Scorpion Spotlight: John Dewald ('13)

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Scorpion Spotlight: John Dewald ('13)
Christine Seiber

From left, John Dewald (‘13) poses with Diogo and Douglas, brothers from one of the families Full Belly Brasil is helping feed. Photo courtesy of John Dewald

John Dewald ('13) is president and co-founder of Full Belly Brasil, a nonprofit organization that provides food and clean drinking water to families in need in the South American country.

Full Belly Brasil — which is spelled with an "s" to conform to the Portuguese language — is on track to provide more than 25,000 pounds of food to families in need by the end of the summer. John originally moved to Brazil as a 2019 Fulbright scholar to teach English at the Federal University of Ouro Preto. Since graduating from Claremont McKenna College in 2017, John has lived abroad, spending time in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Join John for a day in his life in Ouro Preto, a colonial city in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

8 a.m. | Morning routine

John wakes up and reads for half an hour before getting out of bed. He prefers to read in Spanish, and his favorite authors are Isabell Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marques and Claros Ruiz Zafón. He then meditates, does apnea freediving breathing exercises and goes for a 4-mile run. When he returns, he does a 20-minute body weight exercise circuit.

Exercise is business as usual to the former captain of the Sage Ridge track and field and cross country teams.

He eats a light breakfast around 9 a.m. and then starts his workday for Full Belly Brasil. He usually catches up on emails, checks in with interns/volunteers, manages Full Belly’s social media accounts, networks with potential donors, researches potential grants and solves any problems that popped up over the night. 

Full Belly Brasil has three Sage Ridge students as interns and has partnered with the school’s Last Straw Club for the nonprofit’s 20,000 Trees Initiative. For every tree planted, Full Belly Brasil will donate a pound of organic food to a family in need, up to 20,000 pounds for 20,000.

12:30 p.m. | Lunch routine

After a quick lunch, John spends 20-30 minutes on Rosetta Stone studying basic French and then watches about 45 minutes of Netflix in Spanish. Fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, John is also learning French to continue to broaden his horizons. Living in Brazil, he speaks Portuguese daily in both his work and social life. He uses books, TV and movies to keep his Spanish skills sharp.

2 p.m. | Work

John continues work from earlier in the morning by networking, fundraising and managing his team. He meets daily with Jorge Ferreira, vice president and co-founder of Full Belly Brasil. A Rio de Janeiro native, Jorge has an understanding of life and business in Brazil that John does not, having grown up in California and Nevada. John is the only non-Brazilian who is part of the team on the ground in Brazil. Jorge and Full Belly Brasil’s team of Brazilian volunteers are an essential part of Full Belly that allows the nongovernmental organization to function smoothly in Brazil as a Brazilian organization even though it is registered in the United States and able to raise money in American dollars. 

Even before the pandemic, John said the number of people going hungry in Brazil has increased by nearly 50% since 2012, with more than 33% of all Brazilian families facing food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the situation. John, Jorge and the rest of the Full Belly Brasil team are committed to help.

"Some days, we have a 16-hour workday," John said. "Sometimes, it's longer, but Jorge and I are excited for what the future holds. We are going to make a difference."

He attributes his time at Sage Ridge in developing the leadership, organization and public speaking skills necessary to manage a nonprofit. At Sage Ridge, John was the Upper School student body president as well as a student-athlete.

6 p.m. | Dinner

John walks to a neighborhood grocery store and usually buys ingredients for two days worth of meals. He maintains a gluten- and egg- and lactose-free diet and enjoys eating Brazilian cuisine including beans, chicken, vegetables, rice, potatoes, mandioca and tapioca.

He tries to wrap up all Full Belly Brasil business after dinner so he may spend the evening relaxing and writing.

9 p.m. | Unwind (maybe)

If he's completed his work for Full Belly Brasil, John will work on his book. John wrote a novel (unpublished) in 2018 and since then has published several short stories. He is currently working on a new book that is based on a four-month trip through Southeast Asia. Although he is immersed in Portuguese culture and Spanish media, John writes in English. Depending on the evening and workload, he goes to bed no later than 3 a.m.

"I'm a very social person, and Brazil is a great country to get involved in the social life and community in," John said. "COVID-19 has been a major adjustment, but I live with a couple of friends, and we do our best to continue enjoying life and make the most of the current situation."

The pandemic changed his lifestyle, but he appreciates the time quarantine granted him to further devote himself to his business and writing.

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