It’s been nearly eleven years since I completed my project with TIE. I was asked to write a few thoughts and memories as to how my TIE experience has helped guide me on the journey I am now on.

I was working at Wieden+Kennedy London at the time that I did TIE, I’d been there for nearly two years and had always had a hunger to do something that gives back. I’d spent time in Malawi when I was younger working in an AIDS orphanage, so from all the choices of NGO’s in Brazil, I chose GTP+ a charity that supports men suffering with HIV and AIDs who have fallen out of society.

After months of waiting, fundraising, preparing, scrabbling to learn some basic Portuguese, I found myself looking out of the window of the plane and seeing land appear. It was the Northeastern Brazilian city of Recife. One of the most violent cities in Brazil where Brazil’s extreme rich and poor sit side by side next to miles of beautiful beaches.

Before I could really gather my thoughts I was in the bairro Brasília Teimosa, in the home of my local hosts. It was two days before I started my assignment with GTP+ and I was filled with excitement and anxiety of what the following weeks would hold.

At the onset of this project I knew I wanted to make a difference, do a bit of good, and experience a totally different culture. What I maybe hadn’t considered was the impact this experience would have on me, my outlook and the direction that my life/career would take afterwards.

Whilst that sounds very dramatic, the time I spent in this Brazilian city would sow a seed for the type of working experience that I craved post the project. An experience you don’t get from working in an environment where everything you need comes pretty easily.

My placement had me working with a small but generous spirited HIV/Aids charity called GTP+, and the people who worked at the charity and who were involved with the charity were experiencing the toughest kind of living in their communities, due to the illness they had. I also worked with a group of 20 year old college students, who were studying advertising. 

By the end of my time on TIE, I realised that what had come easily previously, actually takes work – all those comfortable processes and endless support had vanished.

Routine was thrown out of the window and the chaos of the process, the chaos of the day to day, the madness, actually leaves you amazingly empowered and free to do things you wouldn’t have considered before.

I got used to the most simple tasks taking ten times as long, which makes you really appreciate how much you can do, how much you can influence and when forced into a tricky spot, how deep your own personal resources are. You realise that by not knowing or walking in stupid you have to leave your preconceptions elsewhere, which forces you to question, keep learning and live with your eyes fully open.

All of these things gave me new skills and I think in some way everyone that I was working with, both in the charity and in the school, left with new skills and experience as well.

I am incredibly lucky that I work for a company that values chaos, encourages it in fact, that challenges you everyday to look and re-look at a problem, that values doing good and above all else values the power that creativity can have to make changes in the world. 

Embrace what you don’t know. Take a deep breath. Have patience. Walk in stupid. And make an actual difference to some people’s lives, no matter how big or small – you might just be surprised as to where you end up.