Beyond Our Borders became interested in the children of Brazil through Sam Ewell, a missionary who lived in Durham, NC. When Sam graduated from Duke Divinity School in 2003, he and his wife, Rosalee, moved to Londrina, Parana, Brazil to teach at the South American Theological Seminary. Through introductions by Sam and Rosalee, we have built strong partnerships with several Christian leaders in the city of Londrina.
While we had originally expected to work with an orphanage, we found that we could best serve the needs of children in poverty by focusing our efforts on the crèches. Crèches are day care centers where families, usually poor and single mothers, drop their children off in the early morning, go to work, and then pick them up at the end of their work days. These crèches provide the children with clothing, several meals a day, rest time, recreation, and Christian teaching.
Beyond Our Borders has supported the Sao Jorge crèche for about nine years. Silas Redondo and Sueli Silva provide leadership for the large crèche at Sao Jorge, under the auspices of the South American Theological Seminary. This day care center serves over 100 children, enabling their parents to work during the day. Although the crèche is located in an area with high crime, mostly drug related, the children and leaders are safe, because the gang leaders are protective of the crèche. It is important to keep the crèche strong and growing, because the children on the streets are the ones most likely to get into trouble. Each year we have a major fundraising effort for Sao Jorge, with all donations going directly to a new and significant project for the children. We have provided funds for new playground equipment, the building of new classrooms, new classroom furniture, and new educational materials and supplies. All crèches are regulated and audited by the Brazilian government, and Sao Jorge has the reputation of being one of the best managed crèches.
Also near Londrina, Marcio Carvalho is a young pastor who leads a church plus ministries for teens at risk and abandoned young children. Marcio's ministry, called Refugio, concentrates on outreach programs, such as Tae Kwan Do instruction for children, street ministries for prostitutes and transvestites, and a government sanctioned foster care program for abandoned small children. Marcio leads a weekly church service on Friday evenings with live music, praise and preaching, and it is always well-attended by the local residents.
BOB identified two major projects that we wanted to fund. First, the children at the Sao Jorge crèche were confined to indoor play. We felt strongly that if there were an outdoor play area the children would benefit greatly. With support from Christ United Methodist Church, $4,300 was raised for a new playground facility, including equipment. Second, BOB discovered that Central Methodist Church of Londrina was operating a "Bakery of Love," where bread would be baked for three surrounding crèches. In addition, the bakery provided bread daily for some of the poor families in that community as well as an outreach ministry. BOB raised over $6,000 to purchase additional kitchen equipment for the bakery.
When Beyond Our Borders traveled to Brazil in 2006 the associate minister from Christ United Methodist Church accompanied us. Later, the senior minister joined us in helping these wonderful children who are trapped in such devastating circumstances. During these trips the pastors gave weekly sermons at the South American Theological Seminary.
In 2009 and 2010, Beyond Our Borders extended our ministry to the cities of Campinas and Curitiba, as well as the small coastal town of Indiatuba.
Beyond Our Borders began a partnership with the Hope Unlimited for Children organization in the city of Campinas. Founded by Rev. Jack Smith and managed by his son, Philip Smith, Hope Unlimited is a residential compound with self-contained schools and vocational training. Hope Unlimited transforms the lives of homeless teenagers by giving them a home and providing education and training to enable future independence, all from a base of Christian teaching.
In the Brazilian city of Curitiba, we have been fortunate to establish a relationship with Bishop Joao Carlos Lopes and his wife, Rev. Audir Lopes, who is also a pastor. Bishop Lopes is the Methodist Bishop for the State of Parana and the President of the Council of Bishops for the entire country of Brazil. Rev. Audir has planted a church in one of the poor favelas on the outskirts of Curitiba called Vila Pantanal. This impoverished community is built literally on top of an active garbage dump, where the main enterprises are scavenging and illegal drugs. As part of the church's mission, Rev. Audir serves the small children of the favela with a church school and learning activities.