By Leandro Silva*
"I want to be a doctor" - replied Eduarda, 10 years old, when one of our volunteers asked her "what is your dream?" She lives with her family in one of the 127 5mx5m (approx. 270 ft2) shacks in the Olga Benário community. The school where she studies has been closed for months due to Covid and social isolation.
In the beginning of August, thanks to the donation of several partners and the involvement of five local churches, we distributed the first batch of Bags of Hope to Eduarda and other vulnerable children in Felipe Camarão - a neighborhood on the outskirts of Natal, and the surrounding area. These bags are helping the kids to pass through the quarantine in a very cheerful, productive and uplifting way.
The effects caused by COVID-19 have devastated children and adolescents living in poverty in the communities in which we work. The actual scenario is terrible: thousands of boys and girls deprived of going to school or having access to any type of educational, devotional or social activity in a group. In addition to this, they all are isolated in their 5mx5m (260 ft2) shacks and we are aware of the negative impact this can have on them in the coming years. This is the reason why we decided to expand the support we are already giving to their families, going beyond the distribution of groceries bags and hygiene kits.
In partnership with World Nations International, we developed the Bags of Hope project, which aims to provide kits with excellent teaching and biblical material to the children who are living in the impoverished area. This material will support them in their holistic development during quarantine.
Jesus commanded his disciples: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who become like them" (Matthew 19:14). However, how do we do this during lockdown?
Most of the children in the communities have no access to educational, recreational or social activities. Jesus commanded his disciples: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who become like them" (Matthew 19:14). However, how do we do this during lockdown?
We have developed Bags of Hope as a resource to serve vulnerable children in partnership with churches in the most impoverished areas. The bags bring kits of highly playful educational and biblical materials.
There are still many children that we wish to include in this project (we have been dreaming of producing and delivering another 500 of them). The average cost of each bag is $9.00. Can you pray about that and come with us?
Two educators from two different churches worked with us to define the content that would be delivered, balancing educational and biblical support, with volunteers from five local churches, in partnership with ALEF Mission, we set up the project.
In the initial phase, 262 children in Felipe Camarão and the surrounding area received the bags and the results were incredible. The children's registration was done in partnership with four local churches, so that the impact is being greatly expanded due to the monitoring carried out with each one of them.
In the next stage, we aim to reach over 500 children, including more than 100 who live in a community called Olga Benário, in shacks in really unhealthy situation, without even access to clean water. With these families, we want to promote food security and prevention of the spread of COVID- 19 in the communities. Imagine what this change will bring into these children's lives!
This is not an isolated action, but it is part of a vision in which ALEF Mission and World Nations International are united: children and adolescents living in impoverished communities are vulnerable to violence, drugs and misery. Long-term missionary work is needed to bring the gospel of the Lord Jesus, also supporting them in their physical and social needs.
Through the See Change Brazil - a WNI project, we are supporting churches in this area to develop missionary projects that will reach and serve these children. There are currently four churches developing projects to serve around 400 children, of which two are being directly supported by the partnership with World Nations.
The projects are diverse, from school tutoring, to sports, music and ballet academy projects, using the space of the local churches - all of this directly linked to the preaching of the gospel contextualized to their age and also food supply. Over the past few months, for example, the families of the children served by these projects have been helped with food and hygiene items on an ongoing basis.
“...we have been dreaming of producing and delivering another 500 this month! The average cost of each Bag is 9,00 USD. Can you pray with us for that?”
Our vision is to see growth in this post-Covid period for a number of 20 churches working with at least 100 children and / or teenagers each, reaching at least 2,000 boys and girls in this large impoverished area in a lasting and impactful way!
This is a great vision and we need your support and prayers to achieve it. These days are not only ones of great adversity, but also of opportunities to proclaim the gospel in a complete way, that will reach out to the spiritual, social and physical needs of these communities, especially the little ones!
*Leandro Silva is a Missionary of Action International Ministries and president of ALEF Mission. Partner of World Nations International in Brazil.