Yesterday’s post contained some pretty discouraging news, and in fact, for the last month or so, we have been forced to face a fair share of grim realities, because of our distressing financial straits. But the ICBIE is blessed with good fortune, and the lucky breaks always appear at just the right moment, when our proverbial optimism is challenged by an overload of difficulties. Last week was a perfect example: after exasperating discussions, the newsletter article was finished, and we were ready to go public with the painful decision of drastically reducing ICBIE activities during the first half of 2009. About two hours later, out of the blue, Pietro received an email announcing that the Howard University chapter of Engineers Without Borders had accepted our project for the construction of a theater building!
More than a year ago, our friend Phillip Wagner of Rhythm of Hope, after hearing of our dream of building a theater, convinced us to compile EWB’s long and detailed application form. Without Phillip’s help (he had already worked with them on a sanitation project on Itaparica island), we never would have done this, so we owe him a huge barrelful of thank-you’s for his implacable insistence. At any rate, last January we were informed that the central office had enthusiastically accepted our application. But after that, one of their chapters had to choose to realize the project, and the long wait began. Every month that passed, the subject became more remote, until it had quite entirely disappeared from our minds.
So their email came as a surprise, and at the perfect time! Since then, we have exchanged a flurry of emails, and last Sunday we had a conference call between Washington, DC, Rome and Salvador, to introduce ourselves and to hash out the logistics for their preliminary visit to Salvador. We spoke with Jomari Peterson, their dynamic project coordinator, Alexandria McBride, president of the Howard University EWB chapter, Bianca Bailey, fundraising coordinator, and with two participating students, Tiffany Smith and Aaron, their mental guru. Phillip Wagner in Indianapolis, Pietro in Salvador and Roy in Rome completed the full polyphony of voices, as we discussed living conditions and cultural opportunities, blueprints and building permits, and decided upon dates — January 2 – 9 — for their first visit, when we will decide upon an archetectural design, survey the terrain, apply for permits and arrange for materials. Later in 2009, they will return to begin the construction.
We are ecstatic to know that such a great group of inspired young Americans will be coming to Ribeira. Coming from the most prestigious African American university, they will be able to work hand in hand with our community, which can proudly claim to possess the most vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture. That this link up should happen at exactly the same time as the American elections is a wonderful but poignant coincidence. Let’s hope that we will remember it as part of a global turning-point, when everyone suddenly discovered the joys of partnerships and solidarity!