Stuck Between a First World and a Third World Country

Mariah Donnelly - Brazil


April 25, 2012

Out of all three of the countries that Global Citizen Year takes students (the other two being Senegal and Ecuador) Brasil is by far the most developed. I think it would be pretty safe to say that two countries previously mentioned fall pretty well into the third world category, but what about Brasil? Where does Brasil stand? Why would Global Citizen Year send a bunch of teenage students who want to embark on volunteer-base journey to a country that is already pretty developed and doesn’t really need foreign assistance?

This year Brasil surpassed the United Kingdom in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making Brasil the sixth largest economy in the world, which is saying a lot considering only ten years ago Brasil was considered to be in a spot of economic despair and had piles of debt (http://www.economist.com/node/21550280).  A high gross domestic product usually is indicative of high living standards within a country so one might find it safe to assume that because Brasil’s GDP is growing at a rapid rate that its living standards and its journey to becoming a first-world nation is also rapidly increasing. After living here for the past 7 months, I can say that Brasil is definitely beyond that of a third-world country but there is still a long way to go. Yes, Brasil has come a long way in a lot of aspects (healthcare, reduction of the debt, overall development) and very well may become a first world country in the next twenty years, but in many aspects Brasil is still combating a lot of third-world problems.

Brasil has one of  the largest rich-poor gaps in th world (http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8659).  Poverty is still ever-present. There are neighborhood’s full of favelas, low – income housing areas where crime is rampant and often neglected. In Salvador, where I used to live you can often find raw feces and sewage in the streets, and kids without shoes or clothes.  The murder rate alone in Salvador is four times that of the United States.  But at the same time Brasil is combating a lot of first-world problems. As Brasil is becoming a rapidly growing nation it has to deal with environmental concerns such as how to deal with the protection and usage of the Amazon.  What does a country do when they literally have a diamond mine worth of natural resources in its backyard but they also are  getting pressure from the entire world to reserve its biggest “key” to success and development.  The Brazilian government also deals with strict business regulations and tariffs in order to keep Brazilian jobs in Brasil and keep nationally produced prices low and foreign good prices high.

I battled with myself over the issue of Brasil not being the typical third world country a lot over my gap year. I kept thinking that I wasn’t being pushed hard enough because I still have a shower and bathroom that are indoors while some of  my counterparts in Ecuador and Senegal don’t even have electricity. I kept thinking to myself why Global Citizen Year decided to send student s to a city and a country that at times feels like they don’t even need our assistance. But when I sit and reflect the answer to this seems obvious.  How often does someone in their lifetime get to live in a country and a city that is just in-between?  There are a lot of countries that fit the first-world and the third-world status, but how many countries really fit in the second-world category? I feel forever grateful that I was chosen to go to Brasil; I have been able to experience growth in its rawest and purest form.  And as for the concept of FOMO (the fear of missing out) on something else, well I promise you, if you ever find yourself living in Brasil for 7 months, you definitely are not missing out.

Mariah Donnelly