Every year during the holiday season, news organizations air segments and run articles extolling the benefits of giving. Time and again, studies find that charitable giving and volunteering boosts mood, lowers blood pressure, combats stress, and leads to a longer life. But for some people, like entrepreneur Patrick Lucchese, the real benefits aren’t internal. They’re more easily measured.
“It is amazing to see what people can do when they have a shot at a better life,” he said. “My father was a surgeon who always helped a lot of people by performing surgeries for free as a way of giving back and truly helping people. So I always knew that you could transform people’s lives this way. Because I grew up with that mindset, I always did philanthropy for a variety of causes, but in 2010 I decided to invest heavily in one community, a place where we could focus attention on many different things and try to give the people hope and pull them out of poverty.”
As the founder of Urban Advisors, a consulting group that helps companies create initial public offerings, Brazilian businessman Patrick Lucchese believes in the principle of bettering an organization through incremental improvements. At work, he guides companies to develop more efficient strategies based on quantifiable metrics. In his personal life, he applies the same rubric to charity work.
For many years, Lucchese has focused the bulk of his charitable efforts on a destitute favela — an impoverished area on the outskirts of a city — in Porto Alegre, where many residents lack access to jobs, food, and options for improvement.
To help the inhabitants, Patrick Lucchese relies on the same tools he uses to boost companies’ profitability and attractiveness to investors: finding places to improve, no matter how small, and making it better.
“I’ll give one example,” he shared. “Every time I go over there to help, to give out food and to be close to the community, I listen to tragic stories. One of them, there was one of the ladies in our program who was an older lady, and she was not able to see. She was blind in both eyes. It started slowly, mostly affecting one eye, then moved to her other eye, and soon had left her almost completely blind. Then she gave up. The public system in Brazil is not the best health care system, so she was not able to receive the right treatments or the right surgeries. She had gone blind and no one could help her. So I decided that I would do it. After we got involved, she went through, I believe it was five surgeries, and now she can see out of both eyes. She’s completely cured.”
Helping one senior citizen improve her vision may not seem like the kind of charitable work that pays big dividends, but Patrick Lucchese considers it an investment in the greater good of the community.
Investing in five surgeries for one person is a demonstration that everyone deserves to be helped, no matter who they are or how dire their circumstances. If the people of his adopted favela can believe they’re capable of greater things, it leads to changes in attitudes and behaviors, he explained.
“Every time I go there, I listen to the people and hear what they’re going through,” he said. “I also talk with them, and I give them examples of how, with a lot of hard work, they can move to a better life. They can have their children go to college and grow up to become whatever they want. If they want to be a doctor, they can be a doctor. They just have to work hard, study a lot, and keep that hope alive.”
It’s not just a speech he gives to feel good about himself. Patrick Lucchese believes that the residents of his chosen favela in Porto Alegre have a chance to lead successful, impressive, and productive lives. In the same way that he can train companies to discover what they do best, create a sound infrastructure, and make decisions that benefit their long-term prospects, he hopes to inspire community members to make the most of their lives.
It’s also the same talk that Patrick Lucchese gives to his children at home. Many times, he brings them along to see how the people of the community are working hard to improve.
“Many times, I have taken my two children, my boys, to see these families and the children who live here. I show them that these people are just like them. They are just kids,” he said. “I show them how we can help them and how they can help themselves. I hope my children learn as much as everyone else does. I hope they grow up and want to help make the people of other communities see brighter futures as well.”