Seven Inches from the Midday Sun
Our next day starts early again, and after several cups of fresh guava juice, I am ready to go. It is already hot at 7:00 am – I am told there are two seasons here, summer and “more hot” summer. We start the morning at the city center at Curimatá, where Thiago, Salvador and I meet Ribeira, the Secretary of Infrastructure. Our first stop is a well that serves a community of 150 families. It is an open cistern, which is then pumped out into the town. Children and adults alike are subject to skin problems and other water-borne illnesses. Very few in the village have the resources to take a bus into the city to buy purified water, even for drinking. This is an area where Beraca is facilitating discussion between private industry, government, non-profits and local community, and a plan is forming to provide water filtration and treatment for this community.
We then visit the local school, which serves more than 250 children in 5 rooms. Beraca and NCCV are working together to help this community rebuild this school. I have an opportunity to meet and talk to children from several grade levels, and soon I have a small group following me around. They show me where their computer used to be, but they were hit by thieves several months ago, and not only have they not been able to replace computer equipment, they have not even fixed the damage to the door. Children are children, though, and though the school is extremely run down, there is the sound of laughter and play.
It is important to note that sustainable natural resources don’t happen without sustainable, empowered communities. Everyone deserves the right to expect clean water, nutritious food, and a hope that the next generation will be better off. Teadora looks for partners and suppliers that share these values, whether commercial or as part of either Earth for You or Tiny Purple Fishes.
It is definitely getting hotter, and it has overpowered our air-conditioning. Our next stop is a school in town that was renovated a couple years ago by Beraca and NCCV. There is an immediate difference, not just in the facility which is clean, organized, with water fileters, etc., but also in the energy level of the children. They seem happy, excited, energetic. They want to talk, and though shy, want to try their English skills by saying “Hello”. The school now has more demand than available seats. The teachers say that the children are learning faster, have increased skills in core studies like math, and there is a general sense of enthusiasm.
We drive to another community of about 40 families, which is much poorer. After driving for an hour down a sandy road in a 4x4, we stop at a small brick house with an open door. The woman inside appears to be about 70, invites us in, and we can see she is cooking beans over a fire – there is no stove, no refrigerator, and no running water. I ask where she gets water, if it hasn’t rained recently to fill her cistern that collects rainwater from her roof. She will have to hike 2-3 miles each way in the hot sun to a well, and then carry water back. If she doesn’t die of some water-borne illness or malnutrition, it is very likely that during a dry spell she will simply die of dehydration.
A couple miles down the road, there is a small schoolhouse across the street from a bar. There are 3 rooms, approximately 10x10, and there can be up to 18 children in those rooms. One room is simply an open air room with a chalkboard. Sueli, a 5 year old girl is sitting in a school desk in front of me. I am afraid to ask what she dreams of being when she grows up -> her reality is that she has seen a teacher, a nurse, prostitutes and a water truck driver. Most of those are well out of her reach. Most girls there will end up pregnant by 12 or 13 years old, raising babies, cooking and trying to provide basic subsistence for their families. And the cycle continues. Unfortunately, problems like these can only be solved when infrastructure exists to support them, there is a path to economic freedom, and there is a desire by the community for something better. It is a quiet, contemplative ride home. Tomorrow we’ll be on our way to Belem and the mouth of the Amazon to visit a collective there.
More to come. Tom