Two summers ago, I was provided with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Mona’s project, ADCAM, located in Manaus, Brazil, and to say I was nervous as we drove through the gates leading to the school was an understatement. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to form personal connections with the students considering I was limited to only two words of Portuguese; Obrigado, meaning thank you, and brigadeiro, the name of Brazilian chocolate fudge balls that I managed to develop a dangerous obsession with during my two-week trip.
Its turns out I was worried over nothing. The students at ADCAM were not only some of the most welcoming and warm people I have ever met, but they also opened my eyes to the impact of education on a community. After filling my camera roll with pictures of the students, futilely attempting to use Google translate to ask questions, and being led around the beautiful campus, we visited the library. I’ve always been an avid reader, so walking into the library provided me with a true sense of comfort and familiarity.
That was where I met these two amazing, young girls, Isabel and Yasmine, who had actually rehearsed a few sentences in English telling us their names and age. I fawned over their Portuguese copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, one of my childhood favorites, and together we took many selfies using the new portrait mode feature on my phone. When I returned back to San Diego, the thought of helping students like Yasmine and Isabel stayed on my mind, and eventually prompted me to start a club affiliated with Mona Foundation at my school with the help of Mrs. Javid and Chloe Ragestar. Last school year, our club held a Krispy Kreme Donut Fundraiser during lunch and successfully raised $480 for the students at ADCAM.
ADCAM has educated thousands of underserved children, youth and adults in Manaus, Brazil for the past 30 years and helped transform entire communities. Of the 876 students in the K-12 and youth programs, 46% are girls.
By Lila Chitayat