Thursday, April 9, 2009

Student inspires teacher

I met a young man, Pedro, in one of my English conversation classes the other day who really touched my heart. Students in class were talking about their families – each student describing his or her own immediate and extended families (practicing words like cousin, niece, grandfather, uncle on my father’s side, etc.)

This one teenage boy’s story stood out as completely different from the others. He was raised by a single mother without any other family members in the picture. When he was 7 years old his mother died, leaving him orphaned and alone. He lived on the streets for months before being noticed by authorities.

City social service workers placed him in a poor orphanage in a crappy neighborhood where he lived for the next 6 years. Once an adolescent he was transferred to a boy’s youth program where he has been living with 11 other boys, going to school and looking toward a brighter future.

Remember – I met Pedro (now probably 16 years old) at a private English school where everyone else lives in a privileged family where their parents are doctors or lawyers or senior managers somewhere. Pedro was given a rare scholarship negotiated between the youth program staff and the school’s administrators.

His English is excellent. And his self confidence and sense of self worth are inspiring.

Pedro has rearranged his schedule to attend two of my conversation classes each week. He had been working with a British woman but wants to practice listening to and speaking English with an American accent. Thanks to the youth program where he lives he is being sent to Florida in November for a 6 month job exchange placement. The program is arranging his travel, housing and employment.

What a great story – such a wonderful opportunity for him. You see so much absolute poverty and seemingly hopeless destitution here in Brazil. (I rarely post about it – but it is everywhere.) To see this boy picked up from the streets, his obvious talents recognized, and then being slotted into growth opportunities so rare among the poor here – it really keeps hope alive for a better day.

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