Stories and Viewpoints

In the Midst of COVID-19 Uncertainty, Determination Forms a Path Forward

By: Niki Kapsambelis

 

Márcia Yoshie Hacimoto

For Márcia Yoshie Hacimoto, few things are as exciting as the challenge of a blank page.

Sometimes, it’s a factory that doesn’t exist, and she has to build it from the ground up. She already had one under her belt when she moved to Campos dos Goytacazes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2007 to build another.

And sometimes, the blank page is a person she’s training. As the Quality Head of Campos dos Goytacazes, she has developed many employees over the years, a role that she considers an extension of the mentors who once trained her.

“All my former bosses were women, and I learned a lot with them: how to be strong and achieve the task,” Márcia said. “This is something that I cannot keep only with me. We should teach other people.”

But perhaps the biggest challenge she has faced so far began in April 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Nobody had ever seen the virus or knew how to prevent it, making it the biggest blank page of all.

“It was a hard time for me and all the people in the factory. Nobody knew the precautions we should take,” Márcia recalled.

But as guidance began to emerge, she worked hard to help people understand how they could best protect themselves and each other, leading trainings about new procedures of social distancing, protective equipment, alcohol for disinfection and mask use. She was proud of how people began to embrace the education and hold each other accountable for taking the precautions.

“It wasn’t just managers monitoring,” Márcia said. “The employees looked out for each other. Everybody should take care of each other.”

When vaccines became available in early 2021, Márcia – who was worried for the safety of people working in the plant – started a series of conversations with government officials who were coordinating the city’s immunization plan, working to secure vaccines for the employees.

In meeting after meeting, Márcia worked to demonstrate the importance of the site and its role in producing products needed for COVID-19 treatment, presenting analyses that bolstered her case. By June 2021, she won approval for the plan, paving the way for all employees to have access to preventive vaccines at work.

Several workers reached out to Márcia after they were immunized to thank her for fighting for them.

“It made me very happy. I have known these people since the beginning, and if something is not going well, I can’t sleep,” Márcia said. “I feel they are my family, all these people … I was keeping my family safe.”

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