SAO PAULO, Brazil A massive service project in which 40,000 people among them about 20,000 children including members and friends of the Church, served the elderly in 200 institutions in more than 150 Brazilian cities.
Organized by the Church's Helping Hands service organization, the event was held in October on the "Day of the Children," a day in which children traditionally receive gifts. The service was titled, "Small Hands Helping the Elderly."
The volunteers delivered joy and comfort in the form of snacks, quilts, hygiene products, books, cards, music and theatrical presentations.
Instead of merely dropping off the appreciated items, the volunteers many children escorted by adults stopped for a conversation and to give a hug to the delighted elderly recipients.
In previous years, projects have included delivering newborn kits to new mothers, repairing schools and collecting and distributing food. Among the cities involved were Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Porto Alegre, and the Federal District.
The public affairs department was contacted by various people and organizations, including religions, that wanted to participate. The size of the volunteer effort also attracted the attention of the news media and received coverage on the National Journal, the largest television news magazine in Brazil.
And, for the first time in the history of the Church in Brazil, a 30-second commercial spot about the "Small Hands Helping the Elderly" project was aired as a public service on a national television network. The Globo Television Network is the largest network in Latin America and has the largest audience in Brazil. Broadcasting the commercial throughout the country has had a positive impact on the Church's initiative.
"It was very nice to see the Helping Hands logo on the television and to hear the name of the Church being said in loud and clear tones, as it should be," commented Rosa Maciel of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Stake.
Since the "Small Hands Helping the Elderly" project was launched, many stakes have embraced it with love and vigor.
Preparation for the effort began months before. Relief Society sisters began to sew clothing and knit scarves. Primary children armed themselves with colored pencils to create beautiful cards. Young men and women came to contribute, and many men put the priesthood in action. It was "the foundation of a great work" (see Doctrine and Covenants 64:33), which ended in a memorable Day of the Children.
Much was required and much more was given. Leaders gave their time, goods and talents to teach skits, dances and songs. Friends of the Church, knowing about the project, also made it a point to bring their gifts. Giving in public and anonymously, people donated soaps, lotions, shampoos and more, and helped to assemble hygiene kits. This they did to demonstrate love and respect for those who long ago left childhood behind, and who would likely not be remembered at any other time except perhaps Christmas.
Another experience took place in Porto Alegre after the project. A woman representative of the perfume department of Armarinhos Parana was aware of the Church through a member. While visiting this member, the woman heard about the "Small Hands Helping the Elderly" project. She declared enthusiastically that her daughter Andressa, 8, had seen the coverage on National Journal and was so touched that she had asked her mother how she could participate.
This mother asked to be advised of the next project, so that her daughter and her daughter's grandmother could take part. And then she accepted the invitation to join a family home evening with the member family.
Cesar Silva, second counselor in the Anapolis Brazil Stake presidency, bore testimony of the importance of this project, which once again brought forth good results in his neighborhood.
"Our stake is already reaping the fruits of this work," he said.
In recognition of the humanitarian and community service activities of the Church in Brazil, representatives of Globo Network Television, director of Globo Communication Central (CGCOM) director Luis Erlanger and director of project development Albert Alcouloumbre, met with Osvaldo Bassi and Fernando Assis, who are responsible for the Helping Hands program, in their offices.
On that occasion, the possibility of working together on other service projects was discussed. Globo Communication Central sponsors various service projects and organizations.