Pay it Forward

Pay it Forward


Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the third largest and the third most populous, also known as the Island of Aphrodite. Lebanon is a country in the Middle Asia known best for the fact that there is a doctor for every ten people. Located in North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean Canada has the world’s longest coastline. Being the fifth largest country in the world Brazil has the second biggest Christian population.

Most of you will ask yourselves why I am telling you this when there appears to be no obvious connection between these four countries. Well, there is. And it has a name. Actually two names – George and Joe.

George was born in Cyprus 35 years ago and now lives in Nicosia. Until the beginning of the crisis on the island in 2013, he ran a successful clothes store. Due to the economic problems, he was forced to close it and quit the business.

Joe, originally born as Youssef Jubran in Lebanon, has spent 14 years working for the Canadian government in the IT-sector. Just like George, the world crisis left him unemployed. Despite receiving some money from the government, in the first few months following his release, he was unsatisfied and felt that he had to do something completely new in his life. So did George.

Without knowing each other they decided to volunteer and dedicate time to someone in need. So, after a couple of months of research both have found themselves in Cidade Maravilhosa, the city that we know well as Rio de Janeiro, just on the eve of the World Cup 2014.

“Because of my experience – I have played football and ran a business in Cyprus, my main purpose here was to connect to the local kids and people, to teach them a lot of new things and to continue what I have started. Because volunteering once is not enough. You have to be involved for as long as it is possible. I have to share this great experience and to encourage more people to come here. So that is what I am going to do when I am back in Cyprus. Because sharing the passion, energy and love is the most important thing in our lives. That is the way people in Rio live. Showing you that being alive is the greatest gift ever makes you appreciate and enjoy every single moment”, said George during our second meeting in Santa Marta Favela.

Joe, standing with us at the foot of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, finds amazing that after 48 years he still has a lot to learn. Even from younger people with disabilities such as blindness. “I have never expected I would work with blind people. But I was totally mesmerized by the life they lead and the way they play football. I now realize that it was a great privilege for me to help them. They put all of their energy and passion on the field. And gave me the best lesson of my life – in spite of difficulties, if you work hard and dare to learn every single day you will definitely enjoy success.”

George and Joe have experienced the world and seen a lot during their lives. But as they noticed there were a lot of things that still surprise you, like the reality in Brazil’s favelas. “Everything has two faces, and so do the favelas. Yes, some are dangerous and access is strictly forbidden, but in Santa Marta everybody loves football. The people are totally crazy about it, and the most amazing part is that despite the conditions they are still happy.”

Nowadays, everybody regardless of their social status complains. We are not satisfied with our jobs, salaries, personal and social life. But imagine if instead of having to carry your groceries from your car into your house you have to wait with your shopping for a funicular that can often take up to 30 minutes to take you where you need to go.“But even then they wait patiently – says Joe. They don’t complain and still appreciate what they have. That is the difference between us and them. We always want more and think we deserve more. But the reality has another face and it is good if we realize it as soon as possible.”

“Pay it forward” is a film directed by Mimi Leder and written by Leslie Dixon. When eleven and a half-year-old Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) begins seventh grade in Las Vegas, Nevada, his social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) gives the class an assignment to devise and put into action a plan that will change the world for the better. Trevor’s plan is a charitable programme based on the networking of good deeds. He calls his plan “Pay it forward”, which means the recipient of a favor does a favor for three others rather than paying the favor back.

George and Joe will spend over a month and a half in Rio de Janeiro but their mission won’t be over. Coming here and spending some time with the people is just a step they have to take. “We have to continue doing it no matter where we are – here, in Cyprus, in Canada or Bulgaria. I’ve already made a promise to those kids and their coach Jose Luiz – to try to fix the field in Santa Marta because it is in a terrible state – says George. They are obviously not receiving enough help.”

Joe, who has already fallen in love with Santa Marta, is sure that it is not only nature that is beautiful in Brazil, the people are too. Together with George, he is certain they will meet more people on the same mental and spiritual level. Because only by sharing they will be able to help many others.

So the story will go: “pay it forward”…


Find out more about volunteering in Brazil

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