Brazil-bound students prepare for ‘experience of a lifetime’

Pictured: NC students Allyssa Allengame and Kirsten Kennedy are getting ready to fly to Brazil for a six-month internship with the Mulheres Mil project.


When Alyssa Allengame and Kirsten Kennedy leave for Brazil in July, it won’t be for summer vacation.

The two students, who will be graduating from NC’s Human Resources post-graduate certificate program this fall, are preparing for what they anticipate will be an experience of a lifetime.

Allengame and Kennedy are participating in a six-month internship for social development project called “Mulheres Mil,” which means 1,000 women in Portugese.

Thanks to a CIDA grant about eight years ago, the College has taken a lead role in helping 13 Brazilian institutes develop an access program for disadvantaged women, helping them to develop skills and train them for employment. With recent funding from the International Development Research Centre, the College is currently conducting an evaluation of the program, researching ways to make it more successful. Staff from NC’s International and Research Innovation divisions will analyze the results from the training program.

Allengame and Kennedy are excited to become a part of it all. The two students – who currently live in St. Catharines – obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Brock University which gave them a background in women’s studies before enrolling in Human Resources Management at NC, and are interested in helping women who are disadvantaged and marginalized.

Allengame, 22, has been working on her Portuguese language skills with audio lessons and books in preparation for the trip. She is looking forward to being immersed in a different culture and believes it will give her a new outlook on life.

“Being able to work with both the participants and the coordinators of the Mulheres Mil program is such an indescribable chance to be a part of something that is going to change women’s lives for the better,” she said.

Kennedy, 21, has also been preparing for the trip by researching about living and working in Brazil and taking basic Portuguese language lessons online. She is looking forward to being immersed in a culture and way of life so different from anything she has ever experienced.

“Meeting and interacting with the women who are participating in the Mulheres Mil program will be amazing and I’m especially excited to learn how exactly the program has changed their lives,” said Kennedy.

Their stay in Brazil for six months means that they will not be able to join their classmates at fall convocation when they will graduate from their program. The students however, feel that the experience will be well worth it when it comes to gaining valuable experience for their future careers.

“This experience is not only going to widen my perspective of the Brazilian culture, but living and working internationally in general,” said Kennedy.

“Gaining both international experience and being a part of something so exceptional will only add to my ever-growing portfolio,” said Allengame.


The NC-Brazil connection

Pictured: Natalee Tokar, senior manager of Reserach and Innovation, reading a newspaper she brought back from Brazil.


As Allengame and Kennedy prepare to leave for their six-month educational work adventure, Natalee Tokar – senior manager of Research and Innovation – has recently returned from Brazil.

Tokar has been coordinating the Mulheres Mil project with Jos Nolle. The project also involves a team from NC including Kyla Pennie, International; Holly Catalfamo, lead researcher; and Duncan MacDuff, Malcolm Howe, and Deborah Boutelier.

While the College has many different development projects around the world through its International department, Brazil has become a big focus. Tokar pointed out that Brazil is developing at a quick pace and is undergoing massive changes from a social development perspective.

“It’s the right moment to be there because everything is happening now, and very quickly due to the socially-driven government,” said Tokar. “It’s exciting for us because we’ve been partners with them for a long time and now have an opportunity to expand.”

Tokar believes the project is significant for many reasons. Meeting the women participating in the program has been a life-changing experience for Tokar, who had an opportunity to see the impact the program has had on them firsthand.

“For us, it’s a good feeling to contribute to changing women’s lives,” she said. “It alters their self-esteem, gives them hope and helps them obtain a career to not be in poverty.”

As part of the research component of the project, Tokar notes that an applied research team is being assembled for Brazil and college partners from across Canada will be involved. After the team and methodologies are in place during the first year of the project, they will begin to pilot surveys to all stakeholders – the participants, the institutions, the coordinators of the programs, the companies that work with them for internships and the government. She estimates that it will be about a year and a half before the survey is launched nationally.

So far, a number on NC students have been doing literature reviews and compiling background information for the team, and one intern from is currently on the ground in Brazil.

Tokar values the exchange of knowledge and research methodologies with their Brazilian counterparts. “The methodology that was developed for this social inclusion project can also be used in Canada to evaluate our programs,” she said.

The international project also filters back to the classrooms at NC, she said. Since not every student has an opportunity to travel, the students who do become liaisons between the organizations abroad and the program.

“One student going abroad impacts 60 students in terms of a course-based assignment,” she said. “There’s a multiplier effect from a research standpoint and from an intercultural standpoint it gives students an opportunity to work on international projects without going abroad.”

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