The primary learning from my visit to Tucurui is that there will never be a standardized, cookie-cutter approach to the work of The Global BrightLight Foundation. Regardless of our planning, our strategizing, and our preparations, we must maintain a flexibility and adaptability to local customs, wishes and partners.
I arrived in Belem, in the Para State of Brazil, via Miami and then Manaus. I met Eldtrobras’ Paulo Fernandez the next morning for our flight to Tucurui, located in the heart of the Para State. Tucurui was a fishing village of 3,000 people in 1975 when the construction for the Tucurui dam and power plant commenced. Today it’s a “company town” of nearly 100,000, with much of the economic activity centered around the dam and Electronorte, the subsidiary of Electrobras which operates it. The gated company town part of the city has all amenities, including a rudimentary hotel, recreation facilities, hospital, free housing with free utilities, churches, etc.
Early the next morning we were on a skiff to visit some of the islands. There are over 3,000 islands that were created up and down river by the construction of the dam. Most have at least one family on them, many have villages. We first visited a school which was being expanded. Students arrive on “school boats”. There were 10 year age ranges among the students in the same class. Some nursed their babies in class. The school was wired for basic electricity, but there was no power. The teachers live on the island during the week and then return to Tucurui on weekends.
The succcess of our project in Tucurui will depend upon the partnership we can develop with the employees of Electronorte and the faculty and students of the Federal University there. Representatives of both pledged their support to BrightLight. Now we need to make it happen. Stay tuned!