We thought we would be writing to you from our new home in Thomasville, NC, but here we are still in Rio, and not certain as yet when we will be moving to the States.
We thought we would be writing to you from our new home in Thomasville, NC, but here we are still in Rio, and not certain as yet when we will be moving to the States. Things have turned out to be much more complicated than we ever dreamed. The world is more complicated, and immigration issues today are far more so. I will not go into details but at this moment we are waiting for Gus’s interview at the American Consulate in Rio for his application for immigration to the USA.
We also have not sold our house yet. We knew it would be difficult, but not so difficult. We live surrounded by shanty towns in a low income condo, and thus not as many candidates. Plus bank loans here are very difficult due to a growing, but unstable economy. I do believe this will be our last newsletter from Brazil, but until you get a newsletter from our new home you can continue to use the address and e-mail you have. When we do get to NC, as soon as I can, I will send a newsletter.
But, sometimes our time is not God’s time as a friend of mine so adequately put. And, this has proved to be the case. You remember all know the problems we had with the Social Organization that took over the administration of our Clinic. Well, as of February, the leaders have been jailed and the organization expelled from the city. Millions of Reais were mis-used as well as literally stolen! As of yet, the women working in the clinic have not received all that is owed to them in salary, and the rent that they were to pay, so that we could support our wonderful Physical Therapy program which has not been paid since August. We had to reduce the hours the Physical Therapists worked, so we could pay them less.
The new Social Organization, IABAS which took over the 1st of February is another story. From the beginning the person responsible for the area, Jarciano, showed respect for my experience and even though our NGO no longer administers the clinic, he asked me to hire an administrative assistant, and two more nurse’s assistants as the two women Global Ministries had given scholarships to have graduated from nursing school and were sent to other family clinics. With permission from Jarciano, I could promote two of our health educators who had finished nurse’s assistant’s courses to this position. That meant we had lost two health educators plus three others who had left because of the financial problems we had with the other social organization. Jarciano showed total confidence in us to choose these women so I called on Bel, the woman who has worked with me from the beginning of our mission work and became the coordinator of the health training course for community health educators, to choose the persons needed to fill these roles. She gave a test based on what they had learned in our health educator course and called in a psychologist to work with the graduates. Five were chosen and began to work the 1st of March.
Then I was asked to train them all for their new jobs as Bel is now studying to be a teacher at a local university and is also the coordinator of our children’s program. In addition to this, one of the things I had insisted upon with the new Social Organization was that a person be hired to take over the pharmacy, a role which I have had from the very beginning, for it is a full time job. IABAS then sent us a young man for me to train. I was surprised to find they would hire someone who knew nothing about medications and had no training in administration. However, Jarciano said I could do the training. How different from the other Social Organization who took us over, for I wasn’t allowed to even be there except to inspect their maintenance of the building, about which they did nothing.
From the first day on Monday, the 14th of March, he showed interest and treated the patients with such affection, I was surprised. He worked so hard on the accounting of the medicines we dispensed and took a book home to study medication. I was thrilled and felt now I could relax though it would still take some time to allow him to work alone without my guidance. Then on Friday morning, a person from the health supervision office of our area working with this social organization, called to say the young man was to be transferred to another function in another area of the city. He was so disappointed, and I was angry. Why had they hired this young man, sent him to us and then suddenly when he was doing so well, take him away? Not fair to him or us.
“Well, there she goes again” the women at the clinic said, “to battle for a person’s job” as I had had to do this for all the promotions at the clinic. I took him to the supervisor’s office where I am well known and always listened to with respect. As the young man showed so much interest in the job and wanted to learn more, the woman in charge of the pharmacies of the area with whom I have worked all these years, agreed to my suggestion to let him stay if he took a short course she will give as to how to measure medication, read prescriptions etc. However, he cannot be left alone working in the pharmacy until he finishes the course. He will then work every morning with me, and three afternoons a week he will take this course which should only take three weeks or so. So you see, I was not meant to leave the 1st of April, there is still some finishing up to do, so I can leave confident that all will run smoothly in the pharmacy.
The woman I hired as administrative assistant is also proving to be excellent. As well as woman IABAS sent as technical coordinator. She asked me to work with her during this transition from the terrible social organization that destroyed our work for almost 6 months causing several women to leave and the women in the clinic to lose confidence in this city program using social organizations in the area of health. We are working well together. All of this work has been good for me because it gives me less time to sit and worry about this move and helps me to feel confident that all will go on when we are gone.
In March, the woman we had hired to take over the children’s program left because her husband is very ill. The program was growing, and we really did not know what to do as it is such a necessary project. Then my wonderful assistant, Bel, said she would take over, and she is perfect because she has been teaching this health educator training program for 18 years now, left the clinic when the first social organization took over because she knew she wanted to be a teacher not a nurse. She started at the university in January and studies at night because she still teaches and coordinates our health course. We will pay her a small salary in addition to what she received for the health courses, but it is not enough to support her family and pay college tuition. Hopefully, we can continue to help her financially for she is the one who will really take over the many facets of this mission work when I am not here.
I wish you could be here to watch the dynamics of our children’s program. Right now Bel is working on the dengue fever epidemic, and the children made posters and a little cardboard scene to show the difference between a community which is not clean and, therefore, attracts the dengue mosquito and a community that keeps clean, free of pools of water and garbage. At the present moment they are preparing a play about dengue. They will be young health educators; the future of this community is in their hands. The amount of children we can have in this program is limited to 25 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon, but as it grows, Bel will be looking for a larger place and volunteer help.
I have so much to be thankful for: these wonderful women who began with me teaching the health educators training course, 18 years ago, many of whom since then have finished or are finishing high school, nurses assistant’s courses, college etc. proving my reason for being here: education, no matter how simple the course might be, gives women the self-esteem and incentive to go on to further study and to realize “I can do it!” This proves the validity of that ancient Chinese proverb:
“When sleeping women awake, mountains will move.”
Easter for us is a time of rebirth, a time of beginning again, a new chance. Gus and I will begin a new life, a new way to serve in a new place as well as continuing to serve our beloved shanty town community in Brazil in a new way. Yes, the time will come when we will not be here (in Brazil) in person, but from our home in Thomasville, NC.
We are so grateful to all of you for supporting us over these last 18 years working in Rio de Janeiro, and pray that you will continue to partner with us to serve this wonderful shanty town community in the future.
We continue with you to be God’s hands in mission. Remember these words from Matthew 25, verse 40:
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”
Wishing you Easter joy and hope,
Barb and Gus
P.S. We have sold our house since we wrote this newsletter. Barbara
Barb de Souza is a volunteer with the Institute of Religious Studies (ISER). She serves as an advisor for popular education and training in the areas of health and sexuality.