We believe in building a more relevant, collaborative, and responsible classroom.

Mission

Amizade inspires empathy, catalyzes social action, and links diverse communities through Fair Trade Learning.

Vision

To create a world where diverse communities connect freely, forge lasting relationships, and build a more just planet together.

Values

Amizade’s values are present and interconnected on any program.

  1. Community-Driven Service | Amizade has a 24-year record of cooperating with communities on service that local individuals and organizations define and direct. We not only cooperate with communities on issue identification, we also work collaboratively on project implementation, continuous evaluation, and regular improvements.
  2. Deliberate Learning | One of Amizade’s core assumptions is that context matters. We cooperate with community members and organizations to educate Amizade participants about local culture, local concerns, and local assets.
  3. Intercultural Immersion and Exchange | Amizade encourages connections across cultures. Through cooperative service efforts, deliberate local learning, and in some cases, homestays, Amizade experiences ensure deep learning about cultural assumptions, worldviews, and of course the concerns and happiness that we all hold in common.
  4. Consideration of Global Citizenship | Amizade invites all participants to reflect on fundamental human equality and how we might each work to build a world where human life is treated more equally across traditional cleavages of ethnicity, nation, class, or gender. Consideration of personal, political, and economic opportunities for enacting global citizenship provides Amizade participants with the opportunity to extend their global civic service beyond their Amizade program.
  5. Reflective Inquiry | All of the preceding themes are woven together through a final core Amizade value, which is reflective inquiry. The questions we face when engaged in intercultural service around the world are often difficult. And it can be challenging to stay connected to global civic engagement after a short-term experience. But Amizade believes strongly that it is important to continue asking: What is service? How have I learned from others’ cultures? What do I understand better about my own? How can I value others around the world, even from my home? What are the ways I can be a good global citizen right here? These are just a few examples, but Amizade encourages reflective inquiry throughout experiences and afterward.

History

Amizade is the product of hundreds of service-learning pioneers who have engaged in over two decades of programmatic and academic development; it is the result of never-ending efforts by communities around the world; and it is an ongoing global movement by over 12,000 volunteers.

Daniel Weiss in Brazil

After having received his master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1992, Daniel Weiss did what all socially conscious 20-somethings do; he entered the nonprofit sector. A failed attempt to start a nonprofit and a couple of quasi-fulfilling jobs later, he began to apply to doctoral programs.  As he was waiting to hear back from potential Ph.D. programs, Daniel decided to volunteer in Togo, West Africa. Unfortunately (or for the development of Amizade, fortunately) Daniel was unable to go to Togo due to political unrest and instability.  He quickly applied to several international humanitarian organizations and was given a position at an organization called Fundação Esperança in Santarém, Brazil as an ESL teacher and assistant administrator.

Fundação Esperança is a Brazilian non-profit organization that has been providing health care to the people of the lower Amazon basin for over thirty years. In addition to providing medical and dental services, Esperança operates a program which counsels and educates teenagers about issues surrounding substance abuse, sexual activity, and violence.  Esperança also runs a community health program which drills wells and teaches people about proper nutrition and hygiene.

In the fall of 1993, Daniel Weiss began his Ph.D. studies at the University of Minnesota. While working on his doctorate, Daniel felt drawn to the Amazon.  He wanted to help the people of  Santarém, and he wanted to give people the opportunity to enjoy the rich culture and warmth of the Brazilian people as he had.  In the summer of 1994, he founded Amizade.

Sloth

Amizade, the Portuguese word for friendship, was set up as a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism, providing community service, encouraging collaboration, and improving cultural awareness in locations throughout the world.

At the time, Weiss noted that many people want to help around the world, but do not know where to start, while many human service and environmental groups need volunteers but did not have the time or resources to develop projects which fully utilize the talents, skills, and desires of the volunteers. The result is that organizations and volunteers both become disappointed and disenfranchised with the process.  Amizade was created to provide opportunities for individuals and groups to be able to take part in educational, environmental, health, welfare, and other service projects around the world.  Volunteers do not need to have any special skills, only a willingness to help. Amizade was designed to collaborate with existing community-based organizations to develop projects which are both beneficial to the community and enjoyable to the volunteers.

Daniel Weiss on the Beach

After finishing his Ph.D. in 1996, Weiss began to work for Amizade full time.  By 1998, Amizade volunteers had built an orthopedic workshop and a dormitory for APAE, a Brazilian non-profit organization providing health, education, and social services to low-income handicapped children; built a vocational training center and a self-sustaining silk screening workshop for the Pastoral do Menor, a program that works with youth at risk in Santarém and constructed two additional dorm rooms and a children’s health clinic, which now serves a community of 20,000, for Esperança, a non-profit healthcare organization. Also in 1998 Weiss received a Giraffe Hero Commendation, given to people who stick their necks out for the common good.

In the late 1990s Amizade exploded. After a series of very successful university partnerships, it became clear that Amizade’s expertise was not limited to volunteer vacations; rather the programs that were perhaps most transformational were with college students. From experiential learning projects in Montana to renovate a historic ranch and build an environmental research station to working with the Korrawinga Aboriginal Community in Australia, by 2004 Amizade had worked with over 20 communities in 13 countries.

Since it’s inception, over 12,000 volunteers from all over the world have participated on Amizade programs. The results have been nothing short of incredible. Everyday Amizade empowers a new global citizen; everyday Amizade helps a community see local improvement; and everyday Amizade helps to create a leader for tomorrow. These benchmarks don’t begin to consider the long-lasting impacts of new global friendships that have been forged through Amizade partnerships.