September 9, 2013

Um Sonho Brasileiro (A Brazilian Dream)

Mary Weng, 2013 GHLI Fellow

Back in New Haven after nine weeks in Brazil, I realize how lucky I was  to participate in an internship that offered me the chance to help  with improving early child development (ECD).  To be involved with ECD outcomes in São Paulo city at many different levels – working with  state and municipal government leaders, university researchers, advocates, and community health workers, was truly a unique experience.

As my plane took off and I watched the beautiful Brazilian nightscape disappear into the clouds, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by how my work this summer was just the first drop in the ocean of this long-term project. I am proud of the progress that has been made so far. Even in my last week, my schedule was full of site visits to various neighborhoods to assess ECD needs and the feasibility of starting a pilot intervention.  And, soon after my departure, the city of São Paulo launched a Municipal Policy for Early Child Development, defining principles and guidelines for actions related to ECD. It is very encouraging to see a commitment from the government in putting early childhood as a priority. However, the true challenge will be in how the mayor goes about carrying out his new policy, and my hope is that he will seek input from people working on the ground in the various neighborhoods.

This experience has been formative in solidifying my interest in global health. I learned just how challenging and rewarding it is to map the landscape of an issue, and to facilitate collaboration between professionals from many different sectors. I came back to New Haven equipped with my most valuable souvenir: the notebook full of my scribbles from everything I witnessed this summer, each page a glimpse into my beautiful Brazilian dream.

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