• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Community-Based Tourism in Vila da Volta

This project will bring small-scale, sustainable tourism to the fishing community of Vila da Volta, in the Brazilian state of Ceara. The town of Volta, home to about 1,200 people, is currently facing a series of tough choices. With fish stocks decling rapidly, families are finding it difficult to make their living from the rivers or the sea. But industrial shrimp farms, which have become increasingly common in the area, offer only limited employment at great environmental cost.

Volta is only 20 km from Canoa Quebrada, one of the most popular beach destinations in Northeastern Brazil. Bringing tourists into the community for boat rides, nature walks, dance performances, and meals could generate supplementary income for Volta families. Leaders in Volta are extremely enthusiastic about the idea of community-based tourism, and a local NGO has already agreed to provide support. Small investments in training, infrastructure and promotional materials will allow the tourism project in Volta to get off the ground.

Personal Statement 

I don't think that change ever starts with a brilliant idea or a transformative moment. I'm skeptical about the ability of commited and passionate individuals to alter the world. For me, social change -- and especially social entrepreneurship -- has to begin with relationships. No new venture, no matter how perfectly concieved, can take root or flourish without community support.

What I want to emphasize, then, is that this isn't my project. This is a project started by people from Vila da Volta, and they will be the ones to see it through. My role is to offer resources -- time, money, connections -- that the community would otherwise lack. 

I spent a month in Volta this fall as part of a study abroad program that I was doing in the state of Ceara. It was among the most intense, difficult, and wonderful months of my life. The people I met there -- Francisco, Diana, Meninina -- continually inspire me with their dedication and commitment, and I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to work with them again.