The Northeastern Codo region of Brazil, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the poorest regions in the country. The poverty-level conditions have led to an alarming rise in drug addiction and alcoholism across the region. As a result, many children in the region are victims of abuse or neglect.

Brazil Northeastern Codó Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Children in a Compassion-assisted child development center in Maranhao gather outside their church. The center offers them a refuge from the poverty and despair of their daily lives. Brazil Children Outside Center
  • In the poorer sections of Maranhao, most houses are made of mud and straw. They offer very little in the way of safety and protection for the families who live there. Brazil Children Walking On Road
  • Staff members in Compassion’s centers help children understand the importance of education. The tutoring these kids receive center can mean the difference between success and failure at school. Brazil Boy and Woman Studying
  • By teaching kids the importance of personal hygiene, Compassion is working to reduce sickness and disease in local communities. Brazil Girl Washing Hands
  • For many children, meals served at Compassion’s child development centers are the only healthy food they receive. Compassion’s sponsors ensure that these kids will not be malnourished. Brazil Boy Getting Plate of Food
  • Is Compassion’s work in Maranhao really making a difference in the lives of desperately needy children? These faces tell the story. Brazil Children Running

Overview: Northeastern Codó Region

Codó is a city of 111,000 people in Brazil’s northeastern state of Maranhão. The city is in a remote area of the state called the “coconut region.”

Codó was founded by the Portuguese as a supply outpost in 1780. The colors of the municipal flag represent the city’s major ethnic groups: Africans (black), Europeans (white), and indigenous (red).

Portuguese is the primary language spoken in Codó, and 90 percent of the people practice Catholicism. About 7 percent are evangelical Christians.

Three rivers cross the city of Codó: the Codozinho, Itapercuru and Saco. During the summer rainy season, these rivers often overflow, flooding streets and homes. The climate here is always hot, ranging from 80 degrees in the winter to 104 degrees in the summer.

In Codó, a Brazilian form of Voodoo called macumba is widely practiced. In fact, Codó is known as the “Brazilian Macumba Center.” A well-known, influential wizard of macumba lives here, and many people resist the gospel message shared by evangelical churches because they are afraid of him.


Culture Corner


Cinco Marias is a traditional Brazilian children’s game, similar to jacks.

  • Place five stones in a small area on the ground.
  • Pick up one stone and toss it into the air.
  • Before the stone hits the ground, pick up one of the remaining four stones.
  • The next round, pick up two stones before the first one hits the ground.
  • The next round, pick up three stones.
  • Continue like this until you miss the round’s goal or are able to pick up all four remaining stones before the first stone hits the ground.
  • The first player to successfully collect all four stones is the winner.


Here are some phrases in Portuguese that you can use when writing to your sponsored child in Codó.

¡Oi! ¿Tudo bom?
Hi! How are you?

Deus abençoe você e sua família.
God bless you and your family.

Estamos orando por você.
We are praying for you.

Um grande abraço.
A big hug.

Um cheiro.
(This is a regional saying that expresses tender feelings along with your goodbye.)


Life in the Northeastern Codó Region of Brazil

The region of Brazil borders the Atlantic Ocean on the north. The region is heavily forested and crossed by several rivers. In many areas, vast swatches of trees have been cleared for agriculture and cattle grazing. The region’s climate is tropical – hot and humid. Its two seasons are wet and dry. During the wet season, torrential rains often trigger flooding throughout the area.

The region, which includes the state of Maranhao, is one of the poorest in the country. A significant portion of the population is unemployed or underemployed. Many families earn less than U.S.$1 a day. The poverty-level conditions have led to an alarming rise in drug addiction and alcoholism across the region. As a result, many children in the region are victims of abuse or neglect.

Children at Home

The homes of Codó families typically are crude constructions of clay and coconut tree branches. The roofs are made of straw, providing little protection from the drenching summer rains. During the wet months, the dirt floors of these homes turn to mud. And in the heat of the afternoon, they are unbearably hot, driving families outdoors until the late evening hours.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Brazil

As one of Brazil’s poorest regions, Codó has no public transportation system. About 25 percent of the population has no access to electricity or garbage collection services, and 70 percent of homes have no sanitation facilities. A hole in the ground behind the house typically serves as a family’s toilet.

This lack of sanitation is a particular health risk for the city’s children. Another major health concern is the use of clay ovens, which fill homes with smoke that commonly results in chronic respiratory illness.

Alcohol abuse and unemployment are also problems in Codó. Stable jobs are rare, and nearly 75 percent of families exist on the equivalent of less than $1.50 per day. As a result, many children suffer malnutrition, and it is common to see young children going naked, as their families simply cannot afford to clothe them.

The city’s one public hospital cannot keep up with the population’s medical needs, and private clinics are unaffordable.

Families in Codó are typically large, and girls usually have their first babies at age 13 or 14. And because few have access to adequate medical care, infant mortality is high in this poor city.

Local Needs and Challenges

The large city of Codó is located in Maranhão, the poorest state in Brazil. The children there live in poorly constructed houses, the majority of which are built with mud, lacking basic sanitation or even locks on the doors. The children are undernourished and, for the majority of them, the only nutritious meal they receive is at their Compassion child development center. According to one of the center directors, many 8-year-old children ate meat for the first time in their lives when they began attending the program.

The city of Codó is known as the capital of Voodoo. Because of Compassion’s work in this area, many children and parents have been released in Jesus’ name from the oppression of false religion.


Schools and Education Education in Brazil

Without public transportation, children in Codó often have to walk several miles to the nearest school. The quality of education is extremely low, and their operation is sporadic. As a result, 61 percent of the city’s people have attended school an average of only two years, and more than 47 percent of those age 15 and over are unable to read or write.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Codó is the newest location for Compassion’s work in Brazil. At the child development centers, children receive nutritious meals, hygiene training, and tutoring to attain standard academic milestones. Most important, they learn about God’s love and the gift of salvation in Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

The appeal of the Compassion program for many Brazilian parents is the educational opportunities – and the meals – it offers their children. These parents have little interest in the spiritual aspects of the program. However, because the church is such a trusted institution in the community, they have no problem sending their children there for training. The church’s reputation makes it possible for Compassion to work in the lives of the community’s youths. In turn, the church sees its evangelism opportunities multiplied as children in the program share what they’ve learned about God and His love with their parents. The partnership between Compassion and the local church is having an impact on families throughout the region.

How Compassion Works in Brazil Compassion in Brazil

Compassion’s work in Brazil began in 1975. The ministry started small, but has grown tremendously, thanks to the generosity of Compassion’s donors. Today more than 37,300 children are registered in 188 child development centers throughout the country. The centers are staffed with caring workers who are trained to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the children. These centers offer hope where little existed before.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The primary responsibility of a Partnership Facilitator is to establish personal relationships with the leaders and laypeople of the local churches. These relationships are key to the success of Compassion’s programs. The facilitator works with the churches to create child development centers where the programs can be run. This involves everything from scheduling parent meetings to training workers to setting up meal deliveries.

Once the programs are up and running, the facilitator oversees daily operations and offers feedback in the form of suggestions and encouragement. The facilitator makes certain that the churches and Compassion share the same vision and are working toward a common goal. The facilitator does everything necessary to bring hope to hurting children – and their families.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children living in unsanitary conditions.
  • Pray for the protection of children and their families from flooding by the rivers that cross Codó.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray for the light of the gospel to reach the people of Codó who are under the bondage of macumba, the Brazilian form of Voodoo.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.