According to a government study in Brazil, extreme poverty in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, has increased by 85 percent in the past 10 years. Currently, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state has almost 70,000 more people in extreme poverty than in 2012. Many of these people live in slums, in makeshift houses made of wood scraps that suffer the effects of rain and wind.
Awareness about this sobering data prompted a group of primary school students at Porto Alegre Adventist School and their teachers to partner with the non-profit Brasil Sem Frestas (“Brazil without Gaps”) to help families in vulnerable situations, especially in times of heavy rain and cold weather, by covering their wooden houses with cut-to-fit milk cartons. Under the leadership of primary school teacher Jozy Araújo, third- and fourth-grade students began collecting milk cartons from family and friends.
“The idea was to teach students about the love and respect we should have for everyone in need,” Araújo said. “Students understood that as we do our part in helping others, we live happier and more united.”
The project ran for two months. It was launched with a special program in which students learned about the milk carton coating process, saw photos of the end product, and watched videos showing the reaction of people who had benefited from the initiative.
Students ended up collecting 4,300 milk cartons, enough for three houses.
“Some students were not able to bring milk cartons, so those who could brought a double quantity,” Araújo said.
At the end of the project, the Brasil Sem Frestas team visited the Adventist school to receive all the donations from the students. Volunteers were moved by the children’s dedication and the number of milk cartons collected.
“You could tell there was a lot of love involved in the fundraising process,” Brasil Sem Frestas president Maria Luíza Camozzato said. “This partnership is extremely important for our project.”
The students, family members, and staff not only collected the boxes but also did all the work of sanitizing and cutting them properly so they were ready to be used. In addition to the milk cartons, students collected bottle caps and sold them. With the money raised, they purchased the thread needed to sew the boxes together.
“The goal of our schools is an education that transcends our classrooms to be a blessing in the lives of people in our communities,” teaching coordinator Juliana Oliveira said. “This initiative was just one of many actions we have rolled out to show this belief in practice.”