The 2016 summer Olympics has turned the world’s attention to life in Rio de Janeiro. The city is surrounded by over 1,000 favela communities, which have come to be synonymous with poverty and crime. However, Theresa Williamson ’97 says that while education, health, and sanitation remain to be the top three demands of the people in favelas, the favelas provide a vibrant community for those who live there.
Williamson founded and serves as executive director for Catalytic Communities, a nonprofit organization that is working to destigmatize Rio de Janeiro’s favela communities and integrate them into the wider society. Since its founding in 2000, Catalytic Communities has provided communications, networking, and training support to leaders in the favela communities.
Williamson graduated from Swarthmore with a special major in biological anthropology and a minor in peace and conflict studies. She received her Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania.