YouthBuild Launches Successful Student Exchange Program

Monday, January 8, 2018

Opportunity youth traveled to Brazil for once-in-a-lifetime trip 


January 8, 2018 — YouthBuild International (YBI) recently sent eight Boston-area YouthBuild students to Rio de Janeiro. This inaugural trip marks the launch of the YouthBuild Exchange—a program offering opportunities for YouthBuild students and graduates from its domestic and international programs to experience different cultures and expand their own horizons for the future.

YBI worked in collaboration with Centro de Promoção de Saúde (CEDAPS), the implementing partner for YouthBuild International in Brazil. They hosted the American young people, exposing them to what life is like for opportunity youth living in the favelas of Rio.

Over the course of the two-week trip, participants from the US and Brazil bridged the life experiences, hopes and dreams for the future. They made lasting connections with their peers and discovered similarities and differences in learning and work opportunities. A central focus of the trip was to explore ways young people can engage with their communities to become agents of change.

Jason Martinez, 19, a YouthBuild graduate from East Boston, said the experience was life-changing. “The opportunity to go beyond your comfort zone does not present itself very often, and this trip offered that and so much more. While in Brazil, we met people that we connected with on a deeper level, more than just we look alike or live in similar areas. I met a young woman from a mining town hours away from Rio and we realized we have a lot of the same life experiences—everything from work training to street violence. Those types of conversations and new relationships made the trip very meaningful.”

CEDAPS directors said the experience gave their students a broader world view. “It was a great opportunity to generate spaces of listening, dialogue and reflection on different realities, multiple experiences and the diverse cultural practices of the young people. It is our hope that participants expand their repertoires and come away with a broader vision and renewed energy to create positive change for themselves and their communities,” said Kátia Edmundo and Marìa do Socorro, Executive Directors of CEDAPS.

Leading up to the trip, the visiting students completed the Global Youth Leadership Training, an 11-session training course coordinated and facilitated by YouthBuild International that prepared and oriented young leaders to their temporary home in Brazil. The orientation sessions covered everything from the political landscape to what to pack.

Funding for the first YouthBuild Exchange was made possible by Larry and Atsuko Fish. Brazil as a first destination was particularly important to Larry as he had lived and worked in there and was eager to introduce more young people to the country and its traditions. The motivation for funding the Exchange program emanates from his deep belief that international travel can help young people see a world of possibility, feel empowered personally and know that they can make a difference in their communities.

During their time in Rio de Janeiro, the students and graduates explored the cultural, economic and political dimensions of life in Brazil and carried out service projects in Rio communities with their local counterparts. The students learned how youth from these communities navigate home life, school and work and exercise leadership in their country. 

In 2018, the Brazilian YouthBuild students will travel to Boston and will be hosted by their U.S. peers. 

“This effort built bridges between young people across borders and will contribute to greater understanding and collaboration among the youth, while inspiring them to bring solutions and hope to their local communities,” said Tim Cross, president of YouthBuild International.

YouthBuild plans to build on the success of this first exchange to offer this opportunity to more students and graduates.

“YouthBuild Exchange is one of many new and innovative programs we are working on at YouthBuild. Our goal is to foster a new generation of ethical young leaders and we are committed to creating new opportunities to meet that goal,” said John Valverde, president and CEO of YouthBuild USA.



About YouthBuild International

The mission of YouthBuild International (YBI) is to unleash the intelligence and positive energy of young people to transform their lives and rebuild their communities. YouthBuild International is building a global network of programs dedicated to reaching, inspiring, preparing and connecting unemployed young people to viable livelihood and leadership opportunities. In YouthBuild programs, young people acquire basic education, job readiness, technical training and leadership skills while building permanent community assets such as housing, community centers, schools, playgrounds and ‘green’ infrastructure. YouthBuild was established in the United States 38 years ago and has expanded to 360 program sites in 45 states in the US and 23 other countries, enrolling 16,000 young people each year. To date, 165,000 YouthBuild students worldwide have contributed 49.5 million hours of community-service leadership hours, building over 33,000 units of affordable housing and other community assets. 



The Center for Health Promotion (CEDAPS) was founded in 1993, and has over 24 years of experience of working with the poorest communities in Rio de Janeiro. The mission of CEDAPS is to develop the capacity of grassroots communities to seek solutions to their problems.  CEDAPS trains and empowers local leaders to contribute to the improvement of public services in their communities, so as to promote the full development and quality of life of communities, groups, and individuals. In 2008, UNICEF selected CEDAPS as its key partner to develop and implement the Urban Platform initiative in Brazil, an innovative program with a goal of reducing social disparities affecting children and youth in urban centers, including: Belém, Fortaleza, Maceió, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador, São Luís, São Paulo and Vitória. Since 2005, CEDAPS has fostered and advised the Network of Community Health Promotion and Community Development, a coalition that includes over 200 community-based organizations.  CEDAPS has trained young people and community leaders as local health agents who teach about public health issues in the community and work to improve public health services for poor families. For the last six years, with support from The Prudential Foundation, YouthBuild International (YBI) has worked closely with the Center for Health Promotion (CEDAPS) to adapt the YouthBuild Model to the Brazilian context.


About The Fish Family Foundation

The Fish Family Foundation was founded in 1999 on the family’s tradition of social responsibility and instilling the joy of giving in future generations. The Foundation is committed to the development of an equitable, healthy, and sustainable community, in which quality of life and access to opportunity is improved for all. The trustees carry out the Foundation’s mission through the practice of strategic philanthropy, continuing education, promotion of social justice and diversity, and active community engagement.