Skip to content

By marisalgado94

Through my research project, I have had a really great opportunity to spend time with some very dedicated, inspiring people in the community of Nordeste, a barrio that is made up of three different neighborhoods and that is plagued by violence, drug trafficking, and a lack of support from the government.  In looking into how community programs help to keep kids out of the negative influences, I have interviewed coaches of a community body boarding/ surf team and they have been so incredible to learn from.

All of these guys were born in the community and many of them still live there; they are very familiar with the lives of the kids they coach because they have lived that struggle themselves.  They know what its like to have parents that are alcoholics or involved in drug trafficking.  They have seen friends get sucked into gangs and have lost people close to them to the violence that surrounds the community.  Despite their struggles, they all found a way to rise above their circumstances and have now turned around and invested back into this community.  For many of them, the beach and body boarding was what kept them off the streets and they have gone and done the same by creating a community body boarding team that is free, open to all kids as long as you are enrolled in school, and gives them a space to have good roles models, be in a safe environment, and grow into responsible, caring citizens that give back to others.

I wish I could write up all of their stories and share them with you, but for now I'll stick with one.

One coach's interview struck me the most.  One of the first questions that I typically asked them was, "What is the biggest problem that is facing your community today?" There being no right answer, many coaches said drugs, lack of education, mistrust of police, but his answer was just one word- Prejudice.  The look in his eyes when he answered spoke more than any words ever could.  His answer has begun to shape the way that I look at all the interviews and stories that I have collected throughout my second week of research.  Those other problems- drugs, violence, lack of education- they are all just symptoms of a greater underlying issue.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the underlying issue is prejudice.  Nordeste is an almost entirely Afro Brazilian population and race is a very sensitive issue in Brazil.  Yes, there are gangs, drug traffickers, and a lot of bad things and people in this community.  But, there are also good, kind, intelligent people who just need someone to look at them and say, "You are worth investing in because you are just as much of a person as I am".  Sadly, this community is looked down upon; outsiders see everyone that lives here as being the same... thieves, vagabonds, hopeless.  I have learned how important community programs like Amaralina Kids Body Boarding Team are.  They are taking charge of the community's future and deciding that it is up to them to change the perception that people have.  They are working tirelessly to show these kids that they are worth someone time, that they can be good people who change the way outsiders look at the community.

Instead of being upset, dejected, and angry about the lack of government assistance and the racism and prejudice towards their community, the coaches and kids of the team are doing their best to make a change.  To some, it may seem like something small, but for them, its everything.  This is their team, their family, their home.  It has been amazing getting to know these kids, learning from the coaches, and seeing how they are making waves for Nordeste.

By marisalgado94

After almost 3 months of being in a classroom, becoming knowledgeable on theory, and having the chance to travel through field excursions, the hallmark part of an SIT program has finally arrived- the Independent Study Project (ISP).  When this program first started, the ISP seemed like something that was far off and removed... yes, I understand I need to conduct a research project but first, let me get acclimated to an entirely new country and learn a whole new language.  But as time went by and assignments for research prep were due, the project became very real; I was terrified.  I have written many long research papers before, understand the format and goals of a project, and have taken research methods classes to make sure that all parts of my study are ethical and giving something back to the community.  However, I have never really conducted research in the field, where all of my information is primarily supposed to come from first hand sources, interviews, observations, and analysis.  The way that SIT work's is that for the last month of the program, you are set free for three weeks to do your research independently.  While you are matched with an adviser to guide you, your project is very much dependent on your own motivation and dedication to your work.  All of this was intimidating at first but guess what y'all?  Today was my first day in the field, and I am happy to say it was a successful day!

Let me tell you a bit about my project.  I have always been passionate about helping kids, bottom up community development, and health education.  I have found a way to combine all of these things into my project.  I will be spending time learning about Nordeste de Amaralina, a community in Salvador that is characterized by low socioeconomic status, racial discrimination and marginalization, and high levels of violence, drug use, and drug trafficking.  I will be familiarizing myself with the community through a drug research and treatment center through interviews and determining what the risk factors are in the community for drug use among teens.  Then I will be doing observations and interviews with instructors and parents from the Amaralina Kids Body Boarding Team, a team that focuses on giving kids a positive environment to spend Sunday mornings and providing them with positive role models.  My hope is to see how this program is addressing and helping reduce the influence of the risk factors for drug use and what ways community programs could be expanded in Salvador to better serve this population.

Today was spent doing observations of the teams structure, team member/ coach interaction, and attitude of the teens during the program.  While at some points it was difficult to understand some of the things that were going on in Portuguese, I felt like I was able to overcome the challenges by asking questions and using context clues to define words I was unsure about.  Through this next week, I will be attending a parent/ coach meeting where I will hopefully conduct interviews with individuals.  While I am nervous since these interviews are a large part of my ethnographic research project, I am excited to learn from these families and coaches and see how their lives have been impacted by the environment they live in and what is being done to make life better.  One day of research down, 25 more to go!