SAO PAULO, Brazil More than 30,000 Church members and friends in 120 Brazilian cities took part in the Church's largest service project ever in this nation as part of the United Nations' "Year of the Volunteer."
October was the month designated by the national Brazilian committee to emphasize helping. On Oct. 12, the Day of the Children, Church members distributed 15,000 kits for newborn babies in maternity hospitals. The kits contained clothing and hygiene products donated by private companies and by the Church's Humanitarian Services.
Elder Athos M. Amorim of the Seventy and president of the Brazil South Area, told members that "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17.)
"The members of the Church are helping to make good citizens in their cities and in their nation," said Elder Robert S. Wood, president of the Brazil North Area. "Giving service is the formula for this."
"This project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a grand social act, a great and beautiful gesture for children and their mothers on this very special day," said Ronaldo Lessa, governor of the state of Alagoas, who joined the project in the city of Maceio, and helped distribute newborn kits at hospitals. The Church members and friends were organized under stake and ward humanitarian and public affairs committees. The volunteers worked in the metropolitan areas of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Curitiba, Campinas, Sorocaba, Porto Alegre, Florianopolis, Salvador, Recife, Maceio, Natal, Fortaleza and Manaus.
Church volunteers began filling the kits at the beginning of the year. Thousands of women utilized their skills in knitting and crocheting to make part of the clothing. In Sao Paulo and Brasilia, for example, many of them met in various offices and in homes to use sewing and knitting machines and looms.
"Many sisters learned a new technique that they were able to use in making clothing and blankets for their own families," said Rita Puerta, coordinator of the project in Sao Paulo. "I know there are sisters who were unemployed now earning money for their families by making blankets."
Maria Aparecida Kiyama, a member in Sorocaba, reserved Saturdays to make baby clothing.
Sandro Quatel, president of the Salvador Brazil North Stake, said that "in the 12 years we have lived in this city, I have never participated with my family in an activity so gratifying."
The project of Church members making and distributing kits for newborns and their mothers began in 1998 in Rio de Janeiro, and has since expanded across the nation. In each city, the service has left an impact.
"It was very good to see how we are completing more and more of these kinds of projects," said Ana Marcia Oliveira, multi-stake director of public affairs from Recife, where some 2,000 members took part.
The activity was covered by news media in each city. In addition, a video was made of the service that will be presented at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in December. In one interview with Marcia Tedesco, general coordinator of the Brazilian Committee of the International Year of the Volunteer, said the project was one of the nation's two most important such projects of the year. In her final interview, she declared, "This can only be the true Church of Jesus Christ."
One of the surprises of the project was the participation of so many friends of members who were involved in preparing and distributing the kits. In Caxais do Sul, Luciano Santos, one of many merchants who donated supplies for the kits, expressed his appreciation for being involved with the Church project. "It is gratifying for us [the merchants] and for those who receive these gifts."
Additional projects are planned by the Church to assist in humanitarian service. For more information (in Portuguese), see: www.maosqueajudam.org.br.