Giving back to a community

Arriving in Canela, Brazil for a two week stay was simple enough.  But staying in Canela, Brazil for ten months took a little bit of effort.  We have a theory that if we are going to become a member of a community, we have a responsibility to participate in that community.  The pandemic rules added a bit of a challenge to our efforts, but I think you will agree that we found ways to work with the rules and still support the community we lived in.  Below are some photos and details of the ways we contributed to Canela during our stay.

The first step was to use social media to see what groups and activities we could participate with.  Geneva checked the “Events” page on Facebook and found that a local animal group was selling hamburgers as a fundraiser.  We walked to the venue and purchased our dinner, learning a little about how such things work in this town.

Then Geneva searched for the local “buy, sell, trade” groups.  There she found that with the early days of the pandemic, people were asking for help. Unemployment was high as tourism stopped so suddenly but social programs had not kicked in yet, and folks were desperate. They needed blankets, food, shoes and more.  So we shopped for enough basic supplies to make donation bags for five families.  We purchased rice, beans, cooking oil, dish soap, canned goods, paper goods and treats. We also answered a request from a family that needed a new blanket for their child. We distributed them to their homes and were met with incredible gratitude from each recipient.

We learned of a project that utilizes tetra-pac milk and juice boxes to provide insulation for homes.  Many products in Brazil are sold in the one liter size box and it is easy to cut them open, wash them and lay them flat.  A local group tapes them together and then attaches them to walls as needed.  We were able to save and donate hundreds of these boxes during our time.  We hope that we helped make a difference. 

We spent some time brainstorming about how to make our support be the most effective.  We considered which populations would be the most vulnerable during a period of unemployment, social isolation and health crisis.  Those became our focus groups.

With a little bit of research we discovered that there is an orphanage in Canela.  It is actually three different homes housing the children by age group.  Infants and toddlers are in one home with a care staff. Female children and teens are in another home learning independent living.  Male children and teens are in the largest home on the property.  After a little communication we were able to coordinate a pizza party for all residents and staff.  But out of consideration for the many restaurants that were struggling to stay open during the pandemic, we decided to spread the pizza purchases among five different venues.  Coordinating the orders required the help of our wonderful neighbor.  Then we walked around town to visit each pizza place and pay cash for the pizzas (remember the truck was in the shop).  Many of the businesses waived the delivery fee or added a free pizza when they learned of our project.  Then on the special night, five different deliveries arrived at the main house.  We chose not to attend, but they sent us photos

Shredded chicken, oregano, melted cheese and catipury. A popular pizza flavor.
Dessert pizza! Cream cheese, banana and grated chocolate.
The various restaurants have come through with the pizzas. The anxious, hungry residents are waiting in the background.

We continued to help the orphanage during our time in Canela with a variety of donations.  Whenever we went driving around exploring in the region, we would stop at roadside stands and purchase huge sacks of onions and potatoes to drop off for the orphanage.  We also delivered craft supplies, puzzles and various items to help pass the time for these kids who are impacted by the pandemic and stuck in an orphanage.

We found that a local group of concerned citizens was formed to help organize distribution of items to families in need.  The group, called Mural Solidario, offered a few fundraisers that we participated in.  The cupcake fundraiser was delicious,

We also enjoyed eating the food and learning about the tradition of Festa Junina.  It is similar to an old-fashioned fall festival with homemade food, checkered tablecloths, country style attire and traditionally the day ends with a dance where the females ask the men (Sadie Hawkins style).  Because of the pandemic there was no dance or picnic, but we purchased a box of food products and samples (Cesta Junina) and also sent one to our kind and helpful neighbor.  Through this group we were also able to donate an electric heater, bags of dog/cat food and a few clothing items. We know they found good homes for those items. The women who coordinate this group are hardworking, dedicated and kind!

The local Rotary groups are very active in Canela.  They have a pulse on the areas of great need.  We were excited to participate in a couple of different events they sponsored. We donated to their food drive with non-perishable items.  We also donated to their drive to collect dog and cat food.  Fortunately for us, many of their fundraisers involved FOOD and supported local restaurants.  We bought into a take-away pasta meal from our favorite pasta place which donated proceeds to a special program.  We also went to a special lunch and picked up our meal and then went for a picnic and the funds were donated locally by Rotary.  And of course, we had to participate in their hamburger fundraiser.  This had double impact, as the  burgers were delivered to our front door and exchanged for cash plus a donation of food products.

A few random opportunities came up to help locals, also.  A local family lost everything to fire, and we had some shoes and food to donate.  On a local Facebook page we saw a note from a woman who couldn’t afford medicine for her sick dog, so we bought medicine and special food to aid in the recovery.  We also bought a Cesta Basket from a local grocery store.  This is a 40 lb bag practical items and non-perishable basics.  We carried it in the truck for a while.  Then one day when we were up in the mountains we spotted a family to donate the bag of food to.  They were quite thankful and smily as we drove away.

It may come as no surprise to you that our deepest involvement was in the local animal rescue group.  The city of Canela has no animal shelter, no humane society and no organized system of animal services.  There are private funds distributed through an NGO (non-governmental organization)run by a local woman.  The city relies heavily on that NGO to manage the animal population and to intervene if there are emergency needs, such as a dog hit by a car.  Geneva made contact with the Amigo Bicho Canela NGO and quickly made connections to help out.  We purchased fabric and stuffing and Geneva used the borrowed sewing machine to create over 15 different sizes of dog beds for the pets at the Amigo Bicho house of rescued dogs.

    These rescue dogs seem happy with their new beds.

Another dog bed was made for the community dogs at the bus stop.  These dogs have special dog houses, but their pads get stolen occasionally.  A replacement pad was sewn to fit the dog house.

A local animal supply store which offers a discount to Amigo Bicho for their massive food purchases.  Each time we bought our dog food, we donated to the Amigo Bicho account to help them buy food for their rescue animals.  We made donations at two veterinarians that support the work of Amigo Bicho with animals who have emergency needs.  And one of the special ways we helped at the veterinarians was to sponsor the sterilization of four community dogs.  After our cash donation was registered, they brought the dogs in for surgery and baths.  We got to name the four dogs before they were returned to the street.  Here are two of “our” street dogs in Canela.

We went to a local pet shop to purchase additional dog beds and a batch of dog clothes that were on sale.  We were able to donate the dog shirts but Pacha claimed the dog bed and it remains with us.

While watching the local buy, sell, trade groups Geneva noticed a woman was selling dog beds to earn a little extra cash.  She and her mother made these of recycled tires and scrap fabric.   In an effort to support her and to offer more beds to the animal rescue, we purchased several of them.  In this photo we see Pacha investigating these new beds before we delivered them.

Amigo Bicho recently held a used clothing sale, and we donated a few bags of items to the sale.  They were also selling their own custom shirts, we bought a few for ourselves and left a cash donation with the cashier.   There were a few other donations to the Amigo Bicho NGO that I won’t explain in detail here, but contact me if you want to know more.

Here is a list of most of the community support items that we can recall.

Community support-
Blanket donated to a family
5 basic food bags to people asking for help
Potatoes donated to neighborhood homeless dinner
Shoes and food to fire victims
Dog medicine and food for woman with sick dog
Hired lady for r100 (5 times)
3 large bags of dog food to Troca Solidario
Cesta basic bag to family in the hills.
Rotary Club-
Non-perishable food basket donation
Dog food donation
Hamburger dinner with food donation fundraiser
Pasta dinner take-away fundraiser
Lunch to-go fundraiser
Amigo Bicho-
Purchased fabric and stuffing and made over 12 dog beds in various sizes
Purchased custom made tire dog beds from local maker, donated dog beds
Purchased doghouse from woman that needed cash, donated doghouse.
Donated to account at veterinarian to sponsor sterilization of four community street dogs
Donated to account at veterinarian for emergency surgery for stray dog
Cash donation in hand to NGO manager for emergency services
Cash donation to account at pet supply store every time we bought food for our dogs
Canned food dropped off twice at animal home
Dog snare r1,398.00 with import fees
Donated clothes to used clothing sale
Donation when purchasing the NGO logo t-shirts
Casa Lar-
Pizza party (32 pizzas) supporting 5 different pizza restaurants
Drop off of 50lb bags of potatoes and 50lbs of onions (3x)
Donated puzzles, walkie-talkies, craft supplies
Mural Solidario-
Festa Junina fundraiser 
Cupcake Solidario fundraiser
Electric heater
Bags of dog and cat food

I did not prepare this post to seek acknowledgment.  I prepared this because I hope it helps inspire you to consider ways that you can support the community you are in.  If you are there for a short term or a long term, there are needs that you could help with. If you want more information, please contact me and I can offer some suggestions.  There are ways to become involved, even during the pandemic, even if you don’t speak the language.  The efforts you will make will have waves of impact that you may never know.  And the dogs, cats, children, families will appreciate your assistance.

Peace to you and your loved ones through these difficult times in our world.

14 thoughts on “Giving back to a community

  1. Just found your blog today. And by reading it I’m starting to have a strong feeling that you won’t be leaving Canela soon…

    If by any chance you decide to visit Curitiba, give a shout.

  2. Fabulous! Thank you for sharing all of your ideas of contribution. You guys are truly Angels on Earth 💜❤️🤗🙏🏻

  3. so stoked that you guys supported locals and became part of the community! Great job- Tony Cola

  4. Thank you Geneva for posting this message today. It reminds all of us that we can know a new day of concern and love and giving to others.

  5. Giving and contributing should be a human default setting. Those that do it usually don’t follow selfishness as a roadmap to living. And besides that, it is fun to be part of a community! Glad you are having a great experience – bet your Portuguese is getting beyond bare conversational. All the best on your continuing adventures!

  6. Holy Moses! Between all the great things you two have done, and the inauguration today, I am indeed inspired to look for where I can help in my own community! ♥️

  7. Great post! Not only are you making a contribution but you are staying busy and having fun.

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