STORY BY BENJAMIN BULLUCK, FNN REPORTER, COLLEGIATE BUREAU.
I’m a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy. The Global Kids summer program had a life changing impact on me. Thanks to the program, I applied for and secured my first ever passport for a trip to Brazil. Having a passport and taking off on my first international flight from Dulles International Airport felt completely surreal, the airplane ride was extravagant. I had never been on a plane for 9 hours and most of that time we flew over water. It was amazing. I was having an experience I never dreamt of having at my age.
During the summer I had many eye-opening experiences. I’d like to tell about the one that had the biggest impact on me. Before our trip, we learned about the global economy and poverty around the world. In Brazil I had the opportunity to witness great wealth and great poverty coexisting side by side. We visited two favelas, Brazilian shanty towns where communities were working to find positive solutions to their own problems as opposed to crime and violence as a means to getting wealth.
While there we visited Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST). MST is a movement of landless Brazilians seeking to acquire land through constitutional means. One community lived in Arembepe Bahia. The journey to their encampment was an adventure; we had to walk for about a mile and then take a small rowboat across a river to get there. While there we met activists working for land rights and members of the community who taught us about the history of the movement. I learned of an alarming statistic in Brazil—75% of arable land that is good for agriculture is owned by 3% of the population. The fight for land rights is an ongoing battle in Brazil.
The second favela we had the opportunity to visit was the main focus of the successful film “Favela Rising” which was a documentary about a grassroot movement called Afro-Reggae. This movement and the main focus of the documentary was started by a man named Anderson who lived in the community and experienced all the wrong that happened in the community. We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with him through a translator. He expressed his feelings about his near death incident and he told us why and how he started the movement, and the organization. This favela was a community in Rio De Janeiro on the outskirts of the city. Being there was the first time that I had witnessed extreme poverty. Children had no shoes, some had no clothes and the houses were made of mud and sticks. Despite their situation I was amazed and inspired by the fact they were not sorry for themselves and were a proud group of people. They expressed hope about their future and determination to change things. Despite the language barrier, I felt a real connection with the adults and children in the community. During our visit we donated volleyball equipment and taught the children in the village how to play the game. My fellow students and I were so moved by the experience we plan to educate our peers about land rights issues in Brazil and to raise funds to support the one room school in the community.
Benjamin Bulluck is a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy.