Happy Birthday to Us!

This week we are celebrating DreamRoot Leadership Institute’s first anniversary!

In the twelve months since our formal establishment as a nonprofit, DreamRoot has made a variety of strides toward the fruition and expansion of our mission to provide essential leadership training, relationships, and resources to local leaders in underserved communities in order to reverse the cycles of poverty and promote human flourishing.


Planted in Brazil

The idea for DreamRoot Leadership Institute began germinating all the way back in 2008 during founders Amy and Tony Passos’ informal community service involvement in Tony's hometown of Recife, Brazil. Informal involvement eventually evolved into the implementation of Jiu Jitsu programs and then leadership training as a tool for community development. Here, Amy and Tony witnessed first-hand the effectiveness of community-based leadership and, simultaneously, the opportunity gap for local leaders to have access to the training, tools, networks and resources they need to contribute their talents more fully to the development and transformation of their communities.

We have much to celebrate since the launch of DreamRoot just one short year ago. Join us below as we reflect on memories and milestones from our first year of service made possible by your support.


Sprouting New Ideas

Using Jiu Jitsu as a conduit for creating community and developing life skills, DreamRoot Leadership Institute launched its first Leadership Cohort in January 2019, a six-month tailored program for leaders of Jiu Jitsu social projects. The cohort curriculum combines training and coaching on everything from academy operations to healthy self-leadership and team development; all while learning through peer collaboration and one-on-one mentorship.

These local Jiu Jitsu leaders are now collectively leading and training over 500 students in their programs. Beyond just Jiu Jitsu, we are collaborating with these leaders to sustainably expand their offerings to include additional training and educational programs like after school tutoring, English and entrepreneurship as well as counseling services for those who have suffered trauma and abuse.



Adapting to Changing Environments

Working in impoverished communities with vulnerable populations, the COVID crisis has hit many of our community members hard. We know that if a person's basic needs like food and shelter are not met, they will not be in a position to effectively learn, plan for a better tomorrow, and engage their talents in meaningful work today.

Therefore, over the past several months, we have prioritized provisional relief efforts in collaboration with our local leaders here in Northern Virginia, Brazil and Haiti. Over 120 families have been helped through food baskets and grocery store gift card donations. Through your support, students at the Arte Suave DreamRoot Training Center have been cooking meals in the newly renovated kitchen and distributing to fellow community members in need. These donations have put meals on tables in households that would have otherwise gone without food.


Cultivating the Digital Landscape

With the coronavirus, we have had to move our hybrid workshop and training to be 100 percent virtual for the time being. While we had plans to begin in-person English classes in Brazil this summer, in April we switched gears and launched an online multinational English language and leadership cohort.

To-date, we have run four ESL small groups with 32 students led by a team of 11 bilingual DreamRoot Instructors, teaching across 4 countries. In addition to providing ESL classes to women who would not otherwise be able to afford them, this program integrates peer learning and personalized tutoring with one-on-one mentorship.

The sentiment shared by students in this program is that this opportunity to attend English classes has been a life-long dream, but due to financial constraints, has been unattainable. By offering this online resource, participants are able to develop a skill, increase their self-confidence, improve their employability, participate in community, and benefit from mentorship.

English Class


Fertilizing Life Visions

Noticing that several community members were struggling with discouragement and hopelessness in the face of COVID which has added challenges to an already difficult life in the communities, we recently conducted a 5-week virtual Dream Legacy workshop led by certified Dream Coach, Henna Kinnunen. This workshop provided tailored training, group instruction, exercises and one-on-one coaching to community members.

During the five weeks, participants identifying their dreams, clarified their life visions, set goals, and strategized a plan to fulfill their dreams. Participants' shared that their takeaways included the realization that they are not confined to their less than ideal circumstances but have the power to design and carve out a path in life even beyond their wildest dreams.


Branching Out

An essential component of DreamRoot Leadership Institute’s work with local leaders is the ability to build on leadership skills acquired in service of local leaders’ communities. One of the components that has made our work in Recife so successful is the establishment of the Arte Suave DreamRoot Training Center where hands-on leadership training and relationships are built.

We are in the home stretch of completing the Arte Suave DreamRoot training Center in Paulista, Brazil. The renovation includes a Jiu Jitsu mat area, a fully operational kitchen, two classrooms, and a student lounge. The center, which is located in a highly drug-trafficked area, provides a safe environment where community members can convene to attend leadership and educational programs, be connected with mentors, and collaborate in community service and outreach initiatives.


Tilling New Soil 

The training centers located within communities are a lifeline to many lacking access to opportunities. These centers are safe harbors where students gain the chance to discover their potential, dream about possibilities, and be equipped to pioneer a new future for themselves and their communities.

This is why we are especially excited about land that was donated in the Sertão to Julio, one of our local Jiu Jitsu Leader cohort alumni. Where we work in the Sertão region of the state Alagoas is among the top three most impoverished districts in all of Brazil. DreamRoot is in the beginning planning stage to build and establish a second center on this donated property. This new high quality training center will be the only one of it's kind in the area, made accessible to community members.

Expanding on our first year of programming, we envision this training center and our Arte Suave Training Center to offer skills-based programming with leadership training and community services in order to offer hands-on training and development of emerging leaders while improving the well-being of communities in need.

Thank You for Celebrating Alongside Us!

Because of your generous contributions, DreamRoot will be able to sustain and increase:

  • Leadership training cohorts and coaching for emerging leaders.
  • The building of training centers in low income communities.
  • Seed investment of sustainable social initiatives run by trained and vetted leaders.
  • Continued mentorship and network for local leaders.

With so much growth and beauty already flourishing during our first year of operations, we are looking forward to what these next years have in store. We are laying the groundwork for long-term grassroots development through education and training, mentorship and coaching, and opportunities for networking, seed investments, and internships.

An individual who is empowered with a dream and equipped with the tools and support has immense power to transform their own lives and those around them. By creating a platform that allows ordinary individuals to dream outside of their circumstances, the impossible becomes a reality. DreamRoot is committed to coming alongside these emerging leaders to help equip and encourage them and to connect them with opportunities to achieve their fullest potential and build a thriving future for themselves, their communities, the nations, and the next generation

We are deeply grateful for each of you, our community, who sees, believes, and supports DreamRoot Leadership Institute’s important work. Thank you for an such an amazing year!



Amy Passos

Executive Director, DreamRoot Leadership Institute

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