There’s a quote in Paulo Coelho’s bestselling novel The Alchemist that says: “No matter what he does, every person on Earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t even know it.”
Undoubtedly, our actions as individuals add up to shape the reality of our world. If more of us were aware of our ability to have impact and effect change, maybe our choices would be different.
Camila Souza, an unostentatious presence within the sphere of South Florida’s innovators, is a diligent ambassador for change whose individual involvement merges with that of others to create a collective force that steadily ignites social transformation. She is positively affecting world, although her contributions have yet to be hugely recognized or celebrated.
Souza, 31, was born in Brazil, raised in Peru and spent much of her early professional life working with nongovernmental organizations in Europe. In 2011 she moved to Miami and sought ways to get involved in the city’s community-building efforts, zeroing in on her interests in the tech and start-up scenes.
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Since her move to Miami, Souza has highlighted the city’s emerging entrepreneurial and startup activity as a writer and community manager for Tech Co., a national online media company. She founded and co-hosted an online radio show called pFunkcast on Klangbox.fm, which showcased Miami’s local artists and community leaders. She has been a speaker at tech conferences throughout the country, including Miami’s Black Tech Week. And, she is currently a board member of the Miami chapter of the Awesome Foundation, which provides grants to local projects.
And she has a full-time job — she’s a community manager for Zeel, an on-demand massage company based in New York, is married and is an active runner, crossfitter and yoga student.
Sounds exhausting? Not necessarily. “Working with different communities has connected me to people and issues I care about, and for that, I’m grateful,” Souza said.
In a place known for its transience, leaving many living here feeling lonely and isolated, she also says that being involved has helped her create a connection to the city itself.
According to research, Souza’s energy and good health may actually be linked to her volunteerism. A 2007 study conducted by the Corporation for National & Community Service found that: “Those who engage in volunteer activities are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life and may be introduced into a positive reinforcing cycle of good health and future volunteering.”
Those involved in community often express a deepened sense of connection to people generally. Souza, for instance, says that she’s motivated to be involved because she finds inspiration from the community leaders and stakeholders she gets to work with.
Souza reiterates the sentiment of many others actively pursuing the social and cultural advancement of Miami — the city is ripe for transformation, and therefore the opportunity for influence is greater and more tangible.
“What you say and do here may actually be heard, unlike in other cities where it has all been done before. There are opportunities for you to have an impact here,” Souza said.
Another study by the Corporation for National & Community Service, conducted in 2013, indicated that a mere 21.1 percent of Floridians volunteer, and that Florida ranked 48 of the 50 states in volunteerism. However, it was found that 57.6 percent of residents were involved in informal volunteerism such as helping neighbors.
Maybe if more of us thought we were capable of making an impact we would do more within formal volunteer systems. But, as Souza said, the vast cultural diversity of South Florida creates unique challenges for social cohesion. This surely fuels barriers to citizen engagement.
Nonetheless, whether we choose to be involved through formal or informal channels, it is important that we are all involved somehow. Our actions create either negative or positive ripple effects that have an impact others, no matter how important or unimportant we may think we are.
We are all important; and the collective efforts of “ordinary” individuals are exactly what changes the world.
Kinisha Correia is a blogger and writer based in Broward County.