We are past the midpoint for this incredible study abroad experience and have come so far in our understanding of Bahian culture. Today was one of introductions to wonderful individuals and a sad goodbye to someone that has helped define our love of this amazing place.
This morning we had our last lecture with Institute of Collective Health at the Federal University of Bahia staff and it was with Darci Neves Santos who specializes in youth mental health. She gave a detailed presentation about the history of mental health in Brazil and how it is imperative that we understand that many of the health issues we experience as adults are manifested from childhood. In the past, there was a culture of institutionalization in Brazil wherein mentally ill individuals were sent away from their families. Psychiatry reform came in 2001 and all of the mental institutions were closed. After the reform, there was a push for community life and management of mentally illnesses for those who were suffering. Consequently there were better outcomes and less stigma around mental illness. As a group, we had a great conversation about how Brazil and the United States have a lot of work to do to improve how children and mentally ill individuals are treated.
In the afternoon, we traveled to a section of Salvador called Uruguai which is one of the poorest portions of the city. Our favorite tour guide, Fred, came with us and was a bright, positive light as always. Uruguai was built upon a landfill and has a lack of infrastructure which has led to methane explosions and other difficulties. Despite these challenges, this is a community rich in culture and talent which is evident by the amazing NGO, Bagunçaço, created by Joselito Crispim when he was 21 years old. Joselito Crispim was inspired to create a place that builds the self esteem of young people in his community and shows them that their lives are not defined by fear or violence. Additionally, Bagunçaço’s mission is demonstrating to young people that appearance does not dictate who you are or what you can accomplish in life. He has constructed an organization that allows children in the neighborhood to be themselves and gain skills through filmmaking and music. These are important messages for Afro-Brazilians who are growing up in Uruguai, especially because society says that they cannot overcome the challenges before them.
The entire group felt the love that Joselito Crispim has for his community. I continue to be amazed by the work that is being done throughout Salvador especially with limited resources. It has pushed me to find new, innovative ways to impact my community at home. There are no excuses and you have the power to make real changes even if you do not have money, electricity or a stable building structure. You only need passion, drive and dedication! I think the entire group has learned that our love for public health is all we need to be successful. It is in all of us to be an inspiration and a change.
Lastly, I want to mention how much Fred has been a delight to get to know. He has taken us on several tours and his love for Bahia is infectious. Fred knows every single (seriously!) person in Bahia and his knowledge was a wonderful asset to this trip. I will miss you, Fred. Muito obrigada!