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Shy Teen Finds His Voice and His Vocation


Rafael poses with volunteers from Alcatel-Lucent during a workshop where students practiced interviewing for jobs
The son of extremely poor parents, 17-year-old Rafael* had always studied at public schools in the city suburbs, had always been very shy, was never able to form a relationship with his school colleagues, and always hid himself away in the shadows. According to Rafael, he was an average student and did not earn excellent grades. He was never very talkative at home.

This was Rafael’s life before joining ConnectEd. But this shy teenager would ultimately challenge the staff of ConnectEd Brazil’s implementing partner, Aliança, and provide them with one of the happiest moments this year as he underwent a remarkable change.

Under the ConnectEd program, Rafael joined the Social Retail School at the Barueri Center in Sao Paolo, which provides youth with life skills training alongside vocational skills and work placement in the social retail sector. When Rafael arrived at the Social Retail School, he was extremely introverted. It seemed like he wanted to disappear into himself! He did not raise his head when speaking to people. He spoke very quietly, and his eyes-- when he allowed them to be seen -- were dull and lifeless. Luckily, the staff soon formed an alliance with Rafael. They realized that he wanted to let go of his fears and face the world.

It happened gradually. First, Rafael held his head higher. Then, he made brief eye contact and spoke with a stronger voice. One day, Rafael went to the front of the classroom and presented part of his group work. He was extremely nervous and said he was afraid that he would not be able to do it. However, just by having the courage to present, Rafael had already started to open up!

Overcoming his shyness was one of Rafael’s goals. Another was to be able to find his first job and to be admitted to a university to study administration. Rafael wanted to work in a professional environment with other people. He had long cherished this dream, so it became part of his “life project,” supported by his work with ConnectEd.

Each day Rafael overcame small challenges, asked questions, and defended his ideas in group work. He even stood up to ask a question at a talk given by international executives. His confidence in delivering the thoughtful and relevant question astonished the ConnectEd staff. Rafael recently took part in a job selection process with 56 other young people, and he was selected! Rafael has blossomed and has been able to overcome his shyness.

*Name has been changed