When I was 16, I travelled to Brazil as part of a World Challenge Expedition through school with 13 other pupils and 2 of our teachers. I found my diary I wrote at the time recently, so have decided to edit it, remove some of the 16-year old me random thoughts, and write it up. To travel there, we had to fundraise the £2770 per person in the 2 years leading up to the trip and then plan and organise everything ourselves while we were there, supervised by our 2 teachers.


We eventually arrived in Curitiba at about 10.30am after our night bus from Rio. We ate breakfast in the bus station, something which looked and tasted a bit like rusks. We found a hotel just across the road, Hotel Maia, which looks a bit like an ex-prison! It’s clean and we have an ensuite shower! They only have double beds though, so me and Ruth are sharing. We had our team meeting and then went off for lunch in groups of 3. Ruth and I went to the hospital with Mike and Jane (teachers) so we could get her foot checked out. We walked, which was a huge mistake because it took forever and made Ruth’s foot worse.

We got to the hospital and were just about to take bets on how long we’d have to wait and the Doctor called her through. Very quick. He said rest, medicine and no walking, so we took a taxi back to the hotel where we played cards and had another meeting about Mike’s birthday meal. We also discovered that the hotel manager loved Charlie and kept referring to him as ‘Prince Charles’, saying hello whenever he walked past but ignoring the rest of us.

Later we got a bus to the restaurant and sat outside because it was still warm. It took a while for Mike to realise that we went out for his birthday but he seemed to enjoy it. We danced to a man playing the guitar and then managed to persuade him to let Charlie play it. Bed at 12am- quite late considering we’d been going to sleep early when camping!


We got up at 7.45 so we could make the most of showers and decorate Mike’s birthday table. For once we get to film him with his bloody video camera!

Jen, Jen M, Dave and I were sent as an advance party to the project to check it out- a Children’s Centre for Favela children. We’re getting good at navigating ourselves around cities and in a foreign language, but the main problem was actually finding out what we were supposed to be helping the Children’s Centre with, since it was the school holidays and our plans had changed. I could understand what she was saying, but had to use a lot of gestures to show her what I wanted to say. Eventually they got an English-speaking person on the phone and we were able to sort it out.

Photos: ‘Before’ we arrived at the Children’s Centre

Back at the hotel, we had lunch- chicken and chips. The hotel manager was a bit sad Charlie didn’t come back with us. Then we headed back to the project where we were told to ‘chill’ for the rest of the day. So two of the men working there taught us the traditional martial art, Capoeira. It was cool- it’s the same thing that’s on a BBC advert before the news.

We’d been told we were doing painting, so the children’s centre found us some translators who helped us understand what paint to buy- I wouldn’t even know what we were looking for without the language problem. There was a girl there called Laetitia, so we played with her and asked her what the different playground toys were called in Portuguese. Then we went to buy the paint.

When we got back, the centre leaders took us to the Botanical Gardens, except for Ruth, Mike and Jen, because they’d gone back to the hospital for Ruth’s Doctor’s appointment. We walked through the park and the boys went to play football and the rest of us went for a walk in the woods. We came across a Greenhouse, which we also walked through before trying to find the rest. Before we found them though, we found some children doing Capoeira, which they performed for us and then let me, Becky and Andrea join in, which was very cool!

Photo: Curitiba Botanical Gardens

Photos: Capoeira in the Botanical Gardens

We got back to the project and ate and then started to design the mural for the front wall. Laetitia was there and was writing out words in English and Portuguese for us. Dave and I came up with the idea for it to be a bit like a city, so that’s the design we’re currently going with.


We got up for 7 and had ham and cheese rolls for breakfast (they really love ham and cheese for breakfast here). Becky, Katie, Paul and I went to the DIY store to buy paint and brushes. When we got back, the rest had already whitewashed one wall and started on the second. Johnny and I painted a hopscotch before starting on the mural with the rest. I’m really not good at drawing, so I mainly did the coloured bits once someone had actually drawn it. I did Simba with Katie, some of Peter Pan and some random smoke and buildings.

Photo: Finished Hopscotch 

The people who taught us Capoeira at the children’s centre came back again, this time with a tambourine, atabaque (drum) and a stringy instrument. They let us play them all- you clap 3, then rest for 1 as a group. The tambourine does the same as the clapping, but palm, thumb, palm, rest and the atabaque keeps the pulse with an upbeat into 1. Then you sing call and response (it was la and e sounds). We went to bed early that night.

Photo: Capoeira at the Children’s Centre


More ham and cheese for breakfast and then we started work on the alphabet snake. I got absolutely covered in paint, partially because we were playing and started painting each other. We had lunch and then started on the main wall again. It’s looking good. We found out today that the whole place is funded and equipped with what people donate to them, so we have done a lot for them- what they had before had taken a long time to get. I think they ring people up and beg for money.

Becky and I went back down to the paint shop and got recognised by the owners who were pleased to see us. They were even happier when we went back and bought ice cream (the others don’t need to know!).

After dinner, we all sat in the girls’ room and had a rant about things that were annoying us, which was amusing whenever the door opened. We’d taken a photo of our samba band in the UK to Brazil, everyone had signed it, which we gave to the centre owner, and she was excited to see that we play Brazilian music in England. She was really pleased with it, and kept showing it to whoever arrived and giving us all hugs.

Christian (centre worker) bought beers (not for us!), popcorn and crisps and we sat around a campfire and talked about stuff. The boys got into some in depth conversation about fox hunting and the death penalty (why?!).


We woke up for our last day of painting. More ham and cheese. Some of us were given the task of planning the party, but we sorted most of it quickly so we went back to sleep! Once I woke up, I wrapped some presents and then went to do some more painting on the nearly finished wall.

Photos: ‘After’ painting

After lunch, some children started to arrive. There was a kid called Rodrigo who kept making the other kids cry. The rest were really sweet though. We played some games with them and they all liked our painting. We realised that they must have different games to us- trying to explain musical chairs proved complicated! The kids got even more excited when they realised that there was a prize in the pass the parcel game. We did some face painting and just generally played with them.

Photo: Pass the Parcel

Once the children had left, Christian took us to a police bus and took us on a mystery tour. Everyone was giving us weird looks, maybe they assumed we were going to jail, which was quite funny. We saw some very traditional hut houses and a tower with a good view. We don’t actually know where we went because we couldn’t understand!

Photo: View from the tower on our mystery tour.

When we got back, all of the staff were crying because they didn’t want us to leave. We cried too because we didn’t want to leave either. We couldn’t understand much of what was going on but we’d all really enjoyed our time there. Christian made a big speech about how we’d always be welcome and then they helped us pack up and took us down to the bus station. We’d brought over some football kit with us to give to the centre, and they all appeared dressed in it. We got on the night bus to Foz do Iguaçu.

Ok Then, What's Next?

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