Last year Takahito Mizokami changed his busy life as a student in Tokyo for a quieter and very different existence in the north-east of Brazil, the country’s poorest and least developed region
His daily tasks involved working with people in Humana People to People Brazil’s projects, organizing cleaning actions and turning neglected spaces into safe playgrounds; assisting families in cultivating organic gardens for their own consumption and for selling their products at local markets, or teaching English to children.
Takahito, together with a group of youngsters from all over the world, is a Poverty Fighter. He is part of a group of international volunteers who come to Brazil every year to do their share in narrowing the gap between rich and poor in the country. “The poverty fighters live together with the families in the communities where they work so that they can know the reality and the needs of the local people”, explains Roberto Simões, project leader at Humana Povo para Povo Brasil.
Although Brazil is Latin America’s strongest economy and the world’s sixth, poverty is widespread in some regions of the country. With 58% of its population living on less than two dollars per day, the North-East region struggles to meet basic needs. Humana People to People has been working in the country since 2007 with the aim of improving the lives of the most vulnerable. According to Simões, “the Poverty Fighters program helps improve the impact, visibility, engagement, and productivity of our community development projects”.
The volunteers take part in a nine months program: Takahito spent three preparatory months in the IICD Massachusetts, USA and, afterwards enrolled in a trip around Brazil with fellow Poverty Fighters for a whole month, to learn about Brazilian society and experience the contrast of wealth and poverty existing side by side, before settling in a village and contributing to development for 4 month.
“I came to Brazil because I wanted to know the real situation from the inside. The main challenge is the language, as it is really difficult to communicate with the families and gain their trust, but we are receiving Portuguese lessons during the evenings and people appreciate that we have come from other countries to work with them and learn about their culture.”, explains Takahito.
For De Moraes, a 43-years-old farmer from the region, the Poverty Fighters pose a great help for the community. “They are helping us build a better water system. I want my daughters to be healthy, I don’t want them to drink polluted water. A healthy person can learn everything and progress in life”.
It used to be said that Brazil was a country with a great future condemned to eternal contemplation. Humana Povo para Povo Brasil is working hard for this future to arrive.www.humana.org