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IMG_0109Well, I was sort of hoping that the past three months would culminate in a worldwide apocalypse that would render anymore updates futile. However, in light of a total lack of burning fireballs, biblical plagues or flesh-eating zombies, I am compelled to bring my earthly ramblings up to date.

A wiser man than I once wrote “…Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”. That is probably still going to be true, no matter what I do, but the last 113 days has taken me from the northern shores of Canada’s Great Slave Lake and through the slums of Sao Paulo, before finally dumping me in a small Nepalese village close to the Indian border. It is a journey that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I have travelled by antiquated aircraft and bone-jarring buses, stood beneath the hypnotic majesty of the Northern Lights and shared an array of potent liquors with everyone from the ‘Snow King’ of Yellowknife to a 90 year old Nepali grandfather in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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What I need to do now is sit down, take a breathe and try to make sense of it all. I may be sometime!…

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Assuming I survive the rigours of the Canadian Arctic I am off back out to Brazil this coming October, to lead a team of volunteers into the slums of São Paulo. Now many might see that as a testament to a mind laid waste by Larium and swamp fever, but to me it sounds like the start of a whole new adventure.

I was last in Brazil 12 months ago, working in the north-east of the country for a company called Charity Challenge. The job back then was to look after a pair of teams working on the renovation of two crèches in the heart of the São Francisco Valley, near a town called Petrolina. I remember us arriving at work that first day, to be greeted with a series of concrete shells that were overgrown with weeds and littered with the broken reminders of years of neglect. The scale of the work was daunting to say the least. The playgrounds were a tangled mass of weeds, rusting metal and old car tyres, whilst the classrooms themselves were little more than a dingy collection of sombre rooms filled with cobwebs and mosquitoes.

Over the coming days though we cleared the jungle and removed the rubbish, built walls and sandpits and began to transform the walls of the crèches into canvases of colourful murals. We overcame heat and dust, giant toads and limping tarantulas. We cleaned floors and windows, tiled bathrooms and inflated enough balloons to launch a small car. We also had fun! Our mission had been to help create an inspiring and safe environment for the children and by the end of the project we were a mass of grinning smiles and grubby, tear-streaked faces.

There are few things in life more likely to raise the spirit than the sound of a child’s laughter, especially when that child has grown up in a community denied the basics that most of us have grown up taking for granted. I still recall my last day there, looking down at the grinning face of a small child covered in face paint and clutching a smiley balloon…

…Twelve months on and I have no idea what faces me in São Paulo, but if last year was anything to go by, it promises to be interesting…