Third prize - Leonardo Silva Brito, 15 years old (Brazil)

1 United Nations Avenue

World Peace, RO

Seeds of Good, 16 March 2015


Dear Mentor,

How are things in Brazil? Are you still recruiting young people for volunteer missions around the world? I have been very busy lately, and the communication challenges here prevented me from writing sooner.

But now, thanks to the efforts of other UN volunteers, we have managed to set up a postal service in this remote area of Sub-Saharan Africa, and it will be easier for us to communicate.

I am homesick, but, to tell you the truth, I am happy to be here doing this wonderful work. For some months now, we have been transforming the daily reality of isolated communities by facilitating access to education and technology.

I am proud to be participating in this humanitarian endeavour: when I help those in need, I am helping to build a world in which I want to grow up – a world of greater justice and solidarity. I am one of the 140 million people working every day to help achieve the dreams of humanity.

Despite our efforts, many communities do not yet enjoy the basic rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as health care, food, housing and education. I dream of the day when these children – who today have no chance of success, true warriors fighting every day against misery and hunger – will flourish in a better world.

You know, dear Mentor, contrary to what I believed, volunteer work is not just  a question of personal dedication, commitment and achievement, but an instrument for greater self-awareness, for learning through experience and for discovering that the only thing that really matters when we help someone is the time and the love we invest.

In my time here, I have learned that our dreams and plans mean nothing if we do not have the courage to fight for them, even at the risk of our lives.

This experience makes me think of the poem by Carlos Drummond de Andrade “O Homem, As Viagens” [The Man, the Voyages]. In this poem, the poetic “I” describes man’s unease in exploring the unknown, his search for something to give meaning to his life, as well as the imprint he leaves on the places he visits.

I learned that the key to building the world I dreamed of when I embarked on this volunteer work was, the whole time, within me. Like the narrator of the poem at the end of his trip around the world, I still have the most difficult trip ahead of me: the journey within my own heart.

The world where I would like to grow up echoes famous dreams, both past and present: John Lennon’s longing for peace; Nelson Mandela’s society without social barriers; Malala Yousafzai’s world of education for all; Martin Luther King Jr.’s society where people are judged for who they are, not the colour of their skin; Mother Teresa’s world ruled by love; and Chico Mendes’s commitment to the sustainable use of natural resources.

I dream of a world where people do not simply donate their money but work as volunteers every day, devoting their time and energy to their neighbour.

I perceive the cumulative effect of each of these small actions, and I see that, even with all the current adversities we face, the world where I would like to grow up also depends on me – on my hands, my sweat and my mind.

The work that I am doing is a tiny contribution, a drop in the bucket, but I know that through each small daily deed, I am, little by little, walking the road to change. Some may think that this is an unachievable goal, an impossible dream, but I, dear Mentor, believe in the words of Victor Hugo: “There is nothing like a dream to create the future. Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow.”

Your Eternal Apprentice,


Memories of the future


Volunteer Street, Culture Quarter, Seeds of Good, RO