By Michael Pearson
Students in the Global Social Entrepreneurship Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) are all about finding ways to help turbocharge the work of their community partners in Brazil. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck South America’s most populous country, these Georgia Institute of Technology students knew they had to act quickly.
“I immediately knew that our partner organizations were going to have to take on an unprecedented role that drastically differed from their typical charitable routines,” said Sam Chappell, a fourth-year International Affairs student from Savannah who is graduating this semester.
The group of 13 students from across campus decided to use funds earmarked for future projects to send immediate aid to those organizations. The funds enabled them to pivot from providing high-energy youth training programs to delivering urgently needed food and sanitary supplies for at-risk residents in Rio de Janeiro. Millions already leading precarious lives in Rio’s favelas saw their incomes largely cut off when officials shut down many businesses and the economy suffered a major hit.
The VIP team has sent $8,500 so far from funds generated by broadcast fees from documentaries produced by Rise Up & Care, the nonprofit co-founded by Kirk Bowman, the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs professor who runs the VIP. Students are now working on a May fundraiser to benefit midwives living in rural Brazilian communities impacted by the pandemic. These women are featured in a new documentary film produced by Rise Up & Care, Women of Earth.
Projects Provide Food and Jobs During Crisis
To date, Chappell said, the group’s partners, including Nós do Morro, the Miratus Badminton Association, and Circo Crescer e Viver, have been able to reach at least 6,500 Brazilians with food and hygiene supplies
“This effort has even resulted in the creation of temporary jobs for people to help with coordination of the whole project,” Chappell said.
Sebasião Oliveira is founder and director of Miratus Badminton Association — one of the groups that received funds from the Georgia Tech group.
“This generous donation from Georgia Tech students and Rise Up & Care provided a critical boost to our goal of feeding 186 families with empty refrigerators,” he said We have welcomed Georgia Tech students at Miratus Badminton Association many times in the past. In this pandemic, our partnership feeds and brings hope to the people of the Chacrinha neighborhood!”
Bowman, the Rise UP & Care Term Chair in Global Development & Identity, said the effort is right in line with what he is trying to teach the students about: a new model of global philanthropy that values acting as a “sidekick” or junior partner to established local leaders who set the agenda and run programs.
“These students are all really committed and doing great things,” said Bowman, a co-founder of the “Rise Up & Care” non-profit that works with Brazilian groups on a variety of projects. Bowman founded the group with Jon Wilcox, who financially supports the VIP and mentors students. The two have written a forthcoming book, Reimagining Global Philanthropy, that details their approach.
‘Take the Leap and Serve’
Mehnaz Ruksana, a third-year computer science student from Suwanee, said she has been honored to be part of the project.
“Our friends there inspire me every single day with the generosity, efficiency, innovation, and compassion they use to help their community,” Ruksana said. “It's been a valuable learning opportunity to work alongside the amazing people in Rio.”
Chappell encouraged fellow Yellow Jackets to find a way to help meet crucial needs in these challenging days.
“Take the leap and serve,” he said. “There are literally thousands of nonprofit organizations across the cities and towns of the United States and they all need volunteers at this critical moment.”
The Nunn School is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.