Church leaders and members help with disaster relief for flooding victims in Brazil, Ecuador

Church members spent thousands of hours helping after recent rains devastated parts of Brazil and Ecuador. Helping Hands volunteers, young adults and missionaries cleaned houses and streets, while others organized and delivered food and supplies.

Donations from the Church exceeded 40 tons of food, clothing, mattresses and more. Church members were among victims of the flooding. Below are some of the reports of the help given.

Petropolis, Brazil

The death toll is rising from last week’s mudslides and floods in Petropolis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. On Friday, Jornal Nactional reported that 217 people had died and 33 people were still not found. That’s up from 176 deaths and 110 missing reported by Reuters on Monday. Another report from USAID estimated that the flooding destroyed homes and displaced at least 3,000 people. According to the Deseret News, Rio’s governor this was the worst rain the city had experienced since 1932.

The Church of Jesus Christ in joint action with Rio de Janeiro’s government agencies, is sending more than 10 tons of food, hundreds of mattresses, blankets and mineral water to help families affected by the rains in Petropolis. Efforts to lift the needs and send humanitarian aid began immediately following the disaster report. Local leaders and church members are working to provide support to communities.

The Church News is seeking information about members and others affected by this recent devastation. But meanwhile, reports on Facebook show Church members already reaching out to give relief through the Helping Hands efforts.

Church volunteers unloaded water, food, mattresses, blankets and other items to give to the flooding victims in the Petropolis region. “All kinds of help are extremely welcome at this time when the region is so in need,” said the Facebook post.

Bahia, Brazil

In late December 2021, heavy rains affected thousands of people in southern Bahia and regions of Minas Gerais, Goiânia, São Paulo and other locations. Helping Hands volunteers cleaned flooded houses, businesses, streets and public spaces. A total of 3,350 food baskets were sent to the municipalities of Itabuna, Ilhéus and Jequié.

Local members joined to distribute soups, lunch boxes, clothes, blankets and mattresses to the homeless. Schools and chapels became support centers, producing approximately 1,500 meals a day on average.

Mailla Sepúlveda Pizarro, a member of the Church in the region and a Helping Hands volunteer, expressed gratitude that she had the means to help, even in the midst of tragedy.

Helping Hands volunteers unload a truck with donations to distribute to flooding victims in Brazil in December 2021.
Helping Hands volunteers unload a truck with donations to distribute to flooding victims in Brazil in December 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“As I looked closely at the plight of people who lost everything in the flood, I felt such compassion for them that my understanding of how much Heavenly Father loves us, hears us and answers our prayers has been immensely enhanced,” she said. “We cannot claim to love God and strive to be like his Son Jesus Christ if we miss opportunities to serve others. We need to be instruments in the Father’s hands.”

Sheila Lemos, the mayor of Vitória da Conquista in the state of Bahia, visited the Helping Hands volunteers to see their work up close. She personally thanked the more than 300 volunteers and later wrote on Instagram: “You are working day and night, including holidays, to ensure these donations reach those who need them most. To you, our eternal gratitude.”

Local Church leadership and Helping Hands volunteers continue to help the communities and victims. Read more about it in Brazil Newsroom.

Ecuador

Students at the Church’s Institute of Religion in Quito, Ecuador, collected food and clothing to help flooding victims in the city. Two sectors of the city experienced heavy rains on Jan. 31, and several streets flooded and homes and vehicles were damaged.

Around 45 institute students took part in the project, working long hours each day Feb. 2 and 3. They gathered bottled water, beans, canned tuna, noodles, sugar, salt, oil and butter, plus personal hygiene products like toilet paper and toothpaste, as well as clothes, blankets and candles. Then they put together kits for those affected, and missionaries helped make the deliveries on Feb. 4.

Students at the Church's Institute of Religion in Quito, Ecuador, take part in organizing supplies for delivery to flooding victims in the area in early February 2022.
Students at the Church’s Institute of Religion in Quito, Ecuador, take part in organizing supplies for delivery to flooding victims in the area in early February 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The service became a spiritual experience for those young people involved.

”That week of service was an unforgettable experience; seeing how people serve and help without any interest has motivated me to continue and I can say that institute is a program inspired by God, which provides us with opportunities for learning and service. This activity helped me personally remember that a life of service brings happiness,” said Jonathan Canchig.

Read more in the Newsroom release from Ecuador here.