Change & Innovation, Justice

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 6

Turning disease into health and wellness

Dr. Antonio Eduardo Fernandes D’Aguiar (Brazil ’96) was a surgeon treating disease in the body at the time of his fellowship to the United States in 1996. He credits his fellowship for revolutionizing the way he viewed his profession and the role that he wanted to play as a doctor. When he returned to Brazil, he made a radical transition to focus on preventative health and wellness. He realized he was treating patients at the tail-end of their health concerns, and could make much more of an impact by helping individuals achieve greater levels of wellness before they even got sick. He has been working as a Healthcare Manager for a corporation, ARCADIS, where he is responsible for the health and well-being for employees. Listen below to hear his story.


Providing safe and alternative spaces for children in Chile

In Santiago, Chile, Fundación Ganémosle a la Calle (Let’s Win the Streets Foundation), an innovative urban nonprofit, will dramatically deepen and expand its groundbreaking after-school sports recreation programs to give thousands of disadvantaged children new opportunities to escape the dangers of street life. Eisenhower Fellow Maria Gracia Carvallo (Chile ’18), executive director of Ganémosle, plans to increase the number of children in the foundation’s programs from 500 to 3,000 over the next five years and expand the organization’s reach from the streets of Santiago to rural regions of Chile. In addition to providing structured, supervised recreational outlets for Chilean youth, the foundation will develop new nutritional and psychological programs to instill and reinforce healthy lifestyle habits. Maria Gracia is applying new ideas and approaches she learned in the United States during her Eisenhower Fellowship to craft new ways to tell Ganémosle’s story and attract long-term financial support. Her vision is to grow her organization across her country in a sustainable way and provide safe, alternative spaces after school doors close that nourish Chilean children’s full potential.


Creating opportunities for the youth of Buenos Aires

In Argentina, 50% of students don’t graduate from high school, 50% of graduates don’t reach minimum reading and math standards and youth unemployment is double the national rate. Fundación Junior Achievement, an innovative global nonprofit, will dramatically deepen its impact over the next five years from 7,500 to 120,000 students from the province and city of Buenos Aires to prepare and inspire them for the world of work and higher studies in a context of fast changing Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Eisenhower Fellow Noël Zemborain (Argentina ’19), executive director of JA, is crafting a robust scale-up strategy that includes deepening strategic partnerships with the private and public sector. She will apply new ideas and approaches learned during her Eisenhower Fellowship in order to create a comprehensive curriculum that includes project- and competency-based programs and performance assessments on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness. By 2021, she intends to launch pilot programs to foster internships, design a blended teacher training course and network and a robust measurement and evaluation framework. Ultimately, she envisions transforming JA into a strong advocate and research base for innovation in public education.

Change & Innovation, Justice

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 5: Financial reform in Colombia and Brazil

Colombia’s Minister of Housing has big plans for ending a cash-infused economy

Jonathan Malagon (Colombia ’17)

Colombia’s economic and national development has been hindered by significant levels of criminal activity: smuggling, terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption. All of these activities, which are fundamentally economic transactions, can be eliminated or mitigated by moving the bulk of Colombian economic activity away from cash and towards cashless alternatives such as card payments or electronic payments that can be traced and investigated by authorities. Additionally, the use of cash allows for a shadow economy that, while legitimate, is out of the reach of taxation, thereby hindering the ability of the state to effectively govern and provide public services.

Alfonso Vegara (Spain ’87), featured on the right, with Jonathan Malagon (Colombia ’17) meeting in Spain to discuss urban development and how Colombia can advance its housing policies in the newest political administration.

Jonathan Malagon (Colombia ’17), as then-vice president of Colombia’s National Banking Association, ASOBANCARIA, one of the most influential business associations in Colombia, used his Eisenhower Fellowship to develop a national plan to transition the country’s economy towards cashless transactions. During the fellowship, he developed a number of actionable steps, including a revised regulatory framework that will allow for new technologies and players to participate in electronic banking, best practices in preventing money laundering in the banking system and a set of research initiatives aimed at cultural and other systemic barriers to encouraging electronic payments by consumers, merchants and the banking system.

Jonathan Malagon (Colombia ’17) learns from seasoned urban developer and visionary Alfonso Vegara (Spain ’87) in Europe.

 Access to affordable personal loans makes weathering financial challenges possible in Brazil

Thiago Alvarez (Brazil ’14) at work with his team at Guiabolso.

Thiago Alvarez (Brazil ’14) started an online platform to make personal financial management possible for the middle class in São Paulo and beyond. As CEO of Guiabolso, Thiago came on his Eisenhower Fellowship to learn about U.S. financial markets, fintech innovations and other tools that he could bring back to Brazil. The result was making personal loans available to those in need at a substantially lower-rate than the existing market. Average personal loans cost more than 320% per year in the Brazilian market, but Thiago’s company is able to offer loans with a rate of 58.3% per year that users are able to access online through an app. Access to lower-cost loans protect families in crisis who may take out loans to take care of emergency medical expenses and other unforeseen monthly expenses.

Listen here for his lessons learned and unique Eisenhower experience.

Change & Innovation

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 4: The Digital Forest

Mauro Rebelo (Brazil ’14) hangs suspended from the trees collecting DNA samples of rain forest species.

The Digital Forest, led by Mauro Rebelo (Brazil ’14), Professor at Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas Filho, aims to sequence all of the species from the Atlantic forest, one of the main biodiversity hot-spots in the planet. The estimated market of pharmaceuticals derived from this tropical forest is US$110 billion, yet the life-saving potential of the forest remains untapped. The goal of the Digital Forest is to digitize endangered species, document their genetic code to protect them, and open up opportunities to address the sustainability goals of the United Nations to guarantee our existence on the planet in the future.

The Digital Forest solves this problem by digitizing the forest: converting the chemical and biological information of plants to digital data. With that data, they not only use artificial intelligence to find and select metadata that validates and aggregates value to the biological data, but also run simulations that save time and money in product development.

In 2017, Mauro won the EF iLab competition in Malaga, Spain, at the Future of Work Global Conference for his breakthrough work with the Digital Forest project. He connects the acceleration of product discovery and development for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and biotech from the Atlantic rain forest with the growth of PhD scientists contributing to the overall GDP of Brazil. Watch him deliver his winning project talk here.

Mauro Rebelo (Brazil ’14) presenting his winning project, the Digital Forest, at the EF Future of Work Global Conference in Malaga, Spain.
Change & Innovation

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 3: Expanding educational opportunities for gifted, innovative students in Peru

Sheyla Blumen (Peru ’11)

The year before Sheyla Blumen (Peru ’11) left for her fellowship in the U.S., Peru only had one school that served the needs of highly gifted students throughout the entire country. In less than a decade, Sheyla has influenced public policy in her country so that gifted children from rural poverty conditions can learn from attending one of the 25 schools serving a total of 8,000 students now in place. Through her foundation, Mente Futura (translated as Future Minds), she is able to work directly with gifted learners from vulnerable conditions and their families and provide emotional support, creativity, skills and talent development. 

Mente Futura is one of three recognized Associated Talent Centers of the European Council for High Ability in Latin America. Mente Futura is leading the way to bringing high quality educational opportunities for gifted young people throughout not only Peru, but the continent.

Sheyla talks about the ripple effect that investing in these particularly gifted students has on their communities. “They think about how to improve the living conditions of their own towns, their home towns. Many of them go back and never disconnect from their families…because family is very important here in Peru.” The students go on to study medicine, engineering and science, and think about ways to go home and increase living conditions for their families and loved ones living in poverty.

Sheyla believes that “education is the best tool to transform civilization,” and we see that through the investment in the gifted students. Her efforts have given her the recognition needed to become a general member of the International Association of Applied Psychology, one of the oldest associations in the world dedicated to psychology. She is the first and only Peruvian member to be elected. She is also a professor of psychology at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Finding her voice as a woman in a patriarchal society was no easy feat, but she overcame this challenge thanks to the people she met while on fellowship. The greatest lesson she learned was how to “convince people to do what has to be done. Not for me, but for my country. I have a voice, and I need to use it.”

Sheyla persisted with her advocacy for gifted children through three different federal government administrations that wanted to shut down the schools, but instead influenced them to build ten more each time, overturning the criticism that the schools were seen as a service for the elite and against national egalitarian efforts. She was able to convince those in charge that every child deserves to reach their potential, and the answer isn’t to hold people back from learning, but to give them an opportunity to do so.

Now her objective is to expand this across her country to rural areas and across the Latin American and Caribbean region. Listen below for her story.

Fellows from Peru at the home of Sheyla Blumen (Peru ’11) in February 2019. Sheyla, featured in the center, stands with George de Lama, Eisenhower Fellowships’ President on the right.
Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 2

Eloy Oliveira (Brazil ’19)

Strengthening the public sector in Brazil

Brazil has more than 12 million civil servants. According to a 2017 research study, Brazil is the world’s second least satisfied country regarding the quality of public service. In spite of this, the Brazilian Government has no assessments or data regarding its civil service engagement, and does not consider this problem to be part of the public agenda.

Eisenhower Fellow Eloy Oliveira (Brazil ’19), CEO of Instituto República, an organization focused on promoting professional development within Brazil’s public-service sector, will develop a workplace assessment survey to diagnose issues within the public sector and provide valuable insights about current engagement of civil servants. The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of the country’s civil service and the service delivered to citizens.

Prior to starting his fellowship, Eloy initiated a collaboration with the Office of Personal Management at the Brazilian Federal Government to discuss the possible implementation of this new workplace assessment tool. Eloy shared early findings with them during his fellowship and has already started refining the plan to get the first survey up and running. He also involved scholars and experts in the discussion. The idea is to start with the Brazilian Federal Government, which has 1.2 million civil servants and could directly impact the lives of the over 200 million inhabitants of Brazil. He plans to launch the first survey later this year and expects to process its results within the next 12 months.


Changing the innovation landscape in Latin America

Bruno Rondani (Brazil ’13), CEO of 100 Open Startups, is masterfully changing the innovation landscape in Latin America through the platform he created, 100 Open Startups. As an accomplished engineer and entrepreneur, Bruno had started and already sold his company by the time he became an Eisenhower Fellow. What he took away from his experience was the knowledge and vision that helped him to try something completely new: scale up his startup know-how and expand it so that many, many others could benefit as well.

Bruno Rondani (featured at the far right) is a 2013 Fellow from Brazil.

The new platform he created brings together entrepreneurs, universities, large multi-national corporations and investors so that startups can be evaluated and ranked by leading corporate executives and matched with appropriate partners. Often, corporations might be looking for innovative solutions that entrepreneurs have already created, and just need to be connected. Some of the problems that need solving are broad and have included public services, healthcare and well being, sports, retail, energy and future of education to name a few.

Based in São Paulo, Bruno expanded his platform to nine other cities in Brazil and has expanded to Bogota, Lima, Santiago and Mexico City. His goal is always to first connect those who are in the same city and then he helps connect cities with other cities for cross-pollination. The ripple effect of innovation can be felt all the way to Miami, the gateway to Latin America where he operates a U.S. hub.

With success of this model in his region of the world, Bruno is also piloting the model in Bangalore, India, where he says the city is similar to São Paulo, including the number of universities, investors and entrepreneurs. The aim is to eventually take 100 Open Startups across the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Listen to Bruno tell his story below.


Mama River: Strengthening and expanding the work of community health advocates in rural areas across Peru

Magaly Blas (Peru ’18), Director of the Mama River Program at Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University, trains community health advocates to work in remote areas along the Amazon River with an emphasis on newborn and maternal care. The Mama River Program is a health outreach program that uses smartphone technology to deliver educational content and documents and that monitors vital records and health statistics of pregnant women and newborns residing in remote rural areas of the Amazon region of Peru. In the program’s first year, Mama River workers brought community education videos and safe birth delivery kits to 799 women of childbearing age in 13 riverine communities. In 2016, she received the Elsevier Foundation Award for “early career women scientists in the developing world.” While on Fellowship, Magaly expanded on the creation of a Mama River Program spin-off called Ikara: Innovation and knowledge to improve health.” Her goal is to scale-up Mama River so it can be deployed more widely, including in the border area between Peru and Colombia, where a common interest in improving health could spark a better relationship between the countries.

The program also enhances access to health care and other social services for these under-served communities. Within the three years after completion of Magaly’s fellowship, Mama River will have diversified sources of revenue by testing these four models of sustainability identified during fellowship meetings:

  • Adoption of the program by the government (Ministry of Health and regional governments)
  • Adoption of the program by companies working in rural areas (e.g. extraction companies working in the Amazon or Andes)
  • Creation of a social enterprise that will allow generation of program revenue
  • Application to private funders that may include: grants, charity donations, crowdsource funding, sponsorship models, corporate social responsibility, and endowment.