Volunteers Brighten the Face of a Nation

“Volunteers Brighten the Face of a Nation,” Ensign, Jan. 2003, 77–78

Volunteers Brighten the Face of a Nation

On Brazil’s independence day last year, 7 September, an estimated 30,000 Church members and their friends held a massive service event, refurbishing more than 120 city, state, and national schools across Brazil. The project was held in more than 100 cities in 12 states.

Throughout the cities, people in pullover vests labeled SUD (LDS in Portuguese) swarmed school buildings and grounds, carrying paintbrushes and scrapers. In addition, many of the schools’ directors, teachers, and students joined the massive effort. When they finished hours later, the face of the nation was a little brighter.

The project was held under the auspices of a Church program in Brazil called “Hands That Help.” This program organizes volunteers to provide community service.

The event in September included maintaining electrical and hydraulic systems in the schools, as well as pruning trees and cleaning, painting, and repairing whatever needed sprucing up. Materials and paint were donated by private businesses or provided by community resources.

In Manaus, a large city at the headwaters of the Amazon River, more than 1,500 volunteers worked at 12 day-care centers and elementary schools.

“The work was very useful,” says community volunteer Sonia Lafayette, expressing her happiness at helping repair the school she attended as a child. “I was able to repay a little to the school that gave me so much.”

Another volunteer in Manaus, Valdemar Siquiera da Costa, operator of a small boat that transports people across the rivers around Manaus, observes: “On this day, no one refused to work, and all refused to be paid. My wife, our two children, and I were very happy as we worked alongside others.”

In Rio de Janeiro, after a cold and windy night, Renata Silva, a 15-year-old who had been baptized just a month earlier, put on her SUD jacket and reported to a school for her task. A coordinator asked her to go outside and direct those arriving at the school. Despite the fact that she was expecting to paint and clean, she remained in her assignment until she was no longer needed there.

“Renata realized that it is not where you serve but how you serve,” says Nei Garcia of Church public affairs in Brazil. “She was a great example of humility and the desire to make things better.”

Artur Segurando, director of the state school in Campinas, was surprised by the enthusiasm with which the members worked. “We received a multitude of people—men, women, youth, and children, all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—imbued with a great spirit of unity,” he said. “They cleaned the school, painted the patio, washed the windows, and cleaned the gardens. Certainly, our school gained greatly in this spirited service.”

Heloisa Helena Linhares of the Maraponga Ward, Fortaleza Brazil Montese Stake, and a teacher at one of the schools, says, “I feel great joy to be able to tell my fellow teachers and the officials and students that this work was done by the church of which I am a member.”

Clothed in vests identifying them as Latter-day Saints, volunteers work to refurbish a school in Brazil. (Photograph courtesy of Brazil Public Affairs.)

Volunteers of all ages pitch in to paint, clean, and repair schools across Brazil. (Photograph courtesy of Brazil Public Affairs.)