Vilson Bezerra Rodrigues
Vilson was born and raised in Baixada Fluminese, RJ, an impoverished municipality in the state of Rio. At the age of 7 his father died of cancer and as the oldest child he assumed responsibility for taking care of the family. At the age of 12 he began working as an office boy running papers for a company that sold Volkswagens, an opportunity which opened several doors for Vilson. He also participated in a Catholic youth group that defended the rights of the poor and strived to better their lives. Later, he worked as an administrator for a public service association. At the age of 18 he entered the Brazilian Air Force. After leaving the military he was selected to work as a financial assistant for an engineering company. During his time at there he served as a consultant in a social movement which aimed to increase educational opportunities for Afro-Brazilians at the university level. After entering the Pontificate Catholic University (PUC) in 2001, Vilson moved into the community of Rocinha. At PUC he was a director of student governance. In 2004 he was hired to work for the Public Health Agency in the community of Rocinha. In 2007 he concluded his studies at PUC and graduated in Philosophy. Vilson is happily married and has three precious children.
Vilson can be reached at: vilson.bezerra @ig.com.br
Felix Garcia Lopez
Felix was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. He has a PhD in Sociology (2005) from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Until recently he was a professor of Political Theory at the State University of Rio de Janeiro in the Graduate School of Social Sciences (PPCIS). Currently he is a research coordinator at the Federal Government’s Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA). His current research focuses on the relationship between NGOs, political parties and sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro. E-mail contact: felixglopez @mundoreal.org
Marcos was born in Puerto Rico and raised throughout the Americas. In 2005 Marcos began his studies at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) where he is pursuing a PhD in Sociology. He has worked as an educator in the Caribbean, Brazil, and in Brooklyn, New York. His research interests include using quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate sustainable development in Latin America.
Marcos can be reached at: marcos @mundoreal.org
John was born and raised in Philadelphia. In 2006 he graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in Criminal Justice and minor in Business. While pursuing his studies John was a student leader in various parts of the university, most especially in community service. He also organized and united St. John’s alumni and Habitat for Humanity to establish a house sponsorship program which continues to provide students with social service opportunities. John is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Justice and Global Development at St. John’s University. John currently sits on the Board of Directors of Mundo Real.
John can be reached at: jfitz @mundoreal.org
Cely Ferreira de Oliveira
The Primeiros Passos project was founded by Cely, a native of Rocinha. In 1992 Cely’s son Jeferson was born with cerebral palsy, and soon after she began advocating and fighting for the rights of Rocinha’s physically and mentally disabled residents. This tremendous perseverance and heartfelt dedication is what eventually led to the creation of Primeiros Passos in 2007, which she help found. In July of 2009 Jeferson passed away at the age of 17.
Cely can be reached at: celyoliveira @mundoreal.org
André Sales Batista
André was born and raised in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he still resides with his family of four. André has both studied and worked in the Geography and Environmental Science Department of PUC-Rio. In 2004 he worked as a manager of CEDAE, Rio de Janeiro’s Water Works and Waste Management Company. During this time, he made efforts to maintain and amplify networks of safe drinking water and proper waste management throughout Rocinha; he also served as the principal spokesman for CEDAE in Rocinha. André has actively participated in numerous conferences, seminars, lectures, and community meetings where the topics included environmental education, cartography, urban-infrastructure, urbanization, favelas, and gang/drug-trafficking. André currently works on the project Primeiros Passos in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro.
André Sales Batista can be reached at: andre @mundoreal.org
Steven Slack was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2002 he graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from Warren Wilson College. After graduation, he worked as a field research technician for an endangered species project in the Florida Everglades, and then for the American Chestnut Foundation in an effort to help save the American chestnut. Since his late teens Steven has been actively engaged in various community development projects throughout the world, including; Malawi, Jamaica, Guatemala, Brazil, North Carolina, and in his hometown of Chattanooga. Alongside his environmental training, Steven has been active in Mundo Real’s efforts with fundraising, project development, and media and communications and is currently Mundo Real tech specialist.
Steven can be reached at: stevenslack @mundoreal.org