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Bridging Borders: A Maryland Businesswoman Gets Involved

In almost exactly six months, Baker Park in Frederick, Maryland will be filled with colorful Brazilian costumes, exotic Brazilian food, traditional Brazilian dancers and crowds of people who want to find out more about life in their South American sister city.

At least 15,000 people are expected at the party.

Frederick, Maryland has adopted Aquiraz, Brazil as a sister city, and Brazil Day on September 7, 2008 is the biggest benefit event on the sister city calendar.

Dirci Marquart, a Brazilian Adventist who has been living in the US for more than 14 years, is the force behind Brazil Day and the sister city association.

“Brazil Day in Frederick happened after a challenge from the Frederick mayor’s office,” Marquart says. The mayor said that if Marquart could get at least 12 people to attend a public meeting showing they were interested in Brazil, the mayor’s office would consider a “sisterhood” with a Brazilian city.

When the meeting was announced, well over 200 people showed up – and the mayor agreed to adopt Aquiraz.

The first Brazil Day in Frederick, held last September, attracted a crowd of more than 5,000.

This year the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC is getting involved.

Marquart chose Aquiraz, a historic city on Brazil’s coast, as Frederick’s sister city because of the volunteer work she had been doing there for many years.

Dirci Marquart seems to be the force behind a lot of things.

She was born in Brazil to a German/Italian family. In the early 1970s, she went to the US to study, and in 1984 she moved to the US permanently.

But she hasn’t forgotten about where she came from, and she travels to Brazil several times a year on mission trips or for business.

Since moving to the US, Marquart has started a successful family company, Son’Art Galleria by GranTops, which imports and designs exotic granite for countertops in homes and businesses. (GranTops is the major sponsor of Brazil Day.)

In January, she took members of Frederick’s business and political community to visit Aquiraz. “Aquiraz is located by the sea in a wonderful setting,” Marquart says. “However, the needs of the community are overwhelming. We visited the vacation spots as well as the local hospital, schools, and community centers to bring back a report and to make plans how we can better make a difference in that community.”

Marquart says the most exciting thing about the sister city program is “the opportunity to mobilize communities to make a difference in the world for the better.”

The sister city program benefits Frederick by showing its citizens how they can contribute to society, and where they can go on vacation. And Aquiraz gains through its association with Frederick in many ways – the most recent gift is an ambulance donated to its municipal hospital.

Marquart also works to help Brazilians in ways beyond the sister city program.

Marquart spends a lot of time with a foundation she started, called MissionServ International. Through MissionServ, she has been organizing trips to Brazil for many years, and specifically to Aquiraz for volunteer work. She has helped to organize more than 90 volunteer mission trips to Brazil, doing everything from medical to construction work.

She takes lots of people, mainly Americans, to Brazil with her.

“We have done projects with some [Adventist] academies, churches and self-supporting groups,” says Marquart. “However, most of our projects are done by volunteers that come to us from all walks of life, not necessarily church groups or members.”

MissionServ has ten dental missions planned for 2008, and two surgical missions. This month, professionals from Flying Doctors of America are traveling to Brazil.

Marquart’s foundation is also in the middle of a church building project in Euzebio, Brazil. A group – supported financially by a church in Pennsylvania – is going to complete the building this month.

In September, ten evangelistic series are going to take place in Brazil. The volunteers are being organized by MissionServ, together with The Quiet Hour.

Marquart’s newest program is called Youth Ambassadors for Peace, where young people will compete to become the representative of Frederick overseas. Marquart organized a huge benefit Chocolate Gala to launch the new program, as well as raise funds to send the donated ambulance to Brazil.

It’s obvious that Marquart does not compartmentalize – all of her programs and businesses and foundations complement and help each other. And when she sees something that needs to be done, she doesn’t wait for someone to step in – she goes out there and creates something or organizes something to make it happen.

But she makes it look simple to juggle all these interlinking projects and trips and programs. “There was nothing really difficult about starting the sister city program,” she says. “It was an exciting challenge.”

Dirci Marquart has worked for the US Steel Corporation, Rio Tinto in London, the United Nations (Economic Commission), the World Bank, ADRA International, and her own consulting companies.

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