UMass senior plans alternative spring break in Brazil


Grace Burton-Sundman is not the only Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) graduate planning a humanitarian mission. Sophia Grimm of Oak Bluffs, MVRHS 2007, and daughter of Cynthia Brown and Thomas Grimm, is fundraising now for an “Alternative Spring Break” next March. Twelve students from UMass Boston, where Ms. Grimm is a senior in anthropology, hope to help address the social inequality gap in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The trip is in partnership with the Center for Environmental Education (CEA), a non-governmental organization founded in 1992 by Maril Medeiros, a local resident, as a creative way to empower women and free them from the crime and violence that plagues their community in southern Brazil. One solution is an initiative where community members sort trash and sell recyclables for profit.

“Traveling — learning about different cultures, trying new things, and meeting people unlike myself — is something that I have always enjoyed doing,” Ms. Grimm said in an email to The Times. “With each adventure and every person that I have met along the way, I have gained a better understanding of the world around me and my place within it. The least I can do for those who have given so much by welcoming me into their homes and lives is to show my gratitude through service. It is my goal to work with these people, side by side, to help them build a better future for their children so that they too will one day have the opportunity to make a positive impact on this world.”

From March 14 to 24, the students will travel to Porto Alegre and work side by side with community members in the trash recycling facility, as well as building a community garden, assisting in repairs to the community center, and conducting English lessons and sports activities aimed at promoting increased inclusion of teen community members.

“While recent statistics rank Brazil as one of the world’s bigger economies, the country is also among the most socially unequal on the planet. . .”” Ms. Grimm wrote.”Over 20 percent of the population — 40 million people — live under the poverty line and 7 percent…are extremely poor.”

The total cost of the trip for 12 students and a trip leader is $19,181, of which $6,625 is subsidized by UMass Boston. The students must raise the rest. Ms. Grimm writes, “I personally still have over $1,000 that I must raise.”

Persons wishing to donate to Ms. Grimm’s trip may do so at