, South American Division
Seventh-day Adventist volunteers collected donations of clothing, water, and more than a ton of food in a single Sabbath afternoon to assist 80 families left homeless by deadly floods and mudslides in and around Brazil's largest city, São Paulo.
About 400 mainly young people fanned out across Itaquaquecetuba, a city in the greater São Paulo metropolitan area, to seek the donations on March 12 even as rain continued to fall from a heavy downpour that erupted Thursday night, killing at least 20 people.
The volunteers visited 500 shops and homes to collect urgently needed supplies for 80 families who lost their homes in Itaquaquecetuba and were living at a local gym.
Local news media praised the collection drive as an act of solidary between Adventists and the community.
“This is the time for all of us to unite for the common good,” said Maurício Correia, an Adventist pastor who helped lead the drive. “This is the time for us to help alleviate the suffering of others.”
By late Sabbath afternoon, the volunteers had gathered 2,645 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of nonperishable food items, 26.5 gallons (100 liters) of drinking water, 450 pieces of clothing, 234 toilet paper rolls, 492 disposable diapers, two mattresses, and 20 toys.
“Often we have some items at home that we could donate, but we don’t try to find out where is the greatest need,” said Fernando Barbosa, a Itaquaquecetuba resident who donated a bag of clothes. “The initiative by these young people is very valuable at a time like this, when some families have lost everything.”
He said he would visit the gym in a few days to see whether he could assist in other ways.
After delivering the aid to the 80 families in the gym, the volunteers prepared a large meal for them on Saturday evening. The volunteers also put together 30 food baskets for families stranded in their homes in the neighborhood.
Elsewhere in the São Paulo area, a team of Adventists is preparing daily meals and sifting through donations for newly homeless families living at a gym in Mairiporã.
“We have 30 people who are taking turns in shifts to help make meals and separate the donations that are coming in,” said district pastor Paulo Barros.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, meanwhile, has earmarked US$20,000 for personal hygiene kits for families in Itaquaquecetuba, Franco da Rocha, and Itapevi. Each kit contains toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, soap, and toilet paper for five people.
The collection of relief supplies has continued throughout the week. Seventh-day Adventist churches in the São Paulo region have been turned into collection points for donated food and personal hygienic items.
Another large-scale collection drive is scheduled for this coming Sabbath afternoon, which is also the Adventist world church’s Global Youth Day, when several million Adventist young people across the world will find ways to “be the sermon” as they participate in community outreach activities.