From working in the remote areas of the Amazon rainforest to the low-income suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, health promoter Marcelo Ribas is now focusing his attention on Nelson’s youth.
The Brazilian is six months into his role as the CAYAD (Community Action on Youth and Drugs) coordinator at community-based organisation, Health Action Trust.
The Ministry of Health-funded programme is aimed at reducing the harm youth experience from alcohol and other drugs by supporting young people as well as leaders from organisations and schools.
Marcelo says the job is a “dream come true”.
“I always wanted to come to New Zealand. I’ve been dreaming about it for a long time.”
He landed in the country three years ago to study health services management in Auckland.
“Of course, I ended up falling in love with the kiwi way of life, so I decided to bring my family to live here.”
His partner Regina and youngest daughter Esther joined him last year while his oldest daughter Laura stayed in Brazil to study medicine.
When the job came up in Nelson, he jumped at the opportunity.
“My daughter often says, ‘thank you, dad, for bringing me here’.”
Marcelo says his passion for health promotion started in 1999 when he joined the public health sector in Brazil after a career as a dentist.
“As a public health promotion professional, I had the privilege of working and living for many years, with several indigenous peoples of different ethnicities, in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and in the low-income suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.”
He now hopes to contribute his skills, experiences, and knowledge to the Nelson community.
“This is what I was looking for. I hope to engage communities and help to support young people to reach their full potential and make good decisions.
“When you work with young people, you renew yourself all the time. I like to be with young people because they are the future.”