Brazilian Rotarians Nurture Contacts, Friendships in Arlington


(Tuesday, April 15, 2008 6:47 AM EDT)

Usually, the Arlington Rotary Club's meetings at La Cote D'Or Cafe have a French flare from the restaurant's ambience and culinary offerings, but on April 10, hints of Brazil's Carnival, caiprinhas and soccer were in the air.

Through the Rotary Foundation's Group Study Exchange program, five Brazilian professionals joined the Arlington Rotary for lunch and shared information about their own country, as well as their recent experiences in the United States.

“I'm completely sure this is the most wonderful experience of my life,” said participant Cintia Miyuki Oda at the lunch. “The most important thing I've learned is that people have the same ideals. Whether you're Brazilian, American, Japanese or Chinese, we have the same objectives.”

The Group Study Exchange program is a cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for businesspeople and professionals ages 25-40, which provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits in paired areas of different countries.

For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's culture and traditions, see how their vocations are practiced and develop personal and professional relationships.

“It's a great opportunity to know another way of life, other ways jobs are done,” said group leader Antonio Benedito Guirro. “I can take what I learn and share it with the people in my country.”

Hailing from the Brazilian state Paraná, the team of five arrived in the United States in mid-March, and traveled across Virginia before heading to the Northern Virginia/ Washington, D.C., area.

Arlington Rotary member and Group Study Exchange coordinator Michael Ba said he “wanted them to have a wow experience of a week,” under his watch.

From visits to George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College, to seeing a play at the Arena Stage to shopping at Tysons Corner, the five Group Study Exchange participants had a packed schedule, but, they said, they enjoyed every minute of it.

The clear highlight for the group was seeing the Wizards win a game at the Verizon Center, especially for Marcilio Donizete Vieira who teaches English at the Wizard School in Cornélio Procópio, Brazil.

“I was pleased to take pictures of the Wizards to bring back to my students,” he said.

And while the team had a lot of fun on the trip, they said they also gained many valuable insights about United States and Brazil.

“Despite its reputation, I found the U.S. to be very friendly,” said participant Karina Santos da Costa.

The United States' strong patriotism and large number of people who volunteer impressed the group, and they felt that they could learn a lot from the American people.

“Everywhere has the same issues, but here you plan before anything happens,” participant Wivian Sá said. “In Brazil, we don't think [anything bad] will happen. It's good because we're always optimistic, but then we're not prepared.

“We in Brazil have a lot of things to learn from your successes,” Miyuki Oda said.

But Brazil has a lot to offer, as well, and “we have business to do together,” Oda said.

Five Brazilian professionals visited the Arlington Rotary on April 10 as part of a group exchange program. Shown are Arlington Rotary president Elizabeth Harr Bricksin and study-exchange coordinator Michael Ba with Brazialian Rotarians Cintia Miyuki Oda, Marcilio Donizete Vieira, Karina Santos da Costa and Wivian Sa.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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