Our expectations before travelling were about how we would survive with just rice and beans as our main diet. We had been told during the training that this was what we would be getting to eat.
The reality was quite different and the food was excellent. Most of us were worried too about the accommodation but those fears weren’t anything to be bothered about. The 12 students shared a large room and we got used to sleeping in hammocks.
Most of us expected to see poverty in Brazil and we did see many images of poverty, but we also saw great wealth alongside poverty and the favelas. One of the extraordinary things was that, despite people being poor, their outlook on life was positive. Everywhere we went, we were warmly welcomed by the people.
Before we travelled, the group had been told some of the things that we might get a chance to experience, Brazilian forró dancing, capoeira martial arts, a day at the beach and the opportunity to play a football match against a local team from the area where we were building the houses.
We visited churches and parish centres in the Bella Vista neighbourhood of São Paulo. This is an area with a lot of crime, drugs and violence. The neighbourhood is divided into two groups and they are very suspicious of each other.