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Conscious Commitment to Change -
A Model of Which to be Proud

International travel can be a dynamic force for peace and understanding among people from vastly different cultures. The strength of our fellowship is in our model... we have established a standard that allows both American and Brazilian partners an opportunity to be engaged in program design, identifying priorities and investing in solutions.

 

Now, as we say farewell to Phase II, we all must remember that this isn't goodbye, but rather, 'goodbye for now.'


 


Stories of Connection: Former Brazilian Conexão Mundo Students Continue to Engage, Long After Program Completion

Fellows aren’t the only ones impacted by this Fellowship. Many of the Brazilian students who participate in Conexão Mundo are deeply influenced and inspired to give back, even many years after the program comes to an end.

 


Impact in Action: Announcing the Launch of the US-Brazil Connect Alumni Advisory Board

Made up of 11 dedicated alumni, we're excited to bring new events and opportunities that further engage and support our 500+ growing alumni community. 

Conscious Commitment to Change -
A Model of Which to be Proud 


2016 Fellows and Students in Porto Velho

     By Rachel Lyons, US-Brazil Connect, Director of Nonprofit Management

An increasing number of Americans are seeking authentic international experiences that offer engagement with the local community and an opportunity to give back. Concerned individuals are shifting their focus from traditional travel to reality-based experiences that explore community issues. There are now more than 2,000 organizations in the world focused on volunteer travel. With such an assortment of options, it can be difficult to ascertain which programs are created to serve the best interest of the local community. Unfortunately, many projects are not developed in true collaboration with local partners; they do not meet the actual needs of the community and they send poorly trained volunteers to do the work. This frequently can lead to unintended and harmful consequences for the host community.
 
At US-Brazil Connect, we understand that international travel can be a dynamic force for peace and understanding among people from vastly different cultures. The strength of our fellowship is in our model. We are not a charity program, but rather exist because of shared investment with our partners in Brazil. Americans are not “in charge” of “fixing problems” in Brazil; we have established a standard that allows both American and Brazilian partners an opportunity to be engaged in program design, identifying priorities and investing in solutions. We value co-creation and know from experience that every Fellow, Brazilian student and stakeholder has value and insight to offer. We focus on the training and preparation of every Fellow that travels to Brazil so that they benefit and grow as much as our Brazilian students.
 
Many organizations offering similar programs charge individuals thousands of dollars to participate. We work hard to overcome the barrier of cost to open the door to these deserving students. Our fellowship is affordable and accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of our fellows are community college students from small towns across America who may never have imagined that an international fellowship was possible for them. Our Brazilian students are primarily from working class families and they are not charged a fee to participate. This is something that as an organization, makes us proud.
 
I have been fortunate to travel to several countries throughout my career for research purposes, professional exchange, teaching projects and volunteer work. I have witnessed many projects that are poorly planned and poorly managed, thus having a negative impact on the local community. I have also witnessed how our program model is successful and how we have impacted so many lives over the past five years. Our team at US-Brazil Connect is truly committed to creating meaningful, transformative programs that are accessible to all who share our vision for a better world. I personally am very proud of this.

It's hard to believe that we are over half way through (and just finishing in Cacoal, RO) our in-person phase (Phase II) of the 2016 US-Brazil Connect Fellowship! We are so proud that all three of our US teams have been taking full advantage of every opportunity to coach their students and learn more about Brazil and its rich culture. During these three weeks in Brazil, Fellows have focused classroom learning around the following themes: Building a Team, Vocation and Virtues, and Social Change. These themes have allowed the Coaches and Brazilian students to form and strengthen meaningful relationships, engage in authentic conversations in English, and become more curious about the world and their role in transforming it into a more just and peaceful place.
 
Nearly all Fellows and Brazilan students agree that this time learning together in Phase II goes by quickly. It also seems this way for our many Brazilian partners. Naomi Israel, a Coordinator in the state of Rondônia, commented, "Phase II in Cacoal, RO ended on Thursday, July 14, 2016, and it went by so quickly. However, the dedication and compassion that the students have for the coaches after just three weeks will continue. Not only did the students excel by giving it their all and participating, but I believe that this experience will keep the momentum high as we move into phase III. Overall, I thought that Phase II was a success. students' English has improved and everyone had fun learning, which is very important. Now, as we say farewell to Phase II, we all must remember that this isn't goodbye, but rather, 'goodbye for now.' Thanks for a great Phase II in Cacoal!”
2016 Fellows and Team Leader in Cacoãl

Former Brazilian Conexão Mundo Students Continue to Engage, Long After Program Completion


One of the most impactful parts of the US-Brazil Connect Fellowship is the Pay-it-Forward project that Fellows complete upon their return to their communities in the US. The Pay-it-Forward project is an opportunity for Fellows to take lessons from their experience and use them to create an innovative project unique to their interests and skills. Their project allows them to share their experience in a meaningful way in their local community.
Fellows aren’t the only ones influenced by the Fellowship experience. Many of the Brazilian students who participate in Conexão Mundo are deeply impacted and inspired to give back, even many years after the program comes to an end.  This year, we have more than 15 former Brazilian students who volunteer with the program.


Former Conexão Mundo Students Volunteering in Macapá.

In Brazil, the month of July is a month of vacation. One may wonder, why aren’t these former students taking advantage of the opportunity to hang out with friends from school, enjoy the beach, or just relax at home?
When asked, the volunteers in Macapá say they return to Conexão Mundo because the program impacted them in a huge way and they want to share that with others. They also said volunteering allows them to gain experience, learn more English, help other people, share their knowledge, and stay connected to the program that changed their life. Nicole Alenear dos Santos, a 2013 Conexão Mundo student from Macapá said, 'year after year, I am a volunteer because I love what this program can do for us. I love to help the coaches, students, and coordinators. I do this out of love. This program made me who I am now. When I am here, I feel complete like I have never been before. I love to have a place to belong, a place to call home.' Nicole, like so many other volunteers, Nicole embraces the true spirit of creative partnership, the true spirit of US-Brazil Connect. A special thank you to all of the generous volunteers who have helped to make 2016 another successful year of Conexão Mundo! 

We are excited to announce the official launch of our Alumni Advisory Board. Made up of 11 dedicated alumni, we're excited to bring new events and opportunities that further engage and support our 500+ growing alumni community. 

 
Our alumni board is dedicated to supporting the mission of US-Brazil Connect through fostering community, harnessing alumni talent, and sharing opportunity.
 
A few of our initial projects will be:
  • Launching an Alumni Newsletter jam-packed with alumni spotlights, news about Brazil, new fellowship opportunities, and more.
  • Increasing regional, in-person and virtual opportunities for alumni to
    connect and grow.
  • Growing our alumni networks on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Fundraising to support the mission of US-Brazil Connect.
Are you interested in supporting our alumni community? Contact the alumni board by emailing alumni@us-brazil.org
 



Copyright © 2016 US-Brazil Connect, All rights reserved.


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