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Brazil: a country of two halves

The cost of ambition

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To use the World Cup and Olympics to explore students’ sense of personal ambition within their community (SEAL theme: Social skills).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.
  • Have available the song ‘Harvest for the world’ by The Christians and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.

Assembly

  1. Leader  Who’s going to win the World Cup? Will it be England? Unlikely, given the strength of the opposition. Maybe it’ll be Spain or Germany, the European giants  . . .  or Argentina. Maybe it will even be an African nation for the first time. The smart money, however, is on the hosts, Brazil.

    Brazil, as a country, is football mad. It’s played everywhere and, not surprisingly, this has produced a crop of talent that’s become one of the country’s main exports. In 2013, there were 515 Brazilians playing within the various national leagues of Europe. Probably the team you support has at least one Brazilian player. Winning the World Cup, therefore, has become the main ambition for the country of Brazil in 2014.

  2. Reader 1 More than 14.5 billion US dollars will have been spent on the World Cup by the time the first match is played on 12 June. Much of this has been spent on constructing new stadiums or modernizing those that exist already. Roads, airports, communications networks and other infrastructure have also seen huge investment. Prestige building projects with impressive modern designs have replaced the favelas – that is, the slums – in many parts of the main cities. A big ambition has led to big investment.

  3. Reader 2  There is, however, another side to Brazil. Financial experts say that the level of poverty in the country is well above what would be expected for a country with such natural resources and developed industry. It’s estimated that about a third of the population lives in poverty, particularly those who live in the rural North East of the country. There, about a quarter of children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition. There is little access to mains water and sewerage, electricity and related technology. Many attend school for just four years or less. The big ambition hasn’t reached these parts.

  4. Leader  To borrow a footballing phrase, Brazil is really a country of two halves and the less well off half has begun to rebel. Violent protests have rocked many of the main cities, with leaders of the protests asking the question, ‘If we can have world-class football stadiums. Why can’t we have world-class housing, healthcare, sanitation and education?’ The simple answer appears to be that there isn’t enough money to do both at the same time – and there’s also the 2016 Olympics to pay for! Brazil’s big ambition seems to be at the expense of the needs of the country’s poorest people.

Time for reflection

What ambitions do you have? Do you want to go to university? Do you want a part in the school production the drama group is putting on? Do you want to be a successful photographer? Do you want to live in a big house? Do you want to break a sporting record or be an international player?

Your ambition can’t be achieved without a cost. Who pays? If it’s your parents, then this might require some sacrifice on their part, maybe holidays or personal luxuries put on hold. If it’s a grant, then this may be because someone else was refused one. If you get a part in the school production, then someone else experiences rejection. If you win, then someone else loses. Every ambition achieved has an effect on the community of which you’re a part.

Should we therefore not be ambitious? Should Brazil have given up the chance of hosting the World Cup and the Olympics?

Not at all. The hope is that having achieved this ambition, it will generate new resources for future development. Similarly, if we achieve our ambitions, then we’ll bring pleasure to others and will be better equipped to serve our community.

What actually matters is that we’re always conscious of and consider others in the race to achieve, particularly those who might be left behind, ignored or bulldozed in the rush.

Thankfully, in Brazil, there are schemes to help the poor and these are showing signs of success. Hopefully, the income generated by these two great international sporting events will be ploughed back into the community to help those who have the least at present. 

Prayer
Dear Lord,
Thank you for the possibilities open to us, the ambitions we can dream of.
Remind us of the effects these have on the wider community and help us to act with care and fairness.
Amen.

Music

‘Harvest for the world’ by The Christians

Publication date: June 2014   (Vol.16 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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