Service Learning, Brazil

São Paulo, Brazil

In 2011, the first class from Rutgers traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to partake in the inaugural “Service Learning” program in which students participate in the daily activities of a malnutrition treatment center operated by the Federal University of Sao Paulo (NIFESP).  The Center for Nutritional Recovery and Education (CREN) was originally established by Ana Lydia Sawya, PhD, Professor of Endocrine Physiology and Nutrition at UNIFESP in 1994.  During the week that students are in Sao Paulo, they tour the facilities of the two CREN sites, attend staff reviews of children who are treated at CREN, listen to medical histories of children, visit the shantytowns where the children live, and take in some cultural sites in Sao Paulo.

The program is now is the third year of operation and is two days longer than the first year, with more time being devoted to working with the children.  In 2013, a cultural program with mothers from the shantytowns is planned.

Here are some comments from students who completed this program.

  • During my trip to Sao Paolo, Brazil, I experienced many emotions, pictures, frustrations, stories, and people that have all now become a part of me and have altered my perceptions, strengthened my convictions, and given me a true passion for my future work in the world of health care.
  • I want to thank you again for this opportunity to travel outside the U.S. and see the things we saw and have a once in a lifetime experience. Studying abroad was always a dream of mine in college. I never thought it was possible with a major in Nutrition; for that, I am very grateful.
  • I first want to thank you again for providing us with the opportunity to travel to Brazil and experience what we have over the past week. I doubt many of us would have ever gotten the chance to see what we did without you, and it is something I am confident that will stay with me always.
  • The one week spent in Brazil has left a lasting and powerful impression on me that I had never anticipated.

Each week begins with an overview of the CREN program.

Students have the chance to work with the children during educational programs.

To best understand the children’s social situations, students are brought to local shantytowns and allowed to accompany a nutritionist and social worker on “home visits”.

One of the best experiences for the students is discussing the case histories of children to better understand the circumstances that led to them becoming malnourished.

Working with staff during feeding times gives students an idea as to the effort that goes into feeding about 40 children four to five times during the time they attend CREN each day.

Of course, the Rutgers students have plenty of opportunities to enjoy some of the food in Brazil.

At the end of the week, the students have a chance to relax at local music club.


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