Delegate Spotlight | Brazil, Columbia and Ghana: Lucas' Journey to Generate Constructive Impact
by Zachary Thomas
Lucas is a delegate driven by passion, pragmatism, and a deep desire to understand what is truly necessary when it comes to development. Through hard work and exposure to the world he aims to help, Lucas is growing his understanding of the challenges of global development and working to deepen his impact in our ever changing world.
Since he was very young, Lucas knew that he wanted to be a construction worker, to build, to create by his own hand and, for a few years, Lucas lived in a very poor area of Racife, Brazil, an experience which affected his perspective and future goals: “Naïve as I was, I wanted to do something great; I wanted to be someone great. Looking at my experiences from the time I spent in northeastern Brazil, one of the poorer regions of the country, it did not take much thought for me to decide what I would do with my life – develop infrastructure where it was needed most. After all, from my days of dreaming to be a construction worker I had always liked taking action.” In high school, he still dreamed of working in construction, but had decided he wanted to move this passion onto a global scale. However, like most high school kids, he had no idea where to start or even what he could do to contribute to the world.
When he arrived at Columbia University, Lucas found others who shared his views about the world and wanted do what they could to change it. He was stupefied by the authority his colleagues commanded when speaking about the subject of global development. Yet Lucas felt a disconnect: “When the topic of international development came up in lectures or in discussions, a wave of pessimism and disgust overtook the class. To my surprise, everybody seemed to see development work as imperialistic, culturally insensitive, self-glorifying volunteering aimed more at pleasing the volunteers than solving the problems of the target community. After a bit of research, I realized they were right.” For many, including Lucas, this is a hard truth to bear. After a long process of raw self reflection, Lucas realized something about himself, his intentions and his original goals getting involved in international development. “In fact, my own reasons for planning to work in infrastructure development were not quite as valiant as my high school self had thought. Sure, I wanted to help those in need. Nonetheless, I wanted to feel heroic, to feel accomplished, to feel that I stepped away from the norm for the greater good. How could I have seriously thought I could challenge such a deeply engraved issue facing so much of the planet? I was naïve. I was young. Worst of all, I was scared.”
Even so, Lucas was determined to more intentionally help those people in need. He joined Engineers without Borders, an organization that combined his two passions: Construction and philanthropy work. Lucas, with his new perspective on the potential pitfalls of global development, knew that he had to experience this world for himself. He signed up to go to Ghana with the team and “After a few weeks, and especially after my second trip, I learned more about myself and about development than I could have ever learned in a class. Eating the food Ghanaians ate, living in the homes they lived in, forming true friendships with the people I worked with, and experiencing just a taste of the difficulties they face bridged the gap between opening my eyes and changing my life. The problems facing development work are not unsolvable. They require dedication, patience, and getting one's hands dirty. There is a difference between failing to acknowledging the world's difficulties and being willing to work through them. That is why I am not a visionary. I am an optimist." During Lucas’ four years in Ghana, he has helped to design latrines constructed in 2012 in a rural Ghanaian village, led the effort to develop a system that pumps water from an aquifer to multiple spouts throughout the village, served as project leader for the pump’s construction and as program manager when, based on the success of their efforts, another town requested their help in building a very similar system.
Lucas is very excited to attend this year’s conference and hopes to meet others who are not only passionate about global development, but are also willing to challenge its imperfections and learn from each others' experiences. “I believe small-scale infrastructure projects like these are more feasible in terms of finances and sustainability, so I hope to continue this line of work far into my future. My dream has also been to be able to work in the slums, but the socioeconomic situation there is much more complex and poses problems for an outsider trying to work there.” At the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference, Lucas looks forward to developing more tools to help him achieve his goal, as well as to find others passionate about the same issues, with whom he can collaborate to make strides towards a better future.
Lucas is just one of the many amazing delegates already registered for the 7th annual Millennium Campus Conference the United Nations from August 11-15th where he, along with others from around the world, will come together to think, connect, and act to challenge the paradigms that perpetuate inequality and to redefine the world around us. Apply at mcc15.org/delegateapplication to join the movement and promote social change!