Staff Spotlight: Jaci Braga

Title:
Founder and Director

Photos

Jaci was born and raised in upstate NY to an American mother and a Brazilian father and then moved to Denver Colorado to receive a dual Masters in International Studies (MA) and Social Work (MSW). After many years living and working in the US, Jaci moved abroad and managed a NGO in Peru for a couple years before finally moving to Brazil to start her own NGO in Bahia.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My first solo vacation in Costa Rica. There was something truly liberating about having the courage to travel alone as a single woman for the first time. Meanwhile, Costa Rica is very safe yet incredibly beautiful. I stayed in hostels and budget hotels, which made it so easy to make new friends, and was able to visit beautiful beaches, stunning volcanoes, lush jungles and so much more.

This trip was the first step in allowing me to have the courage to leave the United States to live and work abroad and then eventually start my own NGO in Brazil.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

We had two volunteers that came here to work with us for just one month, but the testimonials they shared with us were truly moving, as they both claim that their volunteer experience here in Brazil was truly life changing for them.

They both have committed to returning next year, and there is something extremely fulfilling in realizing the impact this work can have on both volunteers' professional development as well as on the local environment and the children and families that we serve.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would choose the Volunteer Package! For the same price the local surf school charges to come to Itacare and surf for 2 weeks, you can live in our shared house and volunteer for a meaningful cause for at least a month or two!

It truly is an experience of a lifetime and you will leave speaking the language, understanding the culture, knowing the children and families, and having explored so much of the exotic natural beauty and wildlife this region has to offer.

With the package you will be fully exposed to the local culture and the incredible beauty and nature of both the Atlantic Rainforest and the coastal shoreline and stunning beaches of Bahia. The package includes a meaningful volunteer experience coupled with several Eco-adventure tours including whale watching, zip lining, rain forest hikes, kayaking or paddle boarding through mangroves, hiking out to waterfalls and so much more. Meanwhile, it also includes 2 Portuguese classes a week (with a local, native teacher) as well as several Samba, Capoeira and/or Forro classes.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

We are very democratic NGO that truly value the opinions, ideas and leadership of our staff, our volunteers and our community members alike. We are not afraid to ask for advice, throw out ideas or to truly empower others to step up and take the lead on some of our projects and programming.

As a result, this is allows our NGO to continue to improve and evolve while also giving the individuals involved with our NGO the opportunity to be challenged, to do their best work and to grow both personally and professionally.