Saudade: News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

Brazilian Faces: Natalia Fernanda Ribeiro

Natalia Fernanda A. Ribeiro, a Brazilian volunteer at the Island Food Pantry. — Courtesy Juliana Germani

This column is about Island Food Pantry volunteer Natalia Ribeiro — my first Brazilian Faces ever since the pandemic started. The definition of who experiences food insecurity has changed since COVID began; food insecurity is very complex and nuanced. Food is a human right, and I know that many Island community members are grateful that the Food Pantry serves our community.

When did you come to the Island, and how did you get here?
The first time I came to the U.S. was in 2018, and I ended up on the Island per a friend’s recommendation that told me about the Island. I always wanted to travel internationally but never had the opportunity.

What were some of the lessons you learned as you started to volunteer for the Food Pantry?
If you don’t know what asking for help looks like, consider yourself lucky, but your first instinct should not be to turn away from those in need or be distrustful of them. Everyone should volunteer at a food bank — it will open your eyes to what food insecurity is and how it affects more people than you think.

Do you have any advice for newly arrived immigrants?
You have to know that you will work a lot. This place is not for people who are not willing to work hard. You will have to give your all. Also, know who to trust; just because someone is from the same country as you does not mean that they will have your best interest at heart. If I could give just one piece of advice, it is learn English. If you want to have your independence and achieve your goals, you will not do it if you don’t know English.

What do you look forward to as we hopefully emerge from the pandemic?
I hope to travel, become even more fluent in English, and see my family again.