May 26, 2020

In Brazil, Adventist School Students Write to Health-Care Workers

Fabiana Lopes, South American Division, and Adventist Review

Dozens of children from a Seventh-day Adventist school in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recently wrote letters to health-care workers at eight regional hospitals. The initiative, themed Drops of Gratitude, paired students of Duque de Caxias Adventist College taking online classes with health-care workers on the frontlines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elementary school advisor Verônica Lopes encouraged all students to participate after meeting with the students and their parents through video conference.

“I consider gratitude an essential element in a child’s development,” Lopes said. “The idea was to awaken in our students a spirit of gratitude for the professionals who spend every day trying to save other lives. They are true heroes.”

To avoid any exposure in the hospital environment, letters were sent by email on May 6, 2020, to Patricia Neves Gomes, a physician, who printed and organized the delivery to the eight units of the regional hospital network.

For Gomes, the students’ project is the sincerest feedback health-care workers can receive. “Many of us are saving our children by not coming home. We feel the affection of the children, which is very important at this moment,” she said.

Emotional issues are affecting the general population, and the reality has been similar among health professionals across Brazil, acknowledged Gabriela Almeida Pimentel, a neurologist in two São Paulo hospitals.

According to Pimentel, the situation inside hospitals is worrying. “The truth is that we are all exhausted — take off your gown, put on your gown, change your mask. It is a hard and difficult routine,” she said. “Other than the loss of more intimate contact, such as the handshake or the hug, among the professionals we already have a very high incidence of depression, and sometimes we know of people who commit suicide,” Pimentel acknowledged.

But actions such as the children’s letter-writing and drawing project can make a difference, a local government official said.

“We were very touched by the initiative of the Duque de Caxias Adventist College, which presented our wonderful health professionals with this beautiful surprise,” said José Carlos de Oliveira, Duque de Caxias secretary of health and civil defense. “In these times of social isolation, we appreciate the students’ effort to say that they value our work.”

De Oliveira said the children’s letters arrived at the right time, in moments when many are not able to visit their children and grandchildren.

“Many are not coming home to protect the youngest among us, so this sincere show of affection from other children nurtures our hearts,” he said.

Young Students’ Feedback

João Gabriel de Lima da Cruz is 10 years old and a fifth-year student. According to his mother, Vanessa, he is a kind-hearted child who loves writing letters for everyone at home. “When I heard about the project, I immediately wanted to participate, as it would be a way to send a message from the heart to the doctors who leave their families to take care of our families,” João Gabriel said.

Izadora Alves Monteiro, 5, went even further. She recorded a video talking about her love for health professionals. “Thank you very much, doctors. You are taking care of everyone, and look at the drawing I made for you!” she told them.

School principal Alex Dias Cerqueira highlighted the high buy-in from both parents and teachers, and the vital role of the initiative.

“These letters are a way for the school to tell health professionals that they are not alone,” Cerqueira emphasized. “Despite physical and mental exhaustion, professionals are taking risks to support fast recovery. We know this project is a drop in this ocean, but we are sure that it will make all the difference for these professionals, to know that many people out there are cheering for them.”

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.