Our child development centers in northeastern Brazil are located mostly in the urban centers of Fortaleza and Recife. Life in northeastern Brazil is brutally hard. Unemployment and poverty are rampant. Many families live on less than a dollar a day.

Brazil Northeastern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • The staff and children of a Compassion-assisted child development center in northeastern Brazil pose in front of their church. The center serves as an oasis of hope for these children. Brazil Group of Children
  • Thanks to the generosity of Compassion’s sponsors, we can offer hope for a bright future to children who have had very little to be hopeful about their entire lives. Brazil Two Girls Near Tree
  • Ramshackle homes like this one provide the only shelter many Brazilian families have. During the rainy season, these dwellings are no match for the floodwaters that sweep through the region. Brazil Small Shack on Stilts
  • Through Compassion’s ministry, these children learn about the God who loves them from people who model that love every day. Brazil Children at Desks
  • Children whose parents never went to school can find much-needed educational assistance in Compassion’s child development centers. Brazil Smiling Boy and Chalkboard
  • The meals served at Compassion’s child development centers provide the only real nutrition many Brazilian children receive. Likewise, the doctor’s care we offer is the only medical attention many children ever receive. Brazil Smiling Girl

Overview: Northeastern Brazil

The largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil is slightly smaller in land mass than the United States. Brazil is the continent’s leading economic power. However, the country struggles with poverty, which affects 26 percent of the population.

Brazil’s northeastern region comprises nine states and 53.5 million people. Among these states, Compassion ministers in three: Ceará, Pernambuco and Paraíba. Our northeastern child development centers are located mostly in the urban centers of Fortaleza and Recife.

Both Fortaleza and Recife are located on Brazil’s northeastern Atlantic coast. The climate is tropical, and averages 77 degrees year-round. Pleasant trade winds from the ocean provide relief from the heat and humidity, and the rainy season occurs each year from February through May. The cities’ beaches are popular tourist destinations.

In the northeast, the primary language is Portuguese. About 80 percent of the people practice Catholicism, and 10 percent are evangelical Christians. Catholicism is a major influence in the northeast, and its followers are devout. One of the two primary festivals celebrated in the region is in June, held in honor of a Catholic saint.


Culture Corner


Try this easy, popular dish from Brazil’s northeastern region.


  • 1 lb. fresh black-eyed peas
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, grated
  • 2½ cups long-grain rice
  • 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • 6 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 oz. cream cheese


Cook black-eyed peas until just tender. Drain. Heat oil and sauté garlic and onions briefly. Add rice and cilantro. Cook until rice is transparent.

Stir in peas, add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until stock is absorbed. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt, and let stand for 5 minutes. Form cream cheese into small balls.

Stir in the cheese, and let the dish stand for another 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve hot.

Life in the Northeastern Region of Brazil

The northeastern region of Brazil includes the states of Ceará, Pernambuco and Paraíba. Its climate is tropical, hot and humid, especially near the Atlantic coast. Because of the climate – and the stunning beaches and cliffs – it is one of Brazil’s most popular tourist destinations.

For many locals, though, life in northeastern Brazil is brutally hard. Unemployment and poverty are rampant. Many families live on less than a dollar a day. They live in hastily constructed shelters that offer very little protection or comfort.

Education is not a priority among the poor in this region. Many children grow up in homes with parents who have little or no education. They are not taught basic life skills such as personal hygiene. As a result, they are extremely susceptible to illness and disease.

Children at Home

The homes of families living in Fortaleza and Recife slums typically are crude, fragile constructions of brick, plywood and whatever other scrap materials can be found. These are crowded together in a maze of narrow streets and alleyways. Homes are sparsely furnished, typically with only a few chairs and a stove. Family members sleep in hammocks, which can be put away during the day to allow more room to move about.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Brazil

According to government sources, about one-third of Fortaleza’s 2.3 million residents live in the city’s crowded slums, and in Recife, 46 percent of its 1.5 million residents are slum dwellers. In these impoverished settings, drug trafficking, prostitution, and alcohol abuse are serious, pervasive problems.

Unemployment is rampant, and 18 percent of families live on the equivalent of a little more than $2 per day. Some have turned to rummaging through trash from the narrow, dirty streets to make a few cents.

Families are large, but homes are small and cramped. These are typically dirty, lacking such basics as adequate sanitation and ventilation. Despairing adults often turn to alcohol and drug abuse, spending the family’s meager income on these addictions. Tragically, child abuse is common.

Malnutrition is also a problem for poor families in Fortaleza and Recife. In fact, an estimated 54 percent of all Brazilians who suffer from serious food shortages (about 7.2 million) live in the northeastern states.

Local Needs and Challenges

The children in these areas suffer from problems such as sexual abuse, domestic violence and low self-esteem. In the slums, the houses are precariously constructed, made of cardboard or plywood. Even the houses that are built with bricks are often unstable, and many have no basic sanitation.

The parents struggle with unemployment or have only temporary employment that pays very little, failing to meet household expenses. Alcoholism is a big problem as well as drug abuse. One of the biggest concerns of child development staff members is keeping young people out of involvement in local drug trafficking activity.


Schools and Education Education in Brazil

In Brazil, kindergarten is followed by eight years of primary school and three or four years of secondary school. The best schools are private and charge between $300 and $700 per month in tuition.

Poor students attend public schools, where education quality is generally substandard. As a result, the average number of years spent in school in the northeast is only 5.7, and more than 18 percent of the population can neither read nor write.

Rarely do children graduating from public schools pass the rigorous “vestibular” test, required for entrance to college.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Compassion serves children in Brazil’s northeastern region through many child development centers. These centers, hosted by local churches, are havens of love and learning for registered children. Here, they receive nutritious meals, hygiene training, and tutoring to attain standard academic milestones. They are also encouraged to develop their talents and abilities. Most important, children learn about God’s love and the gift of salvation in Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion has established a partnership with local churches in northeastern Brazil to bring hope to the region. Each partnering church has earned a reputation as a safe haven in the community – a place where even the most desperately poor are welcome.

Compassion works with the church to create a child development center where children can go to escape the harsh realities of everyday life. At the center, children receive physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. Specially trained workers instruct them in everything from personal hygiene to God’s Word. They are introduced to a better way of living and given the tools to create a brighter future for themselves.

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 Partnership Facilitator serves as a bridge between Compassion and local churches, drawing on the resources of all to create life-changing ministries for the children of northeastern Brazil. Andrea Cardoso, a Partnership Facilitator in the region, is responsible for 15 centers in the city of Fortaleza. She oversees Compassion’s ministry in each one.

The facilitator helps transform the church into a child development center – a place where children will feel at home. The facilitator helps select and train the staff, familiarizing workers with Compassion’s specially designed curriculum. The facilitator makes sure the children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs are being addressed. When a program is up and running, the facilitator acts as a troubleshooter, dealing with issues as they arise.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children living in unsanitary city slums in the northeast.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who face unemployment or underemployment.
  • Pray that assisted children will advance academically.
  • Pray that children will keep their dreams alive and never lose sight of their God-given potential.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.