a wizard graffiti artist, each offer their skills and support to the disenfranchised youth of the barrio.

Gil Xavier’s daughter, Vivian, is a 17-year-old boxer at Arte Consciente. Xavier talked about how thankful she is for the opportunities and skills her daughter has received because of it.

“She used to stay alone at home and now because of the center she is meeting new people and making new friends,” Xavier said.

The center has returned hope and raised the self-esteem of over 2,000 people in the neighborhood since its opening. It currently services over 200 local youth.

Partnership with Semester at Sea

Semester at Sea visited the center several years ago on a previous voyage and had plans to return again this fall. Not only is the relationship between organizations something SAS participants found impacting, the founders of Arte Consciente use the relationship as an opportunity to teach their youth about international identities.

“The partnership is great. It shows our students people from all over the world and teaches them to respect other cultures,” Marcos said. “I want more exchange programs to come and help change the vision.’

Arthur Mellow is an International Gap Year student from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He talked about what it meant to him to not only have SAS visit the country he is from, but also contribute to the local community through IMPACT programs.

“This is very meaningful to learn the actual culture and history,” Mellow said. “It’s not just ‘voluntourism,’ but we’re actually improving the community for a better future.”

IMPACT programs like this provide an opportunity to explore the culture of a country in a way that inspires, informs and creates lasting relationships between voyagers and the local communities. Over 35 voyagers participated in the Arte Consciente day program.

“Semester at Sea coming gives the children energy and light,” Marcos added. “It’s marvelous.”

leowithmLeo Ricketts is an IMPACT scholar from Seton Hall University. He mentioned that by  being able to communicate with populations around the world through IMPACT programs, he has learned about their cultural ways of being.michelle

“Programs like this teach you the importance of service and culture,” Ricketts said.

Interacting with Arte Consciente is something that Michelle Faris, a shipboard psychologist from Colorado State University, will always look back on. She spent the majority of the day cleaning up the kitchen area, one of the most fire-damaged spaces in the center.

“I’ll always remember this every time I clean my kitchen,” Faris said. “It felt like an honor to work for them.”  

Future of Arte Consciente

Arte Consciente and the co-founders have big plans for the future. The music teacher, Alex “Leco,” talked about how in some ways, the fire was an opportunity to embrace new growth.stiller

“(SAS being here) is a huge step for the center after the fire,” Leco said.

Leco also talked about how he wants it to continue to be a place for people to come and build community with one another. The main goal of the center is to keep the kids in school so that they can to participate with the center and be encouraged to pursue their passions.

Marcos mentioned how although there is still room for growth, he also hopes to one day show and teach others about the positive influence a place like Arte Consciente can have on a local area.

“I hope to one day own a bus so that we can show the rest of the country what you can do with this type of community,” he said.

  • Finances & Budgeting
  • Gap Year
  • Life on Land
  • Service

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