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Building Homes, Reconstructing Lives

Brazil service project provides global perspective for participants.

In a country where nearly 6.5 million people suffer from housing insecurity, 29-year-old Brazilian native Aline Silva Santos’ childhood dream came true. For the first time in her life, she was going to live in a cement home.

This summer, 22 students in the joint Purdue-Indiana MBA and Ag Economics cohort program kicked-off their week-long international experience in Piracicaba, Brazil, by building homes for impoverished families. The Purdue-Indiana MBA program partners with the MUCAPP Foundation, a local agency that focuses on restoring the living conditions of Brazilian families.

Among the students that participated were John Deere employees Brian Weinert, ECAP technology program manager in Olathe, Kan.; Anne Anderson, solutions specialist at ISG, Urbandale, Iowa; and Jon Ebert, advanced marketing project manager at the Global Crop Harvesting Product Development Center in Silvis, Ill.

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Volunteers painted the outside of the new Santos Family home as part of their service project.

A Life-Changing Moment

What happened during that trip changed the Santos family’s life forever. Having never lived in a secure cement home, the renovation was a vast?improvement from the faulty wood panels that had previously formed the family’s home. Aline and her husband, Gabriel Justino, say they’re now able to provide a safe and stable environment for their four daughters, ranging in age from 11 years old to a newborn baby.

“Today, I have a mansion and I will be forever grateful to the people who helped me,” said Santos. “They changed my life and there are no words that can translate what my family and I feel. When we saw our new home, my husband started crying.”

A glimpse inside the crowded home where the Santos Family had previously been living.

Over the past two decades, 434 homes have been built for people living in some of Brazil’s most desperate communities through MUCAPP’s coordination of volunteers like Weinert, Anderson, and Ebert. With the average Brazilian household income hovering around $800 per month, there are often 6 to 10 family members living in each home, resulting in poor hygienic conditions.

“Witnessing such poor living conditions due to the extreme poverty that exists in much of Brazil was incredibly humbling,” said Ebert. “The mother of the family addressed us nearly in tears, grateful that we helped make her dream of living in a new home come true. She never could have imagined living in a new home during her lifetime.”

For Weinert, giving people a place to call home is a way to show gratitude for all he has been given in life – an experience that has remained with him since the trip. “An experience like this impacts you forever, I will never be the same,” said Weinert. “It gives you a sense of ownership to give back to the community and people around you, wherever you live.”

Witnessing such poor living conditions due to the extreme poverty that exists in much of Brazil was incredibly humbling.”

—Jon Ebert

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(From Left to Right) Brian Weinert, Anne Anderson, and Jon Ebert.

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Building Homes, Reconstructing Lives

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