Philippa White is originally from South Africa. She lives in Olinda, Brazil with her partner and their two children, aged four years old and four months, respectively. She runs a social enterprise.

The back-story
My family is from all over the place. My father’s family lives in South Africa and Scotland. My mother’s family is from the UK. I was born in South Africa, educated in Canada, and worked for a while in London in advertising agencies in London, including Leo Burnett and BBH. In 2006 I left London for Brazil to initiate The International Exchange (TIE), a social enterprise that provides leadership development opportunities for future leaders from some of the biggest agencies in the world
My partner is from Brazil and after a holiday here in 2005 I was introduced to a whole new perspective on life. I was surrounded my extreme poverty, yet people were so happy with the little they had. I had time to separate myself from my London mindset, and was able to digest everything that had happened that year – my father had been ill and my uncle had passed away… I began to seriously think about what I wanted to do next. My husband wanted to move home, I wanted to set up my company – the rest is history.

A day in the life…
We live in a house in a beautiful old historic part of the city that is full of children. I work from home, running the company, and we have someone in the house to help out with the kids and cook and clean. My four-year-old is in school in the mornings – in Brazil children only go to school either in the morning or the afternoon – and until now I’ve been looking after my baby whilst working. Owning my own company has meant I haven’t really had a maternity leave. But thank goodness Maya, the baby, sleeps well during the days and is super chilled out when awake. So I’ve fitted in looking after her with all of my work responsibilities.
My four-year-old old goes swimming twice a week. Otherwise, we play in the square beside our house. We live in a great community, full of children. So we hit the square and the kids play with scooters, bikes, side-walk chalk or just run around. Brazil is full of energy, music, rhythm, dancing. You often also get the Frevo dancers in the streets. My eldest dances beautifully; she grabs her colourful Frevo umbrella and joins the crowds dancing in the streets. Or you have the Maracatu groups drumming in the square while the kids run around either dancing, or playing on their bikes and scooters. Or people playing Capoeira. It’s rarely quiet, and never boring.
On weekends we tend to have people drop by our place to hang out – the adults grab a beer, the children play, or we play in the square next to our house, go to a local park, the local beach, a birthday party, have lunch at my mother-in-law’s house or go away for the weekend.
I’m part of an online mum group and we share advice via whatsapp regularly. Some of those mums are the people I meet up with in the praça (square), but in Brazil things are less organised than in the UK. You tend to just see who’s there.

The good
I love how my daughter plays on a public square, with local kids, from a variety of backgrounds. You have rich kids, poor kids, black kids and white kids. It’s a beautiful mix of society in Olinda, and it’s still possible to play, safely, on the street with other local children. It’s a real community here with proper outdoor living, all year round, and such a healthy, fun, vibrant and alive place to bring up children. Olinda isn’t a reflection of Brazil as a whole. People living in Recife or São Paulo, for example, living in apartment buildings, or closed compounds, would have a very different experience.
People are very child-friendly here. Get on a plane from Recife in Brazil to Miami with a baby and you’ll have everyone around you cooing at your baby and keeping it  happy. Take a plane from Miami to New York, and you get a very different response. I tend to be much stricter with my children as that’s how I was raised. Limits for me are important. Brazilians, on the whole, are much more relaxed with their children and as a result, children tend to be a little less controlled. But because that’s how the society works here, people are much more tollerant. So if children are running around at a restaurant, no one seems to bat an eyelid.

And the bad
One of the toughest parts of living in this part of Brazil, when it comes to children, are the schools and the organised activities available. Schools are only part time – until graduation. You choose to either study in the morning or the afternoon. And then it’s up to us to find other activities to fill the time. People rely on housekeepers/nannies to help but this is becoming more difficult as laws change and costs get higher. Extra-curricular activities are also really hard to find nearby. And with the growth of the city, and more cars on the streets, the traffic is crippling. It makes it really hard to move around during the day – so if there are activities in other parts of the metropolian area, it’s very hard to get to them. For now having a four-year-old and a four-month-old I’m not too worried, but it will become a much bigger issue quite soon. And I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.
There is a public healthcare system here, but it’s not something the middle/upper classes use. It is inefficient, unsafe and the waiting times are long. Everyone I know has health insurance and you pay and arm and a leg to have it. The problem is that many of the good doctors don’t accept health plans, so on top of paying for insurance, you often have to pay to see a good doctor. And the reimbursements that the health plan gives you are a small fraction of the price you paid.  It’s a scary system and something that concerns me if something goes horribly wrong health wise in the future.

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