I have been at Iracambi for almost a month. As much as the first few weeks were packed with information and new faces, the past two weeks have been a period of adjustment: both filled with new experiences. By welcoming back the sunshine, I have been exploring the surrounding area. By getting lost a numerous times on my way to the Mountain House, a building funded by a UK organization, and Itajuru, one of surrounding mountains, I have been able to experience the beauty of this land.
My wanderings have taken me through Eucalyptus forests, past waterfalls, and ripening Guava trees (they’re in season!). As well as past many people more than willing to point me in the right direction. While walking, I couldn’t help but think about what someone had told me in passing earlier this week – “when you work with this land, it becomes a part of you. At first you are physically working, then you realize you are working with your heart”.
In addition to hiking around this area during the free time I have before the new volunteers join me in February, I have been reaching out to universities in the United States in regards to our Iracambi Strong program. Iracambi Strong started as an initiative of President Obama’s 100K Strong in the Americas program. For the past two years, we have been able to bring students from the US and Brazil together to learn about sustainability. As a result, many of the participating students expressed their desire to continue the ethics of environmentalism they learned here at Iracambi in their home communities.
As an advocate of sharing methods of environmental sustainability and interacting with cultures around us, I am looking forward to this year’s programs. It is an amazing opportunity for students to learn about Brazilian culture through mutual work with and learning about reforestation projects, climate change, agro-ecology and the local environment. If I have learned one thing this week in my hikes, it is the benefits of spending one on one time with the environment around you. I hope that the students coming down to Iracambi this year will be able to experience this beauty and share my appreciation.