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#Covid-19 and the EoC - Brazil, responsibility towards the weakest

Isolated, but not stopped. Brazilian entrepreneur Armando Tortelli has been at home for four weeks, but his commitment and his work have only increased.

by Lourdes Hercules

Armando Tortelli has been the owner of AP Medical Produtos Hospitalares, a company dedicated to the supply of hospital medical products for 30 years. He is 63 years old and his friends and acquaintances wonder why he still continues to work. He answers: I feel the duty to leave a legacy through my company, an Economy of Communion company, with "new men” who are already trained, with professionals who enter this culture, and with values. But also to provide a response to those who need work.

The International Labour Organization recently said that about 25 million people could lose their jobs due to the crisis generated by the coronavirus pandemic. There are currently 12 million unemployed in Brazil, but it is very likely that the number will increase in the coming weeks. Faced with this situation, Armando feels an even stronger commitment to support and maintain his company. "What do I do as an entrepreneur?” he asks himself. “We can't stop. I think I have to save my company to be an answer for people. We've been through other crises before, but never one like this. I'm at home, but I am already thinking about creative ways to work after the crisis. I spend my days looking for solutions - and once again: we cannot stop! This is a message that must reach other entrepreneurs.

But keeping up employment possibilities is not the only challenge for Armando. AP Medical is a medical supply company and at the moment it is being asked for a large quantity of basic products to fight the coronavirus. Unfortunately, as demand grows, so does speculation on preventive products such as masks and alcohol-based disinfectants. "I asked myself: in this situation, as an EoC entrepreneur, how can I testify to what I believe and live for? I have therefore decided not to adopt market prices and I am selling my products at more than 50% lower prices than my competitors. Certainly, AP Medical is a small company, not able to make a significant impact on the market, but I still try to do my part well".

In these times of general panic, even in Brazilian health companies are charging prices up to 500% higher than in the pre-Covid-19 period to increase profits: although it must be said that the country has had a strong devaluation of its currency against USD and this has had its effect, speculation is a major force behind the price increase.

"In this time period I am determined not to take advantage of people's fragility and to maintain fair prices, without letting myself be tempted to increase my profits. The competitors don't understand this, but they admire our testimony very much. I have had the opportunity to talk to other medical supply companies and I try to make a call for living the experience of solidarity at this time. It’s a well-built dialogue”.

His being an entrepreneur has a style that many people recognize and appreciate in him. This has led to an important collaboration with people involved in the government of his state, within which it has been possible for him to access information about the market of health products: Armando's contribution consists in finding the products that the state now needs in order to deal with the emergency: recently he has managed to act as an intermediary between a Chinese company that is willing to provide the necessary products and the government, which will later evaluate the acquisition. He emphasizes: "I think it’s fair to put my knowledge at the service of the common good.”

A company with solid foundations

"We live like complete strangers. A long time ago, no one could have imagined that we would go through such catastrophe. From one moment to the next we feel like prisoners of a very small virus," says Armando. But adversity is not synonymous with defeat. It's precisely the difficult moments that remind him how the Economy of Communion has proved to be a reality, although in the nineties it seemed a utopia. This, says Armando, would not have been possible without the charisma of Chiara Lubich, who enlightened the lives of many entrepreneurs. "Being an entrepreneur in the Economy of Communion brings difficulties, as for anyone, but above all it brings benefits and creates deep roots," he concludes.

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