Joelson Venâncio spent several months between late 2015 and early 2016 living in Carbonear with the Power family, where he went to school at Carbonear Collegiate, leaving behind his home in Brazil.
The foreign exchange student returned to his hometown of Belém de Maria in January of 2016, and has been living there since, working toward his goal of attending medical school to work as a surgeon in Canada.
However, in late May of 2017, Brazil faced heavy rainfall, which is uncommon for the country. Following the weather conditions, a mudslide tore though Belém de Maria, destroying Venâncio’s home in the process.
Via video call, Venâncio showed The Compass the damages the property sustained. Rooms were completely torn apart. The disaster has left the home in unlivable conditions, and Venâncio and his family have been living with a neighbour ever since.
Upon hearing about the mudslide and the damages, Christine Penney Power, who Venâncio affectionately calls mom, set up a Gofundme page, hoping to raise as much money as possible to aid Venâncio and his family with any costs related to the destruction.
“Any host family can tell you that the bond you create with these kids over the course of five months or so is amazing,” Power told The Compass. “And when I heard about the damage from this mudslide, it absolutely broke my heart. I just had to do something.”
Soon after setting up the fundraiser, Power was told about Ariely Caricio, another previous foreign exchange student who attended Ascension Collegiate, whose home in Belém de Maria was also destroyed by the mudslide. After hearing this, Power raised the goal of the fundraiser from $1,000 to $2,000, looking to split any funds raised between Venâncio and Caricio.
“This is the first time anything like this has happened in all the years we’ve been doing this,” explained Power. “And when we found out that Ariely and her family were also affected, it only made the situation feel all the more close to home. Two kids who spent so much time out here need our help, and we’re always willing to provide help any way we can.”
Venâncio told The Compass he is very grateful for any help the Power family or any other Canadians offered, though he never expected any of it.
“Canada (is a) very great place,” Venâncio said via video call. “I have so many good memories from there. Everyone is so friendly, and it means so much to me.”
Venâncio said he and his family are currently waiting on money from the Brazilian government, though he added that he was unsure if or when they would receive it, and even then they expected to receive no more than 3,000 real, which amounts to $1,235 Canadian.
As of last week, Power’s fundraiser accumulated $620, and will continue until June 18.
“Even if it can help buy some new mattresses, or something like that, we’ll feel better knowing we helped in some way,” said Power. “We just hope Joe, Ariely, and their families make it through this ok.”