Five years ago, the ICBIE celebrated its inauguration, opening its doors to the community of Salvador’s cidade baixa. Looking back at the inauguration brochure, and re-reading the original mission statement, it’s fascinating to see how faithfully the Institute has adhered to those fundamental ideals.
During the intense years since then, the ICBIE has been a constant presence and a potent innovative force that has improved the lives of many hundreds of people. To sustain and expand our work, Pietro has forged an incredible network of collaborators and supporters, including, among others, ARCI in Reggio Emilia, Bridge to Bahia at the American Overseas School of Rome, ICBIE Europa in Rome, the Arp Gallery in Amsterdam, Lahn Artists in Limburg Germany, Rhythm of Hope in Indianapolis, The Engineers Without Borders and, most recently, IMA Generation, both in Washington DC. In Salvador, the ICBIE has become the center for the Salvador Grafita Project, has launched “Italians for Culture,” which brings together other NGOs and ex-patriot intellectuals, and has initiated an impressive series of events, projects, festivals and seminars that have brought us together with the city’s most vital experiments in social construction and improvement, with grassroots work in orphanages, schools, and associations.
It hasn’t been easy. In fact, there have been only rare moments when there wasn’t some kind of emergency. The chronic scarcity of funds is the new normal, as we fight Quixotic battles against local corruption and graft. There have even been threats of violence, which were resolved amicably, but only after harrowing ethical confrontations, standing firm against ingrained crookedness and profiteering. Unexpected maintenance expenses have hammered down, always at the most inopportune moments, with a horrible sewage emergency, unforeseen damage from the salty air, serious problems with termites and electrical failures, but these disasters only tempered our resolve, to continue our work and to better understand the problems in our community.
An important anniversary like this offers a precious opportunity to once again thank all the wonderful people who have sustained us during these exciting and difficult years. Without you, none of this would have been possible.