Peace Building and Finding Community: Paola Bellucci and Alesse Nunes as HelloWorld Hosts

Hello! This is the HelloWorld Host Team. This week we are happy to share with you the experience of Paola Bellucci and Alesse Nunes, a HelloWorld Host Family. The couple is originally from Brazil, and both are scholars of Peace Studies. Alesse and Paola both conduct projects based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which led them to work directly with the UN.

Paola founded the Cocoon app, a platform to help people build communities and support systems in countries far from home. She also has a project to empower children and protect them from danger. Alesse founded a project to help people who struggle with mental health issues. They also work as UN Content Creators, and created the “SDGs Creative Lab”, which brings workshops about SDGs to schools. They also are parents to young Hiroshi, whom was their primary motivation to join our program!

With this context, we were curious on how the HelloWorld Cultural Exchange helps them build their community abroad of Brazil, and how they associate their deep knowledge in SDGs and peace with the mission of HelloWorld and their hosting experience. As some of our most active hosts, they have hosted over 20 students since last year.

“…Creating these bridges, connecting universes of culture… HelloWorld does this in a way that seems more accessible and easy for everyone.”

—Why did you decide to join the program?

It was actually a funny coincidence. We are very engaged in the idea of global citizenship, and that is the foundation for us to raise our son. Once we knew we were expecting a baby, we wanted to raise him with the value of “Hello, World!”, that is, being open to the world. So we got extremely excited when we saw HelloWorld, which was introduced to us by a friend. It matches all of our ideals and the values for our baby! Another motivation was to have an environment similar to Brazil around our son. In Brazil, our houses are always open with guests over, cousins, friends… So we thought, this program can be that open door for our son— to have guests over for a weekend, as if they were our own family visiting.

—It’s so interesting that the value for raising your baby was of “Hello, World!” and now you are part in this program. How do you think your son has been reacting to his connection to the world?

Hiroshi loves it. He always enjoys having people over, and the guests also love to play with him. We are very happy he gets to have this type of experience, to grow up with this diversity and experience.

—That is wonderful. Diversity and cooperation is the foundation for peace building, which you both are scholars of. You also have projects for building support systems for immigrants. How do you think having the experience of HelloWorld Cultural Exchange has helped your own community building in Japan?

We think this opened things up, especially for our son, a lot. Cocoon, which is my (Paola) project to connect people and create a support system, was born from me and a friend who were struggling to find a support system around maternity. Once I finished my Master’s, the next week I found out I was pregnant. Everything changed very quickly. It was a challenge for us. In Brazil, we would have our siblings, parents, close friends helping us to raise and take care of our son. But here, we struggled with that, since we were newcomers. Motherhood opened us up to the importance of support systems and parents networks, to share, from parents to parents, the experiences. This was why we decided to join the program as well, to show Hiroshi, from a very early age, the importance of community.

—Talking about community, you have projects related to the United Nation’s SDGs. Could you explain to us a little more?

When our masters started, SDGs weren’t really talked about outside of our academic sphere. Today, we hear the words “peace” and “SDGs” a lot! It must have to do with the state of the world, currently, which sadly is far from peaceful. I (Alesse) follow SDGs and works around it ever since the UN released it. We got very impacted by it, and my thesis was around the idea of how common people, individuals, can create and develop the SDGs, which led me to work with the UN and the SDGs team. I am now a SDGs content creator with the UN and am very happy to contribute, we do workshops with young kids, for example, and try to expand the idea of SDGs.

—SDGs have a big impact in how many company and institutions work currently, and we also believe it’s very important to approach how us as individuals can expand them and build world peace. It is also a big part of HelloWorld as we strive to build peace through international cooperation. How do you relate your work as a social activist and SDGs to participating in our cultural exchange program?

There are many young people nowadays starting movements, for example Greta Thunberg, and many others who started small and now impact millions. I believe that is the main foundation of SDGs: to inspire people. And I see HelloWorld sharing exactly that mission, to create motivation through cultural exchange and inspiring people. I see that this program achieves many educational purposes! Of course, the language of English, but most importantly, the language of peace. By connecting people and cultures, it tells “learn, travel, expand yourself to the world!” We personally believe in that a lot, that when you meet and understand cultures that contributes to making the world more peaceful. It creates empathy inside individuals. Creating these bridges, connecting universes of culture… and HelloWorld does this in a way that seems more accessible and easy for everyone. You visit someone, inside your own country, and that shows you a whole other universe of possibilities. It shows that there is no absolute way of life, and to do this with children, which are our future, makes them stronger individuals and makes us extremely hopeful for the future.

—That is a beautiful consideration, and precisely what HelloWorld strives to achieve. Thank you so much, Paola and Alesse, for the wonderful interview and for being part of our program!

As Paola and Alesse have been doing this cultural exchange, they have connected with many students, and told us another joy is to be remembered by the guests even after the hosting: to get postcards and memories even long after the hosting shows that something that can be seen as a simple 2 day hosting experience is actually just the beginning of opening the guests to the world and its broad possibilities.

Through the HelloWorld Cultural Exchange Program, our amazing Host Families share their culture and their daily life with Japanese students by welcoming them into their homes. No matter if you are an experienced or a new host, our program is an opportunity for you to join a vibrant international community and make wonderful connections. If you are interested in learning more about it, we suggest taking a look at our previous Host Voice issue, “Bridging Cultures: The Inspiring Journey of Narayan and Manju GurJar as HelloWorld Hosts”

What is the HelloWorld Cultural Exchange Program?

HelloWorld provides educational experiences to connect international families living in Japan with locals who want to learn about diverse cultures. Through our Cultural Exchange Program, Japanese students who are unable to go abroad get to spend 24-48 hours at the homes of international families and get to experience the world in their own city.

So far, over 200+ host families have joined our program and 8000+ students have taken part in our cultural exchange.

Find more details on how to join us here!