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Rotarians have Brazilian visitors

April 16, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - Members of area Rotary clubs are learning about various aspects of life in Brazil through five fellow Rotarians from the largest country in South America.

The Brooke County Rotary Club heard, at its March 31 meeting, from the five, who are members of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange team.

GSE teams are comprised of Rotary members from various fields who agree to spend five weeks in another country to learn about its culture and share details of their own in an effort to promote good will between nations.

The team from Brazil includes:

Alberto Otaviano Diniz Araujo, the team's captain, who owns a beverage and mineral water distributing company in his home city of Itapeccerica, which translated from Brazil's native language of Portuguese means "Slippery Rock."

Dr. Michael Palma, Brooke County Rotary president, revealed that Araujo taught himself English by watching movies and listening to music.

Danilo Jose Silvieri, who operates and teaches at a Wizard school, one of an international franchise of schools aimed at teaching English as a second language to children, teens and adults.

Silvieri said he hopes to learn about the American school system.

Leonardo Nogueira Falcao, a business professor at the University of Itauna who assists his wife as an independent distributor for Herbalife, an international producer of nutrition, weight loss and skin care products.

He said Itauna, like many Brazilian cities, developed around a church, and its church is literally at the center of town. Brazil has the largest population of Catholics in the world.

Maria Clara de Melo Rego, a teacher and international relations officer for the UNIS Educational Group who lives in Varginha, a city whose name is pronounced much like Virginia.

De Melo Rego said the city became so well known for an alleged incident involving an unidentified flying object in the 1990s that city leaders decided to capitalize on it, adding statues of extraterrestrials and flying sauces in various areas.

She added a UFO convention there draws many visitors from around the world.

Pauline Freire Pimenta, an executive secretary involved with public relations at the Federal University of Lavras who recently married a history teacher.

Asked about schools in Brazil, she said depending on the region, children typically attend school from ages 6 to 18. At the elementary level, they study many of the same subjects American children do, but their days are shorter, beginning at 7 a.m. and ending around noon, she said.

Following high school, students may further their educations at universities. The cost of enrollment is a small fee, but admission is very selective, with prospective students required to successfully complete a difficult examination to show their eligibility, Pimenta said.

Asked about access to healthcare, de Melo Rego said the government has invested a lot into public health, though private medical care also is available, but access varies according to region.

For example, people of lower incomes in rural areas have less access to it and other modern amenities, she said.

Pimenta said Brazilians in urban areas enjoy watching television and use the Internet for work and recreation, but laptop computers cost twice as much as they do in the U.S.

Danilo said most products in Brazil are more expensive, and the nation ranks second in the world for its taxes.

Aided by a computer and large screen, the five shared photos of their families and cities and of themselves enjoying hobbies ranging from soccer, a very popular sport in Brazil played by 50 professional teams; to rock music, with de Melo Rego revealing she is a KISS fan.

Falcao said his Rotary club is small but active and has held bingos to raise funds for various community projects, collected food for the poor and provided computers to students with disabilities.

Palma presented to each team member saucers from the Homer Laughlin China Co. bearing Rotary symbols. The New Cumberland manufacturer is among various places throughout the region on the group's itinerary during their five-week stay.

(Scott can be contacted at

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