Time do Bem reveals challenges in Amazonas

January 2024

The February edition of G5 Talks discussed the necessities, challenges, and impacts of social responsibility actions, especially with the current health crisis in Brazil as it faces the covid-19 pandemic. G5 Talks is a project through which business leaders exchange experiences and lessons learned with the G5 team. To discuss the topic, André Benchimol, Founding Partner of G5 Partners, and Levindo Santos, Senior Partner of G5 Partners, invited Marx Gabriel and José Alecrim, the CEO of MB Consultoria and Operations Director of Grupo VDA, respectively, who are responsible for Time do Bem, a group of individuals, with no political ties, which was set up exclusively to assist with the crisis of the public health system in the Amazon, unleashed in January 2021. 

Marx Gabriel explained that the group was created after a dream his wife had. “I went for a walk with her on a Saturday, it was on January 8, and she told me that in her dream, a spiritual entity asked her to distribute food to hospitals. Later, Antonio Alecrim called and asked what I thought about preparing snacks and distributing them at hospitals. I thought: ‘receiving two similar messages on the same day is something I should pay attention to’. Later that day, I lost a friend who died because there wasn’t a hospital bed available.” 

Soon after, Marx Gabriel and Antonio Alecrim purchased 600 snacks to be distributed at hospitals and started asking other people to join so the project could expand. “We sent a WhatsApp message to some friends and, in little over an hour, each of us had received more than 60 bank deposits.” 

Marx Gabriel initiated the Time do Bem project by donating snacks and, shortly after, the group was already getting bigger and organized. “Everyone moved into to my office”, he said. 

An important note: the situation of the Amazonas public health system is so dramatic that, in 2020, the State had only 7 ICU beds for every 100,000 inhabitants, the fourth lowest index in the country. Last year, only 20 respirators available for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to official data. 

In addition to food items, Time do Bem also donated hospital equipment to several hospitals across the Amazonas State. In total, they donated 31,000 snack kits, 2,000 basic food baskets, over 1 ton of hospital supplies to hospitals in Manaus, the capital city, as well as to other cities in the interior of the State, 2 tons of personal and protective equipment, 70 BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Pressure Airway) machines to Manaus and 113 BiPAP machines to other cities in Amazonas. A total of 62 cities were benefited with the group’s efforts. 

Logistics challenge 

Marx Gabriel and Antonio Alecrim explained that one of the great challenges was the complex logistics required to purchase materials in São Paulo and quickly transport them to Manaus. Antonio Alecrim’s wife, for example, stayed in São Paulo to help. The goal was to purchase materials in São Paulo and transport them daily to Manaus. There was always someone traveling from one city to another carrying large cargo volumes, ranging from 300 kg to 600 kg. 

“We learned that the concept of urgency changes. An equipment arriving late can mean that someone died because of that. And late can sometimes be a matter of minutes. Several people died in Manaus due to lack of oxygen, many, many people died. They were assassinated”, said Marx Gabriel. 

Trust – a fundamental element 

Throughout the entire process, gaining trust from donors was essential for the work to be carried out. “Many people trusted us because we delivered materials directly to hospitals. Trust was key. We would not have been able to act so quickly if we did not have people’s trust. Dealing with life and death touched many people, large groups of people”, said Antonio Alecrim. 

After being involved with the project during almost one month, Marx Gabriel revealed what he learned. “The first legacy is that we can do lot of things with very little. Secondly, is that people need to participate. Young people need to participate more and learn more about politics. They need to understand what a government budget is, they need to increase their levels of education, they need to study more. My disappointment was with business societies and associations. They are absolutely passive”, he added. 

According to Marx Gabriel, “all social classes need to do a self-analysis to understand this entire process, to understand what was done right and what went wrong. Especially in terms of what should have been done but was not,” he said. And he also stated that “Brazil needs an active society, not a passive one”. 

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