This is my second visit to Manaus and the place doesn’t get any prettier. The nice area is near the opera house, as you can see in the pictures nearby. The rest is just a fairly crowded city that could be anywhere in the world that is hot and humid. We did save a lot of money, however, by staying in a downtown hotel called the Go-Inn rather than the more expensive Blue Tree. I like Go-Inn better anyway. You can walk to some of the appointments.
We have two overlapping streams of connection in places like Manaus or Belém. Those are the alumni of our programs and our BNCs. I visited both during my trip. One of the big relatively new sources of connections and friends is our Youth Ambassador Program. We choose some of the smartest kids in Brazil, so they are already on the road to success. The YA program helps them get even farther ahead. We don’t have a massive number of YA, but after ten years there are hundreds and they are proving to be excellent contacts. Even in an out-of-the way place like Macapá, we found young people eager to talk with us.
Unfortunately, we don’t have BNCs in every city. We cannot easily found new ones because of the logistical challenges and the competition from other English teaching organizations. We can nurture the ones we have and encourage them to establish branches in other cities. The BNC in Belém has a branch in Santarém, for example, and maybe the BNC in Manaus could sponsor something in Boa Vista in Roraima.
The BNC in Manaus is our most remote. It teaches about 5000 students and their building is fully booked during the peak times, i.e. Saturdays and evenings. To get more students and to help alleviate the crowding, the BNC is working with UNINORTE, a local Laureate affiliate. The BNC will have access to UNINORTE.
We were able to give the BNC that good new that they could host an English immersion program for our runner up youth ambassadors this year. BNCs really don’t make any money on these things, because they always offer scholarships to the students, but getting to host some of Brazil’s best and brightest young people is worth the effort.
The BNC in Manaus is doing well. There are no serious problems; in fact they have been able to expand operations. Their only complaint was that the area around Manaus does not produce enough quality applications for programs like Science w/o Borders. In the last group of more than 650 students, the whole of Amazonas sent only five. By comparison the city of Londrina, which is a little smaller than Manaus, had seventy students go on the scholarships. One problem, they told me, is the TOFEL. Many people cannot get the scores and it is even a problem to take the tests. Last year there were not enough slots for all the applicants. This problem was compounded by a power failure that affected all of Manaus on the day of the test last semester.
Below is a lonely preacher. He talked about the Bible for as long as we were in the square. He was talking when we came and when we left, so I assume he was there a really long time. He got no takers that we saw.
We noticed lots of Haitians around Manaus. The BNC folks told us that there were now around 5000 in Manaus. There were around 1000 school aged children who are in the public schools, w/o Portuguese. The BNC is trying to help the local schools teach Portuguese, but this is not their primary area of expertise.
We also went over to Instituto Tecnologico Alternativo de Petrópolis where we met the director and his staff. He gets international volunteers. In the group were two Peruvians and a German volunteer.
This organization aims to provide practical education to the people of the neighboring poor area. It is a challenge, but Jonas has managed to organize community resources enough to become a local institution for thousands of people. They primarily learn English, computers and business related skills. The Mission has donated books for their library. While most people in the area appreciate the education, we were told that robberies are a problem. Much of their computer equipment was stolen not long ago and now they have a security system. It is too bad that an organization trying to help has to do something like that.