by: Greg Fischer ’19
Greg Fischer, an IPED Arrupe Fellow, was awarded the Santander International Internships Fellowship to spend 7 weeks in Brazil working with two separate projects – a holistic center in João Pessoa run by the Maryknoll Sisters and a Social Assistance pastoral project in the northwest periphery of São Paulo.
The holistic center in João Pessoa, called Afya, was founded by the Maryknoll sisters in conjunction with women from the local community of the São Mateus bairro in 1998. The center is administered for women by women where they offer natural therapies and holistic health practices as a means to attend to financially poor women who lived in violence and are unable to access public agencies. Today, they offer courses and treatments in medicinal plants, therapeutic massage, reiki, clay therapy, bioenergetic evaluation, nutrition, etc.
Greg was asked by the Maryknoll sister who coordinates the project, Efu Nyaki, to conduct an evaluation of the team’s administrative and management function. Efu is aware the center does not run as efficiently or effectively when she is away, which is often due to a high international demand for her training services. Greg completed a full evaluation of Afya and offered his analysis on ways in which the administrative and management functions can be changed in order to minimize these negative effects and empower the women of the center in doing so.
In São Paulo, Greg worked with the OAPA (The Padre Achilles Assistance Work) team which consists of social workers and psychologists. Due to the ongoing economic recession in Brazil, which has resulted in a 15% unemployment rate, many individuals and families are requesting social assistance through Brazil welfare program. Greg and his coworker, Darialva Arouche, conducted home visits to those who requested a cesta basica (basic basket of provisions for the month) in order to determine and validate their need.
Additionally, Greg did additional work with Darialva, who coordinates the migrant pastoral. This pastoral offers weekly Portuguese language courses to immigrants at the community level. This is a highly important task as most language course offered for free are located in the center of the city – roughly 1 to 2 hours (one-way) from this community. The ability to offer courses at the local level, in additional to childcare services, enables mothers and fathers, to participate and work at building the necessary skills for social and economic integration in Brazil.
Greg is very grateful to both the Maryknoll sisters and Darialva for warmly welcoming him back to Brazil and allowing him to be a part of their important work. Greg would also like to extend his gratitude (as well as the gratitude of his Brazilian partners) to Santander who provided the grant to make this collaboration a reality.