Thanks to Compassion Brazil staff, Gleice had a brand-new outfit on the day she met her sponsor, Andrea, from Colorado. When the country staff realized that Gleice did not have any clothes that were not threadbare, they pooled their money and picked out some new clothes for her special day.
When the day came for six-year-old Gleice Sabino to meet her sponsor, Andrea, she arrived at the Windsor Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro wearing red slacks and a white sweatshirt with matching red hearts and trim. Her outfit was finished off with pink shoes and a pink t-shirt that read, "The Girl Star Super." In Portuguese, adjectives follow nouns, and on Gleice's Brazilian-made t-shirt the English had been translated accordingly.
Her outfit was comparable to that of the 23 other children who met their sponsors during the Brazil Sponsor Tour. What was unusual, however, was how she came to be wearing those clothes.
Making Gleice's Trip Possible
Gleice is one of four children. She lives with her family in a small, unfinished building originally intended to be a shed. They are extremely poor and a friend allows them to live in it rent-free.
She was registered into Compassion's program just three months before the sponsor tour was to arrive. Soon after, she found out that she had received a sponsor named Andrea from the United States -- and that Andrea was coming to meet her in August!
Since the tour was not actually visiting the town of Campinas where Gleice lives, Compassion staff began making arrangements for her to travel to Rio to spend time with Andrea. Campinas and Rio are in different Brazilian states and some legal documents were required for Compassion to take Gleice out of her home state.
When Gleice and her mother arrived at the country office -- also located in Campinas -- the office staff discovered that, like many impoverished Brazilians, Gleice's mother did not have a birth certificate, which was needed to complete the paperwork. Only hospital births are issued certificates and many families deliver their children at home since they are too poor to pay for hospital care.
When the program facilitator for the student centers in Gleice's community learned of this difficulty in allowing Gleice to travel, she wrote a letter of petition to the appropriate government officials explaining the situation and requesting special permission for Gleice to take this trip. To everyone's relief, permission was granted shortly before her scheduled departure date.
The Compassion of Brazil's Office Staff
Gleice is a charming little girl. She is small for her age, with close-cropped light brown curls, a big smile missing her two front teeth, and expressive eyes that catch the attention of everyone she meets. As she sat in the Compassion office while they sorted out travel details, it didn't take long for her to steal the heart of every staff member there.
As the workers interacted with her, they noticed that Gleice's clothes were threadbare. When they inquired about what clothes she had for her trip, her mother informed them that she was wearing the nicest outfit she owned. After Gleice and her mother left the office, the staff discussed the clothing situation among themselves. They decided to take up a collection to purchase clothes for Gleice to wear when she met Andrea.
When the Compassion Brazil staff delivered the clothes to Gleice's home, they saw firsthand the living conditions of her family. Although the staff works daily to serve over 23,000 poor children in Brazil, they were still affected by the poverty of this family.
The country office personnel often pray for Gleice's family now. One staff member even reported that after hearing about them, her own mother voluntarily began to check on the family from time to time to make sure their needs are cared for. The response of these individuals to the needs of Gleice's family is an amazing example of what it means to minister to one child at a time.
A Day to Remember; a Need We Can't Forget
Gleice soaked up every minute of her time in Rio. By the end, all the sponsors found themselves watching Gleice to see her reaction to each new thing. And she never disappointed them. Whether it was riding the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain or discovering the new tube of toothpaste in the backpack Andrea brought her, she responded by opening her eyes wide, exclaiming and smiling that big smile.
When the time came to say goodbye to Andrea, Gleice started crying. It's not possible to know all that was going through her six-year-old mind. But I do know that she lives in a little shed that was never supposed to be a home. That her mother keeps her hair short in an attempt to protect her from the lice that are all too common in her community. That before she went to Rio she had never traveled anywhere. Had never had a day to spend just having fun.
Just as everyone had laughed with Gleice all day, when she began to cry I saw tears in the eyes of almost everyone in the room. Gleice is just one girl out of thousands of children Compassion serves in Brazil, and there are nearly 450,000 more around the world -- not to mention millions more that Compassion has not reached yet. Her tears were an important reminder of the incredible need for Compassion's ministry to children.