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Harmony with the environment is the path to inner and community peace: Meet Natalia Oliviera, Brazil.

  1. Could you describe the first moment when you realized you wanted to do this job?

I am from Diamantina, a city in the East of Brazil.  For me, this moment was a process of expansion and return. 10 years ago, I was a young introvert eager to know the world. I received a full scholarship and moved to Belo Horizon (South of Diamantina) where I stayed for 6 years studying International Relations and working with large companies like Caterpillar, Localiza Rent a Car and WebAula (current Uoltech).  When I turned 23, I was offered the position of project manager with great salary benefits, but something bothered me about working for big companies. I realized that my mission was not to work for millionaires that were contributing to the pollution of my city. I sought spiritual development and through the queen of the forest—Ayahuasca, a medicine of the Amazonian people—I reached the key that I was looking for: clarity. I then decided to Diamantina and work in natural medicine. I became a community therapist and a social educator supporting various social justice initiatives in Diamantina.

2. Could you take us through a day of your work? Where do you put most of your time and energy?

Currently, my days are quite busy. 4 months ago, I stopped being a fixed social educator of the Project Walking Together, the largest NGO of the region, to work independently. So right now, I provide services for the Project Walking Together and other NGOs in the city, I make independent campaigns to raise awareness on housing, food, and health challenges of my community; I produce and sell natural cosmetics and medicinal teas; and teach women in marginalized areas of my area to the same. I also organize community therapy circles with several partners such as the town hall and university, I support artistic and cultural actions of friends and partners, I write and seek for funding for collective projects of our group Motirõ, and so much more.

Some of the natural healing products that Natalia make.

3. What are your key achievements in your work?

My key achievement was to learn to communicate in a way that all people can understand. It seems like a simple process, but the theoretical and academic jargons about communication can be traps to transferring our ideas to a non-sophisticated public. Having understood this process helped become a better communicator and surely many doors for me. Some of my other achievements include: – Being the first youth to be President of the Council of the Child and the Teenager of the Municipality of Diamantina(2018);  – Supporting the writing of projects to increase the visibility of my municipality;   – Facilitating the strategic articulation between the Federal University (information systems course) and the woman’s police station in the creation of an app that enables women’s protection against abusers. More recently an important realization was my participation in the Youngs Peacebuilders Fórum. It certainly was the apex of my career so far and opened my ways for several opportunities.

4. What has been your hardest struggle so far, and how did you get over it?

My biggest struggle so far is the social work culture established in one of the oldest cities of Brazil. In Diamantina many people who occupy important positions still see social work as charity, as a tool of social domination and establishment of power and at best as the way to achieve a good public salary or have an occupation. This negative culture acts as a heavy current against those who are trying to make some social impact. In my work experience challenges to propose innovations and speak the truth about an issue I care about because most people to want to act on it.

5. What is the biggest challenge you currently face?

Being able to sustain myself without distancing me from my goal of social work in my community. This is a challenge not only mine but at least 6 friends who are also social workers and are also with little or no payment for their work. After Bolsonaro’s arrival to power, the situation of social workers has significantly deteriorated and we face real threats, but we are determined to continue our work. This is the biggest battle that I and my companions face today.

6. What has been your biggest surprise on this journey so far?

My biggest surprise for sure was to discover my ability to work with children. For 2 years I was responsible for various actions with the child audience in PROCAJ and certainly was the biggest surprise of my adult life. I had never considered doing this work, I had to study from scratch, and I was able to find out that I love this audience. I learned a lot interacting with them and surely it was the lightest and fun part of my work so far. Speaking of politics, rights and citizenship for children and with children is possible, amazing and magical. To accomplish this work I applied social technologies like AFLATOOUN, Claves and Little House of Culture.

7. What keeps you going and give you inspiration in your work? What gives you hope?

This is a very difficult question to respond without entering the personal field. I have a very deep spiritual connection and certainly, my work and daily occupation are strongly inspired by this relationship. I can say that I am inspired by the immensity of possibilities of the Father Heaven, by the resilience and incredible potential creator of Mother Earth, by the beauty of the shining stars, by the force of life of the Grandfather sun, by the emotions and mysteries of the Moon Grandma, by the incredible and diverse behavior of our animal brothers and by the enchanted beings of the forest and of the astral. My hope comes from a certainty that a new world is possible, it is real, is profoundly known by our inner self and is already available, what is missing is only to see the difference between truth and illusion and then to be able to feel and really see the possibilities finally going forward in a collective and enlightening way. Each day that passes the universe gives me unique clues that we are going in this direction faster and faster and this is always keeping my hopes high.

Tea products made by Nataila.

8. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Keep your head up and stand with patience for everything that will happen. Everything that sounds bad will be essential for you to learn to be resilient and strong. Continue making uncomfortable questions to yourself and others, you have always been protected!

9. How can people contact you and learn more about your work? (eg: email, blog, webpage)

They can contact me through Facebook @Nosouza, email oliveiranatis@gmail.com, and Facebook pages @Motirobr and @Gaiaservas!

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