In this issue, Odebrecht Informa is introducing Savvy: Folks who’ve Learned from Work and Life, a series of reports, stories and memories from, by and about Odebrecht Organization members.
Personal account by Antonio Cardilli, given to Valber Carvalho – Edited for Odebrecht Informa by Alice Galeffi
The first member to tell his own story is Antonio Cardilli, who joined the Organization in 1979. Cardilli is the creator of Acreditar, the Continuing Professional Education Program, which began in Brazil on the Santo Antônio hydroelectric plant project in Rondônia, and has been replicated at other Odebrecht projects in other states and countries.
In a video statement given to reporter Valber Carvalho, he describes, among other things, how the Acreditar program got started, his relationship with indigenous peoples and the thrill of seeing a worker return his Family Grant card. Cardilli describes himself as a man who likes people and works for their good – a “peopologist.”
Here are some excerpts from Cardilli’s statement. The full video version (16 minutes) can be viewed at Odebrecht Informa’s website (www.odebrechtonline.com.br).
Arriving in the Amazon
I joined the Madeira Project in 2005, and soon started to attend meetings with the communities that were affected by construction of the Santo Antônio hydroelectric plant.
I took part in 64 participatory meetings, from Calama, near the Amazon region, to Abunã, on Bolivian border. I visited communities I never dreamed existed. There was one called Ramal dos Arrependidos (Branch of the Repentant), consisting of six or seven families who lived in the heart of the rain forest.
The real Brazilians are the ones out there in the Amazon, sticking to the land and giving it its proper value. We were the newcomers, and why had we come? To move them away. We would have to resettle them because progress was coming. How could we go about it? We began to hold meetings with them so they could participate in decisions. In the past, not long ago, two or three technicians would fly over an area in a plane, take a look at a community and say: “That one there, we’ll give it a school; that one will get a hospital; and we’ll build a road over there,” but that was not always what they needed. We did things differently. We wanted them to build according to their needs, and it worked. Today we don’t have any problems with the resettled communities.
Learning from indigenous people
I learned a lot from the Indians. Indians have no sense of time or schedules. They do things when they feel like it. A funny thing happened. We scheduled a meeting in an indigenous community for 9 am. The first Indian arrived at 5 pm. Their clock is biological, not one that tells time like ours, and we have to understand that to work with them in harmony.
If you look back at the history of Rondônia, you’ll see that extraction has always been part of the region’s economic life: in the 18th century there was a rubber boom, and then came the cycle of construction of the Madeira-Mamoré Railway, in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. The last boom was the mining period, which was the most predatory of all, and lasted for years. And there was a nagging question in my mind: “What can we do to change this situation?”
Then we conducted a survey in the region and found that although there were 30,000 unemployed people in Porto Velho, if we had started the project that day, we could only count on 30% of the local population at most, given the lack of job skills there. The rest would have to come from elsewhere. That is, we would have to bring in about 8,000 or more people, which would aggravate the social problems in region, such as poor sanitation (water and sewer), education, health, public safety, etc.
Inspiration for Acreditar
That’s when the light bulb lit up: “We have to change this story. We can’t build this project the way we’ve always done.”
There was only one way to do that, which was trying to provide the local people with the necessary skills. We looked for a government or private entity that had already done something similar on that scale. (At the time we were thinking of grooming 10,000 eligible people.) We looked all over Brazil and couldn’t find one. We just found bits and pieces that didn’t suit our needs. That’s when I decided to put this program together and call it Acreditar – “Believe.”
I have to believe that society will get on board with this program; that there will be students to educate and train. And I believe we can provide them excellent job skills and hire them to build this project.
Beginning of Acreditar
I arrived here in Porto Velho on January 14, 2008, along with part of the team to start up the program.
We went through the neighborhoods to tell people about the program: we visited churches, community associations, soccer fields and bars. Wherever there were more than four people in a bar we would stop, open the van and explain the program. It worked – in one week, I had 5,000 applicants.
We began teaching people job skills six months before breaking ground for the plant. They graduated and went out into the job market. One day someone said, “You’re just like a baker.” I said: “A baker?” “You’re kneading bread for someone else to eat.” I told him I didn’t care. This was an opportunity to get to know the workers, and they were getting to know my company, my organization. What I wanted was for them to have lots of job offers in the future, and for us to be their first choice. You can see the result: 85% of our workforce are local people. And that makes a big difference.
Worker returns Family Grant card
Given the success of Acreditar, we got a visit from President Lula last year, which was overwhelming, not only for me but for the whole team there.
One of our workers handed his Family Grant card to the president, telling him: “I don’t need this anymore. Thank you for your help, but now I can walk on my own two legs. I’m a citizen. I’m a first-class citizen. I’m just as worthy as any other.” It was incredibly moving. If you ask me if I cried, I’m not ashamed to say I did. I really did.
Are you a “peopologist”?
Here’s what I say: liking people doesn’t mean you’re their friend. I’m not those people’s friend. I don’t have a close relationship with them, but I work for their good. All my decisions are based on helping people.
I use the term “peopologist.” When a recent graduate or trainee comes to work with me, the first thing I ask the kid is: “Do you like people?” “Yes, I do,” he says. “Are you a ‘peopologist’?” “What’s that?” A ‘peopologist’ is someone who likes people. Does the strong smell of workers make you sick to your stomach? If it does you should leave. If the stench of people’s sweat disgusts you, you should go, because you’re in the wrong place.
Lessons from his grandfather
Someone else who taught me to like people was my grandfather. He took good care of his livestock, the horses and donkeys that worked for him, and when those animals reached a certain age, when they didn’t have the strength to work on the farm, my grandfather didn’t sell them off like most of his neighbors, who sold them to the abattoirs.
Not him. My grandfather put those animals out to pasture and let them die of old age. He’d say: “Son, that animal worked for me and helped me, so now I’m going to take care of him.” He’d take corn out to feed the livestock every day and I’d go with him. That had a big influence on my childhood and I think that it influenced my personality as well. It made me come to like people, because a person who treats animals that way – well, I don’t even need to say how well he treated people.