Centelha, means “spark”, in Portuguese.
In 1964 I was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bahia, Brazil. I was given the opportunity to organize a small village and start a 4H Club. This experience changed my life and the lives of thousands of other people for the better. Only two people in this village of mud huts could read and write. We implemented a system of agriculture. We irrigated, cultivated, and sold crops that we grew. The people in the village did all the work; I just ignited the spark, which grew into a fire of progress. After the sale of the initial harvest the village people wanted to waste the money on consumer goods. We had a meeting and decided we should use the proceeds to construct a school. Many people in America sent some money to help with this construction as well. We put a sign in front of the school, which stated that this school building came about as a result of the villager’s hard work and the mutual cooperation of the American and Brazilian governments.
Many years later I returned to Correntesa, Brazil, the site of the school. I could not even find it; the area had grown and developed so much. I found a middle-aged man andasked him if he knew of a school building that had been built in the 1960’s. He said, “Oh, you mean the American school?” to which I replied, “Why do you call it that?” He said that an American had come to the village and was responsible for the construction of the school. He showed me the school, which was still being used for grades 1-4. He told me that people from this village had gone to many areas of the world, learned other languages, and many people were well educated. He said he was very grateful for the progress that had come to the area. I asked the gentleman if he could read and write. To which he replied, “Certainly.” I asked him to read the sign in front of the school, which he did. I asked him then, “Why do you call this the American school?” I said, “It is your school, you people believed and built it, and this helped you get to where you are today.” The man then asked me if I was that American. I said, “Yes.” He then said, “YOU, were the spark that started our fire to progress.”
He thanked me, I thanked him, and I realized that if we wanted to get something done we had to get people to believe in themselves.
This is where we are in America today.
At the time, in the 60’s, the big feeling and saying among the mass of disadvantaged people in Brazil was: “Se Deus Quiser”- which means “God willing”. As a result of programs that raise self-esteem, like this agriculture project, people learned that they in fact could control their destiny.
We Americans can also control our destiny. We must begin to re-establish our democracy. At the end of the next chapter, Conclusions, is the petition I ask you to sign. Please read this petition, sign it and either email, or mail it to me so I can accumulate enough ammunition to begin the process of change in America. The actual petition can be found on my website, allstatevsrobinsons.com. There will be updated communication on a regular basis on this website.