Encore Fall 2017

International Folk Dance Ensemble

Living to Give in Brazil

Interacting with the people of a country is one of the best ways to become acquainted with a culture. During this year’s tour to Brazil, Young Ambassadors fully experienced Brazil’s culture as the group served and connected with the people. The members of Young Ambassadors not only performed sold-out shows for brimming crowds but, most importantly, lived to give to the people they visited.

The city of Manaus was the perfect start to the tour. Here the group members explored the Amazon rainforest and visited an indigenous tribe. “Meeting the natives was a really unique experience,” says Young Ambassadors member Carlos Garcia Guirado. “How they welcomed us to the village set a precedent, and it told us how it would be for the remainder of the tour.”

At each airport, locals greeted the group with banners and short performances. At devotionals, people crowded the chapels and hallways, while others stood outside, listening through the windows. Every show was a success, and the crowds filled the venues. “It was humbling to go out on stage and hear the audiences screaming and cheering for us,” says Young Ambassadors member Jayne Edwards. “The audiences were amazing and made each performance so unique and special.”

In addition to meeting Brazilians after performances and devotionals, the group also participated in service projects that left lasting impressions. One of the group’s first service projects was in Belém. With the aid of Mormon Helping Hands, Young Ambassadors spent time with underprivileged children at a local public school. “It was so fun to play with the children and spend some time hopefully bringing some light into their lives,” says Edwards. As a treat for the children, Young Ambassadors members learned a few of the show’s songs in Portuguese. “At one point, [Ellora Lattin] sang ‘Over the Rainbow’ for the children in Portuguese,” recalls Edwards. “It was magical to watch them listen to her with wide eyes and big smiles on their faces.”

The group’s service ventures continued in each of the cities they visited. In Recife, part of the group visited the Premature Unit at the IMIP Hospital. Wearing their yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests, Young Ambassadors members delivered care packages put together by the local Relief Society. The performers also met with the mothers and later sang for them. Globo TV broadcast the event to nearly 5 million people.

In Rio de Janeiro, Young Ambassadors visited a home for retired artists. “It was touching to spend time with these people who understand the power that art has to change lives,” says Edwards. At the retirement home, Young Ambassadors members sang and danced with the residents, communicating through music. Afterward, the group members walked around the community to reach out to those who couldn’t join them earlier. “Connecting with people can really make a difference,” says Young Ambassadors member Jessica Jensen. “No matter how you do it, you just need to show love.”

In São Paulo, Brazil, Young Ambassadors visited the Associação Fernanda Bianchini Cia Ballet de Cegos, a school that teaches dance to students who are blind or who have other disabilities. Not only did the BYU group members get to watch the students perform, but they later put on blindfolds and were taught some of the dances. Through this exercise, the group members saw how their new friends learned. “[Fernanda Bianchini] had so much faith in her students and what they can do. It was awesome to learn from them; it was one of my favorite experiences,” says Jensen.

Toward the end of the three-week tour, Young Ambassadors visited some of Brazil’s cultural sites and natural wonders, including the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Iguaçu Falls. “The falls was honestly one of the most humbling experiences. It was so big and powerful, and it makes you feel small, but it’s just so beautiful,” recalls Garcia Guirado.

The theme of this year’s tour was Live to Give. Though Young Ambassadors gave much, they received much more in return. “For the most part, we were there to give,” says Jensen. “I didn’t have to be thinking about myself. I did my best to think of others and how I can help and love them. And that made the trip so much better.” Recalling her experiences serving, Edwards says, “I am so thankful for the lifelong friendships I made with so many incredible people in Brazil.”