Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

11th November 2011

Final Report -What a Year by Sophie Bryant

Home | Footprinter Reports | Final Report -What a Year by Sophie Bryant

Wow what a year it has been! My Action Team gap year programme officially came to an end in mid June after we had spent two months touring churches in the UK, returning from Brazil at the end of April. I have had the most incredible year and I feel so privileged that I have been able to experience it.

During our months training period I wrote a list of both my hopes and fears for the year, and looking back it is amazing to see how each one of them has been fulfilled. ..

1)Good friendships with team and other action teamers

The year began in September with an extensive month of training, and although this may sound like a long time compared to many organisations that perhaps only have one training weekend, I believe this was extremely beneficial. One of the many strengths was that it allowed us to bond as a team and slowly get to know each other, in a relaxed and informal setting. We had team time almost every day and spent a good amount of time together, but we werent forced to spend 24hrs together which meant relationships were more genuine and less stressful. It also meant that by the time we went to Brazil together we were friends and not complete strangers. Living and working in another culture can be a challenge, which at times we definitely experienced, and so it was really encouraging to be there as a team and have the friendship and support of other teenage English Christians. Unfortunately the other girl member from our team left for personal reasons during the first month of Brazil, and although upsetting our team worked really effectively together and were a great support to each other. Throughout the year we really grew in our friendships and I feel blessed to have shared this experience with my team. We are all quite different in character, but I think we complimented one another and knowing we were all each other had was a real motivation to unite! Although mainly positive, there were occasional times of team tension and so the hardest thing was dealing with this, knowing when to endure peoples annoying habits and when to politely discuss them! I also learnt a lesson in humility as I realised it wasnt just about me and my experience, but I was there as part of a team and their desires were equally as important. Being in a team of 3 for 6 months was quite intense and so I really learnt to be patient with people and I believe what I have experienced this year will greatly help me in the future as it shows I am accepting of different types of people and am able to work together. It was also great to spend time with all the other action teamers during the year and as an overall group of 30 we really bonded and made other lasting friendships outside of our teams. As we have all had similar experiences we are able to relate to one another and it has been lovely sharing our stories and seeing how God has been working through our friends around the world.

2) Knowing God more – having to completely trust and depend on him

I was stripped of my language, my family, my way of life, everything I knew…but God was still there for me. Overall it has been a time of great growth in my faith and I have learnt to depend on God in every situation and he has blessed us more than we could ever have imagined. Brazilian Christians are in some ways different to those in the UK. They do not drink, and many do not listen to Christian music. My life as a Christian has really been impacted by the people here, who are spiritually very strong. We have all been inspired by the passion of the Christians we have met here and we feel spiritually empowered to return to the UK and continue telling people about Jesus. I have been particularly struck by the dedication of the young people who are Christians, who despite being surprisingly normal young people are so much more passionate than many of the people I have known in the UK.

3) Helping the children, showing them Gods love and making a difference

We were working in a preschool project for 4-6year olds in a really poor and marginalised community and it has been a privilege to work there. I absolutely loved getting to know the children and building relationships with them, and over the months it has been great to see how they have developed. Some of the children mightve learnt a little bit more, but the greatest developments have been seeing those children who cried for ages at the beginning and were reluctant to come, now eager to join in, or the child who didnt know how to eat now able to sit at the table with all the other children and eat with a spoon. On average we had about 20 children each term, and despite the very limited resources and lack of money the Pepe project is doing amazing work it is a safe place in a dangerous community for children to come to each morning, it gives hope as it provides a free education for children who otherwise wouldnt have the money or opportunity to attend preschool and it provides a substantial lunch for the children which is likely to be their only meal of the day. I believe we did make a difference: we showed love and attention to children who desperately needed to know they were valued; we helped out the Pepe teachers as we worked individually with difficult children, we were a spare pair of hands and were able to help out in many different ways and occasionally we taught the lesson and introduced new activities. We also took many photos as the children were fascinated with our camera!! I was amazed how happy the children were despite their difficult lives and how eager they were to come to Pepe every morning and it really taught me to be grateful and appreciate everything I have. I was also very inspired by our Pepe teachers they were incredible women of God and they had so much love for the children and genuinely cared for each one of them.

4) Stepping out of my comfort zone

-I think one of the biggest things has been public speaking. Throughout Brazil we had to stand up at the front of many different churches and explain who we were and occasionally give our testimony or a message, and doing this in front of hundreds of people in a language you can hardly speak is terrifying!

-We also had to lead worship in several different churches and because the two boys in my team play the guitar and piano I was often given a microphone and made to sing! As I am not much of a singer I found this very nerve-wracking, but the more I did it the easier it became.

-We often were involved in drama performances as part of the theatre group at church, and as I am not much of a dramatist I was often quite nervous as I had been given lines in Portuguese and didnt have a clue what they meant or what part I was supposed to be playing!

-Im also very fussy with food and often quite unwilling to try different foods, and so on many occasions I found myself in situations where I had to eat food that I was very suspicious of!

I believe all these experiences have greatly increased my confidence and have made me a much more rounded person.

5) Experiencing a complete new way of life

The culture in Brazil is very different, for example it is very acceptable to turn up for appointments an hour or so late, which is good when youre running late but we found it frustrating waiting around for people and events to begin. Nobody really seems to have a clue what is going on either arrangements sort of throw themselves together and somehow work, but again this can be frustrating as events are often cancelled or changed last minute. People are so much more open and friendly, we were amazed at the welcome we received from everyone, especially from our host family and the genuine love they had for us, although this also means they are more blunt and not shy about discussing many things which would rarely be mentioned in polite company back in England! Overall it is a very laid back culture things happen on a day to day basis and so the pace of life is much slower but more spontaneous. Our new culture also meant we had to adapt to early 5.30am mornings, cold (and occasionally bucket) showers, hand washing clothes, rice and beans almost every day, buses filled with people, common stories of violence, car-jacking and muggings at gunpoint. Being part of this culture has made me much more flexible, accepting of things and less materialistic. The climate was also completely different as it was very hot and humid, and at times this was unbearable and hard to cope with. We also experienced rainy season which brought with it lots of insects and health issues.


1)Learning the language and feeling useless as I cant get involved

The Brazilians speak Brazilian Portuguese and as I rightly feared this was a massive challenge for me and one which I greatly struggled with. I was so daunted by the fact that I had to learn a completely new language and my biggest regret is not learning more. I learnt a fair amount and was able to understand people and get by, but the boys in my team learnt a lot more and I relied on them too much and the daughter of our host family who could speak good English. At times I did feel useless as I couldnt get involved as much as I wanted especially in the first few months of Pepe, but I dont feel it hindered as much my friendships with people as I still managed to make some great lasting friendships.

2)Coping with suffering and poverty

One of the most shocking things that we experienced was the unfair divide between rich and poor. Great houses with swimming pools were on the same road as tiny mud huts and it was really hard to see how some people were forced to live. Many people lived on the streets, or couldnt afford to feed or clothe their families and it really made me reflect on how much wealth we have here in England.

I really enjoyed the final part of the years programme, our two month tour. It was amazing that our journey didnt just end after Brazil as we were able to share our story with so many different people who were eager and willing to listen to what we had to say. We spent eight weeks at eight churches and it was a really refreshing insight into different churches and styles of worship as church congregations ranged in size from 30 400! We stayed with different host families each week who were all very kind to us and so we got used to living out of a suitcase, sleeping in different beds and eating many portions of apple crumble! Every day was different and often very busy we often lead the Sunday service each week, taught many primary and secondary school lessons, youth groups, home groups etc and also many extra activities such as attending conferences, gardening and painting, door knocking…just anything to serve the churches and the local community.

I want to thank you for supporting me financially and making this year possible. I would recommend this gap year programme to any Christian wanting to have parts of their lives transformed, opinions challenged and hearts changed.


© Hazel's Footprints Trust 2024 | Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069
Web design by Creatomatic
This site uses cookies.
ConfigureHide Options
Read our privacy policy

This site uses cookies for marketing, personalisation, and analysis purposes. You can opt out of this at any time or view our full privacy policy for more information.