How a friend going to Brazil reignited my passion for international development

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My friend Joel is going to Brazil for two years. He committed to teaching English through Campus Outreach in one of the world’s most diverse countries. Since Joel hasn’t left for Brazil yet, I often pick his brain about the preparation process.

“Where are you going to live?

Are you learning Portuguese?

Will you play soccer when you get there?

Are you ready for the culture shock?

Do you think it will be dangerous?”

What can I say I have an untamed interest in far away places.

***

My fascination with Brazil began during my internship with Sagamore, a policy research institute. We were lucky interns with scheduled lunch and learns every week.

One day our supervisor ordered Jimmy Johns and had us watch Waste Land, a documentary about a Brazilian artist who returns to his home and photographs the poverty-stricken areas. The story not only exposes the situation of the poor, but also shows the power of inspiring the underprivileged.

Yeah it’s worth watching.

We sat in the conference room eating sandwiches and watched the documentary in utter silence. I felt as if I had left the safety of my hometown and traveled to the outskirts of Rio where some of the poorest people live.

After the film, we brought a TV to the intern loft and watched France beat England during the 2014 World Cup. I know, best internship ever. However in that moment I was troubled by what was happening in Brazil and what was not.

Same country, vastly different perspectives. On one hand you had the wealthy and elite enjoying the world’s game in the world’s soccer capital. Yeah, pretty awesome. But in the back of my mind remained images of the poor and deprived from the documentary. They lived just miles outside of that massive stadium.

Two years later I was reporting for my university newspaper. My editor asked me to cover the Zika outbreak in Brazil, a petrifying virus that was crawling across South America. As I researched the outcomes of Zika, I remembered the families from the documentary. The World Cup was over and Brazil was looking toward the Olympic Games in the coming year.

Why was such a country struggling to help its people? With the international recognition shouldn’t Brazil be doing better?

I banged on my computer keys, typing out an article for the students of my campus. Would their eyes even pass over the words I’d been crafting to capture the severity of Zika? Would they even care if they did read it?

And then it came, a sudden thought that wrecked me. There’s got to be more to life than reporting the bad things that happen in the world.

When I finished college a year ago, reporting the news was all I wanted to do.  But my life took an unexpected turn, prompting me to take a job in the public sector.  Working in state government allowed me to see that the media will give a voice to the voiceless but the government, when in good standing, can respond to those voices with conducive answers.

What I’ve since learned is that policymakers live to provide solutions. They see a problem and research how to resolve it.

This realization helped me accept the fact that I’m not a journalist right now.

I’m niether saying corruption within government doesn’t exist, in fact corruption is probably the primary reason countries decline economically, nor am I harping on the media. I guess I’m saying that when carefully conducted, policies can provide the means for underdeveloped countries to advance.

***

When I first met Joel, I was probably more excited about his Brazilian venture than he was. To hear that missionaries exist in Brazil, revived my interest in this country. My fascination reminds me that not everyone has a passion for foreign affairs and international development. Although I may never go to Brazil or even South America my drive to be a part of something international is gaining momentum.

 

 

 

 

 

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