Chair Person: Marisa Moreira Woehlert

IMG_4475+2The Illinois- São Paulo chapter has been dedicated to Education and Youth and to empower youth with enrichment programs since the beginning. Some of the most impacting programs included in the past are the Youth Ambassadors and the Global Youth Day.

The São Paulo-Illinois Chapter of the Partners of the Americas hosted the Brazilian Youth Ambassadors each year from 2004-2006. Students from low-income backgrounds in Brazil were selected by the US Embassy staff and spent their first week in the US in Washington, DC meeting with US government agencies, touring historic sites and receiving an orientation to American culture. The group then divided into groups of 4 students accompanied by one Brazilian teacher and spent a second week living with an American high school student and their family. These cross-cultural personal experiences with American students provided them with exposure to volunteerism in action as well as US family life/customs. Youth ambassadors in Illinois attended high schools in Chicago and in the suburbs. In 2005 the entire group re-united in Chicago at the end of their visit where they were treated to a Chicago blizzard and a tour of the city before embarking on their return flight. The Illinois Chapter of Amigos de las Americas hosted a cross-cultural workshop for their members to meet with the Youth ambassadors. Other joint activities included ice skating in Millennium Park, meeting with the Consul General of Brazil in Chicago, a pizza party, meeting with the mayor of Chicago, and a personal bus tour of the city of Chicago. Many of the Youth Ambassadors subsequently applied for admission to US universities and those that are attending college in the area have been invited to join in the on-going activities of the Illinois Chapter.

In conjunction with the Sao Paulo Chapter’s participation in the Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) the Illinois Chapter in 2007 and 2008 has participated in the Earth Day event in Humboldt Park with organizations that provide services to youth in Chicago. Partners was an active participant at this event and members have cleaned up the park, planted trees and served lunch to the youth volunteers. Some board members helped judge a Youth Recyclable Art competition.

As an Ambassador of Partners of the Americas for the Olympic Games 2008 Beijing, Marisa M. Woehlert cannot recite the innumerous opportunities she had to meet with youth and athletes from the US, Brazil and other countries from all over the world and spread the mission of Partners; cultural awareness and understanding to the new generation.

Still in 2008 Illinois Partners has hosted a welcoming reception for Brazilian students who are studying at local colleges and universities. This event has provided new students with an opportunity to network with each other even though they are attending different schools. In November, a brunch was hosted at Valois Restaurant (a local favorite of President Obama) to receive former Youth ambassadors and young members of Partners from Brazil. The Illinois Chapter young members then led a walking tour of The University of Chicago.

For the 2009 GYSD service contribution, youth volunteered for the 25th Chicago Latino Film Festival. Over 700 e-mails were sent inviting people to see Portuguese language movies (especially from Brazil).

Recently in the spring of 2009 Woehlert visited Brasilia and along with the local Chapter promoted an all day caravan to visit Projeto Segundo Tempo, an ongoing project of the Ministry of Sport and the Lula Administration. Her objective was to bring closer relations with the Brasilia Chapter, raise the spirit of volunteerism and exchange ideas for bringing English teaching to disadvantaged youth in the classroom and through sports. A visit to the Museu Nacional do Indio and another to an open concert of the National Orchestra was offered for these children as the result of this trip.

In 2009, the Sustainable Life Gardens which overlaps with our Agro & Environment committee was replicated in Brazil. After the success in Chicago with the IAMS Sustainable Life Gardens project, the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation in combination with Partners of the Americas São Paulo-Illinois and Bahia-Pennsylvania chapters decided to replicate the project in two states in Brazil. Christine Smyrski, Illinois board member and landscape architect traveled in advance to Mococa and Botucatu in São Paulo to organize the project. Luiz Andre Bispo de Jesus, Illinois POA member and native of Itaparica, traveled to Itaparica, Bahia in 2008 to organize the project there. In March of 2009 more than 500 fruit trees were planted in 23 designated public schools (Mococa, Botucatu and Itaparica) and one village (Igarai, Mococa). More than 2,000 low income children and their families benefited from this project. To learn more about this project see the video below created with the support of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. Click here for more details.

As Partners, we continue to find new seeds to plant for the forest of opportunities that is the future.