Like many young people, Michael Bustamante from East Hampton, New York, wanted to have a “normal” life: go to college, graduate and find a good job to pay the bills. But in some part of his mind and heart, he knew that he could do something for other people, to work to create peace through service.
Through Aceneth, a social entrepreneurship multi-media company that aims to create impact through diverse social initiatives, Michael learned about the Global PeaceMakers program in Brazil, scheduled for December 2009. Though Michael didn’t know what to expect on the Global Peacemakers program, he was enthusiastic about helping people through a rural educational project in Alagado da Suzana, Brazil.
“I basically thought I was going to be placed in a village where much help was needed. I honestly thought the living conditions were going to be tough. I thought we were basically going to rebuild an entire building,” explained Michael.
In Brazil, Michael learned how to work as a team, renewing the infrastructure and providing equipment to a rural Internet and community center. International volunteers worked with local Brazilian volunteers, local community members, and dozens of local businesses, government agencies, NGOs, and individuals with a passion to serve.
Michael learned about the real necessities of people living in disadvantaged rural areas and about the challenges they face like inaccessibility to job training, basic education, health services, and more. Michael started to value the comfortable life that the most American citizens have in comparison to this small community in Brazil.
“It made me realize that I am extremely wealthy compared to others around the earth. I can eat anything I want whenever I want, I can further my education if I please,” Michael said.
After Michael and the rest of the volunteers finished rebuilding the Internet and community center and equipped it with new computers, books, and other equipment, he returned home with an itch to change something in his life, but wasn’t quite sure how.
Several months following the Global PeaceMakers program, Michael decided to start a new professional plan and serve to others as a part of his lifestyle, and applied to be a Peace Corps volunteer. In October 2010, he was accepted to the Peace Corps, being one of the thousands of Americans effecting social service around the world. “SFP was a big reason why I decided to join the Peace Corps. SFP opened up my eyes,” Michael Expressed.
In the Peace Corps, Michael would like to work in the same community that he worked as a volunteer with Service For Peace in Brazil, because he experienced a strong bond with the people of the village. The sense of local empowerment that the community members seemed to develop gave him hope that it could transform into a Community of Peace. “Two weeks convinced me more needed to be done. So I joined the Peace Corps,” Michael said.
According to Charles Phillips, the president of Service For Peace, Michael is a model citizen who, as a result of his experience volunteering with Service For Peace, could transform his life and carry on the spirit of service and peace for in his own community and around the world.
Michael Bustamente, 23, is a Colombian-American law student from St. Johns University in New York City. Michael will start his year as a volunteer in Peace Corps in February 2011, and will spend 2 years serving in his future placement in Latin America & the Caribbean.
To learn more about Service For Peace in Brazil, visit www.serviceforpeace.org/brazil