Editor’s Note: This interview was originally posted on Elite Millenial, and is reprinted here with permission.

With an estimated 3 million people expected to attend the World Cup games in Brazil, FIFA and major cities have recruited hundreds of local volunteers to assist international fans in the upcoming weeks. Sr. Melanie Grace D. Illana, a Missionary Sister of St. Charles Borromeo, will be among the multitude of individuals prepared to welcome the world to Brasília. Brazil’s capital city is set to be the site of seven matches at its new Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, a stadium which has taken three years to construct.

Sr. Melanie Grace Illana is from the United States province of Scalabrinian Sisters and is conversant in Italian, Portuguese, and English. (Photo Credit: Sr. Melanie Grace Illana) 

Having been inspired by her community service in the United States, Sr. Melanie decided to become a World Cup volunteer, a position enabling her to greet travelers with her warm smile and the characteristic cadence of her Filipino accent. In an interview with Elite Millenial, Sr. Melanie provided some insights into the World Cup and the formation process of becoming a volunteer.

1. What influenced you to serve as a volunteer at the World Cup?

 It is the voluntary work experience with people regardless of races, cultures, and religions that influenced me to serve as a volunteer at the World Cup.

2. What sort of preparation do you have to undertake as a World Cup volunteer?

 First, the Virtual Training Course for five weeks to test my knowledge about the History of Football in Brazil, the Environment of the 12 states of Brazil, Hospitality & Tourism, especially in Brasília, and the First Aid and Security. Second, the Presence Training with speakers and facilitators and with volunteers done in the Convention Center and in the University of Brasília, where we actualized all the modules we learned from our virtual training course.

3. Do you feel Brazil is economically, linguistically, and socially prepared to host the World Cup?

 Yes. I feel that Brazil is economically prepared to host the World Cup through the help of FIFA. The Brazilian governments are not the ones funding the World Cup but FIFA itself. I believe that it is linguistically prepared considering that most of the World Cup volunteers, who will do the best to assist the tourists, and the Media, speak English, or Spanish, or French. In fact, there are selected public transportation drivers in 12 states who took English and Spanish courses this year to prepare themselves to assist the tourists during [the] World Cup. As what I observed, Brazil is always socially prepared to host any mega events like [the] World Cup and is open to [welcoming] the foreigners.

4. What can international fans expect to see and do once they arrive in Brasília? Are there any special events and accommodations being organized for them?

Aside from seeing the football games at the World Cup, the international fans [can] expect to see the tourist spots of the 12 states; it depends on which states they prefer to stay. Some organizations or group networks linked to the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Culture, and some Universities are organizing special events for the international fans.

5. As a Scalabrinian Missionary Sister, how do you live out your religious vocation in light of your World Cup volunteer work?

I live out my religious vocation through the charism of our Congregation, which is “evangelical service to the migrants and refugees.” My constant desire to actualize the Scalabrinian charism through voluntary services, especially for the people of different colors, languages, and religions, is a form of selfless love. This is what I am hoping for my World Cup voluntary work.

The capital organized a corps of volunteers who handed out maps and items to international fans. (Photo Credit: Sr. Melanie Grace Illana)

6. You recently attended a Workshop hosted by the Secretaria de Justiça regarding human trafficking. What programs or initiatives has FIFA put into practice to combat exploitation?

There are no programs that FIFA made to combat exploitation. However, they encouraged FIFA and Brasil Voluntário volunteers and all the Teams working with FIFA to be attentive to any signs of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and to contact the respective numbers of the Federal Police and local government sectors responsible for confronting the delicate issues. Thus, combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation is part of our Hospitality and Tourism Module in the Virtual Training Course.

7. What has been the most difficult part about preparing for volunteer work?

The allotted time for the Virtual Training was the most difficult. I needed to organize my time in the evening between 8 and 10 p.m. or between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. to do the course. A volunteer needs to spend 2 or 5 hours a day to read the long texts in four modules with knowledge tests and thematic forums. We were given only 5 weeks to complete all the four modules, including English and Spanish communications skills tests, the 80 second video presentation in English, and the seven long questionnaires to answer. The hours that a volunteer spent in the Virtual Training Course is recorded each day or night online.

8. Have you learned anything interesting/funny/shocking about the World Cup during training sessions?

I learned to be patient in accepting the reality that lack of communication from the coordinators of Brasil Voluntário during our presence training courses gave confusions [sic] to most of the volunteers especially in my group. I also learned to let go of my first voluntary working area which [was supposed to] be in the airport. Above all, I learned to be open [to] other possibilities in my voluntary services.

9. There is already talk of protests scheduled during the World Cup games. Are there any safety measures that FIFA is putting into place?

Yes. FIFA is collaborating with the Federal Police to provide safety measures to the players, fans, tourists, and the volunteers.

10. What has been the most enjoyable part of preparing to be a World Cup volunteer?

Meeting new faces and making new friends during our integration training course at the University of Brasilia was the most enjoyable part of my preparation as a World Cup volunteer.

11. Last question: who do you think will win the World Cup?

I think Brazil will win.

Jeremy Dela Cruz is a senior majoring in French and Philosophy with a minor in Portuguese. He enjoys travelling on a budget and studying languages on a whim. Contemplate creation and conjugations with him at pdelacru@nd.edu.