Brazil Trip Spring 2022


During a recent trip to Brazil, a few of DreamRoot's U.S. based management team furthered our mission of supporting local leaders in underserved communities.  We connected with current and new DreamRoot local leaders to encourage, train, and connect them with one another.


The trip took us across five states throughout the North and Northeast of the country. We visited six community-based social initiatives and connected with over 50 local leaders who are serving over 1,000 students and community members.  The focus was relationship and capacity building that took us to the cities of Manaus and up the Amazon River, the Sertão of Alagoas, João Pessoa, Recife and Aldeia.



Visit to a Jiu Jitsu Social Initiative

We arrived in Fortaleza by Uber car and walked into a cafe on the corner of an obscure neighborhood. It was already dark, as the sun sets early near the equator. We then waited as the leaders and coaching team of a humble jiu jitsu social initiative trickled in.


The last to arrive was João Paulo, the founder and lead instructor of the program. He was late because he came by foot, after having worked all day peddling around town on his bike delivering food. A full-time job that is physically demanding but barely pays for his family’s needs. João volunteers his time three days a week leading and teaching jiu jitsu classes for underprivileged children and youth in one of the most violent communities in the northeast of Brazil.


We enjoyed a meal of meat-filled croissants – French inspired with a Brazilian flare, with nine coaches and some of their families. All of us were fully in the present as we shared stories, laughed together. As we listened to one another’s thoughts, dreams, and visions a clear message was conveyed: they are each valued and are not alone.


The dinner conversation progressed naturally toward a shared passion: using jiu jitsu as a tool to transform lives. DreamRoot Programs Director Tony Passos began sharing practical tips on curriculum development, strategic planning, operational excellence, self-leadership, and strategies to build and empower a coaching team in a way that elevates the standard of excellence while reducing the operational burden the leaders carry. Tony’s 20+ years of experience training jiu jitsu, teaching students, coaching coaches, and running both academies and an international affiliation gives him a unique and valuable perspective that is both empowering and appreciated by these coaches.


Our time together around the table continued for a couple hours as the questions from the coaching team kept coming. The coaches were hungry to learn. They leaned into the opportunity to gain tailored feedback and soaked up tried and true insights that would equip them to run high-quality programs to further enrich their students’ lives while positioning the leadership team for sustainable success by practicing healthy boundaries and caring for themselves and others.



Like most people leading social initiatives in communities like this, the coaching team had never had formal training or mentoring in how to run such a program. Instead, they saw a need in their community, they had a passion and technical skills, and stepped up to begin serving and teaching. They now had someone at the table who comes from where they come from, understands their reality, and who has “made it,” by becoming a successful and recognized entrepreneur and jiu jitsu professional in the U.S.  Someone who has also returned to give back, sharing what he has learned, connecting them with others, and making a way for them to progress and go even further.


As we finished our dinner, a newfound hope and encouragement marked the room. They expressed their sincere gratitude for us sharing our time and knowledge. A spark of life was back in the team’s eyes and a pep in their step to keep going. Their vision for their communities and their reason for showing up to make a change through sports and education was rejuvenated. Being connected with others who understand, can lend an ear, and provide informed guidance is a lifeline.


On a Friday night, we visited their jiu jitsu social project. Not sure if we had arrived at the right place, we eventually found our way to a small, rented space located above an auto body shop. There were about 40 kids in attendance that day. We learned that all of the students come from a single parent household where many of the fathers are either dead or in prison due to drug trafficking and related violence. Sadly, this is the reality in many similar communities.  Some students were training in their regular clothes because they did not have the means to own their own uniform (gi).

Thanks to our generous supporters, DreamRoot was able to donate 50 gis to students of this and two other social initiative projects.


The jiu jitsu programs are offered to families that do not have the resources or opportunities to participate in such activities. It is here, on the mats, where students and their parents experience healthy connections and role models, and learn life skills like respect, self-discipline, and teamwork.


The Need for Leadership Presence and Leader Support

One of our biggest takeaways from this trip is the need for connection. Networking with others and having access to the tools and resources to equip and encourage them to press on and go higher together is vital. Without these leaders remaining in the fight, being present in the community and showing up for the current and future generations, there is little hope for change and improvement of circumstances.


These local leaders are volunteering their time and sacrificing their own comfort and convenience to show up in tough locations for those who are falling through the cracks and to be a light in dark places. These leaders are all but unknown to the outside world. They do their work without fanfare or accolades, and often without the tools, resources and support they need. Nonetheless they continue to show up, work to figure things out as they go, muscling through each day. But it takes a toll.


The role of a leader of a project, team, or organization is inherently not easy. Leading social change in impoverished, violent, and corrupt communities, comes with added challenges that can wear anyone out. There is a deep need for intentional care for these leaders to function well, be healthy and have the sustained ability to carry on their work while raising up others to do the same.


DreamRoot is committed to continue providing on-going local leader support. Our team keeps up with these local leaders throughout the month with group and one-on-one coaching and mentoring calls and training workshops. Our goal is to scale our operations to partner with more local leaders in need, so they are equipped to further the mission and increase the impact collectively.


Additional Trip Activities

Throughout the trip, facilitated several Train the Trainer (T3) workshops, conducted jiu jitsu seminars for students, spoke at a conference for indigenous leaders in the Amazon, and worked with a local ministry in Recife in their initiatives including engaging with teenage girls at their orphanage and attending the weekly youth night for pre-teens and teenagers in the community.


A pivotal activity of DreamRoot is on-going local leader networking. During three site visits and workshops, a few local DreamRoot leaders traveled with us to visit and network with local leaders in neighboring states. When local leaders connect with one another, a mutually reinforcing and sustainable momentum takes place. They gain a support network of people in similar situations, whom they can relate to, learn from, celebrate wins together, act as a sounding board and encourage each other when times are tough.


In addition to the site visits and training workshops, we continue to invest in our own learning and growth. While in Brazil, members from DreamRoot’s management team attended a three-day Team Care training workshop focused on mental and emotional support for those working under taxing conditions. This further equips us to strengthen local leaders and develop effective training and services.



Looking Forward 

Members of DreamRoot’s management team plan to return to the Northeast of Brazil in October 2022 where they will host 12 U.S. students from Team Passos Jiu Jitsu as a cross-culture exchange. During the trip they will train jiu jitsu with Brazilian students in the communities, visit the DreamRoot Arte Suave Training Center, and share meals together. While in-country, we will further connect with local leaders and facilitate in-person training workshops.


Moving forward, DreamRoot will continue to work with these current and emerging leaders and amplify our networking, operational advising, leadership coaching, and support, so they are positioned to continue to transform their communities and multiply leaders.


Thank you to each of you for believing in this mission of equipping and launching local leaders to transform their communities and future generations. We are grateful for your partnership.


Our need for partners to financially support this work is essential.  Please consider becoming a monthly donor or providing a one-time gift by visiting



Amy Passos

Executive Director, DreamRoot Leadership Institute

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