The Sarnia Journal has partnered with local photographer Art Connolly to feature his captivating “Humans of Sarnia” series as he delves into the lives and experiences of everyday people in Sarnia. Follow his series on Instagram and Facebook
From Rio to Sarnia
By Art Connolly
Meet Aline and Jorge Rocha, a resilient couple who embarked on a life-changing journey from vibrant Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Sarnia, Ontario, in August 2022.
Their story, while unique, resonates with the experiences of many college-educated individuals facing political, economic, and societal challenges.
Aline, a former lawyer, and Jorge, an entrepreneur in the oil and gas supply chain sector, left their beloved Brazil due to a series of pressing reasons.
They mentioned the political landscape, highlighting Jair Bolsonaro's presidency, which began on January 1, 2019. Bolsonaro's government was characterized by military influence, international alignments with right-wing leaders, and controversial policies regarding the environment, indigenous communities, and firearms. Furthermore, it oversaw a significant dismantling of cultural, scientific, and educational programs. Perhaps most notably, it was marred by attacks on democratic institutions and the spread of fake news.
Under Bolsonaro's leadership, Brazil faced rising inflation, increased hunger, a widening wealth gap, and escalating poverty. High levels of crime, including up to 15 daily murders in Rio, exacerbated the societal issues, particularly in areas like Favelas, or slums and ghettos. The infusion of religion into the political landscape created division among the populace, even within families.
The shift from an industrial-based economy to agriculture led to massive layoffs, and the climate of fear stifled freedom of expression. With skyrocketing unemployment rates, Aline and Jorge described an atmosphere where living in peace seemed increasingly difficult.
Their move to Sarnia was undoubtedly a significant transition, arriving without any prior connections. To adapt to their new surroundings, Aline is currently enrolled in the Business Management Program at Lambton College, while Jorge has taken on the role of a System Specialist at Vita in Sarnia.
Despite the initial challenges, they've started building new friendships, and Aline is actively involved in volunteering at her church.
When I asked Aline and Jorge about the differences they’ve noticed between Rio and Sarnia, they emphasized the city's size, with Rio’s population of 13,728,000 dwarfing Sarnia's.
They also noted the stark contrast in prices, with Jorge illustrating that a car costing $5,000 in Sarnia would set you back a staggering $40,000 in Rio.
The efficient public transportation system in Sarnia came as a pleasant surprise, considering the long commutes they endured back in Brazil.
While they miss their families dearly, Aline and Jorge remain connected through regular contact.
They are embracing their new life in Sarnia and eagerly anticipate their future. Their plans involve working towards becoming Permanent Residents in Canada, demonstrating their commitment to building a life filled with promise.
To Aline and Jorge, welcome to Sarnia and Canada. Wishing you all the best in your new chapter of life.
“Humans of Sarnia” founder Art Connolly is a man fuelled by curiosity and a passion for connecting with people in Sarnia. Inspired by the renowned “Humans of New York” series, with a camera in hand, he captures the very essence of the individuals he encounters, preserving their stories through his lens.