2010 U.S. Mission News & Activities
Remarks by Raquel Helen Santos Silva, 2008 Youth Ambassador, at Brazilian Youth Cultural Event with the First Lady Michelle Obama
Brasília, March 19, 2011
The Youth Ambassadors Program was a turning point in my life. I've always dreamed of traveling abroad, but my family didn't have the financial means to help me turn my dream into reality. My mother died when I was one and my father when I was three. I started doing volunteer work when I was nine and was always aware of the importance to give back all the good that I received in life.
I can still remember the day when I first heard about a program of the U.S. Embassy that selected outstanding students from public schools who volunteer in their communities. The program gave them the opportunity to represent Brazil in the U.S. and strengthen friendship ties between the two countries. Who could ever imagine that I would be chosen! What an honor and responsibility!!! Giving presentations about Brazil to Americans and meeting many officials were unimaginable things before my selection to the Youth Ambassadors Program.
I keep memories that I will carry with me throughout my life: my Youth Ambassador colleagues, American friends, the jokes, games and the group dynamics. The discoveries were numerous and we enjoyed every moment to the fullest.
I became a Youth Ambassador in 2008 and the best part is that the program is not the end. I came back from the U.S. more open-minded, my vision of the world became broader and the understanding of my role in the community became clearer. I was indeed a leader, someone with the potential to identify problems and find solutions in collaboration with others, someone capable of catalyzing change and engaging people in this movement.
The network of contacts that I made and the opportunities that came up were numerous. I was awarded a scholarship to spend the 2008 summer studying English at Cushing Academy, in Massachusetts, U.S., with students from around the world. I started learning how to say butterfly in foreign languages and can now say it in 20 languages. It was there that I decided to work on something that could give me the opportunity to have contact with other cultures.
In 2010, I was chosen as the only Brazilian representative in the Women2Women Conference, held in Boston, USA, focused on young women engaged in their communities. Also last year, I was chosen by the British Council to become a Global Changemaker and I went to London for the Global Youth Summit. It was through this event that I was selected to participate in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January of this year.
I currently study International Relations and Political Science. In addition, I have been a member of a dance group at my church for 10 years. I also coordinate projects aimed at combating gender inequality and youth apathy. One of them, the Youth Empowerment Forum, project that I presented in Davos, has become the center-piece of React & Change, a youth organization I belong to.
I have learned a lot from all those experiences. I learned about the power of great ideas, inspiration and group work. I learned that it pays off to work hard to turn your dreams into reality, even when the circumstances are not very favorable. I learned that education is a precious thing and a weapon to combat the injustices that we see around the world, which is why it is important that all people have access to quality education. After having been abroad six times, I have encountered wonderful places. Above all, I got to know myself and learned how to value my culture and respect cultures different from my own. I have come to the conclusion that respect, love, commitment, faith and solidarity are understood in any part of the planet.
This journey has brought me to the point I am now, when I have the great honor to introduce the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.