By: Sara Navarro, as told to her by Eraldo   |   Posted: February 14, 2023

A graduate of Compassion’s program shares how he found his calling with the help of his sponsors, church and family, who taught him to trust God and dream big.

Eraldo’s Mission to “Live By Faith, Show Love Always”

A graduate of Compassion’s program shares how he found his calling with the help of his sponsors, church and family, who taught him to trust God and dream big.

Written by Sara Navarro, as told to her by Eraldo
Photography by Sara Navarro
Eraldo, with three boys at the center he used to attend

I still remember the days when we had nothing to eat at home. Even so, my parents used to make my siblings and I sit at the table together. My sister, upset, used to say, “Dad, why are we here? Where is the food?”

My dad would reply, “Can you not see the food? Can you not see these beautiful cakes and sandwiches? Try to smell the food, my dear!”

Then we would imagine delicious meals, our favorite ones, wishing they would become a reality.

“There’s a lot of food on the table by the power of faith, right, Dad?” my sister concluded.

That’s all we knew: We lived by faith. And then, as if by magic — or better, a miracle — people knocked on our door, bringing us the night’s meal.

Probably because of that time, I was always a big dreamer.

Love Against All Odds

Since I was little, I remember my parents doing all they could to provide for us. We lived in a two-room house in Brazil without a bathroom or toilet. My parents slept in one room, and my four siblings and I shared the other. We’d bathe in the backyard with a bucket and relieve ourselves in a hole in the corner of the yard.

My father worked in a cafeteria, and my mother was a maid. She sold fruit at the fair for extra cash when she had time. Sometimes my father would cycle more than 4 miles just to get a few liters of milk from relatives’ houses.

I still remember that when my parents were invited to dinner or a party in the community, we had to decide which child would go with them because we had just one pair of shoes to share.

Despite our challenges, my parents were — and still are — the most generous people I have ever met. I recall many times when they shared things with people even while we had almost nothing at home. If my mother received, for example, a donation of two milk cans, she gave one to a neighbor who was also in need. “We have almost nothing; why are you still sharing our stuff, Mom?” I used to think.

Against all these odds, she spread only love, doing everything she could to give her family a better future. I didn’t understand my parents then, but now I look back and see what they were teaching me about loving people.

Even at a young age, though, I was inspired by my mother’s words and continued dreaming big for the future. I was always among adults, trying to understand what they were talking about. My mother says that I was quite annoying because I was constantly asking “why?” about everything. My mind was always working on big plans, imagining big things and accomplishments. People used to say I should “get my feet on the ground” and be more realistic.

But I knew I wanted to have a meaningful life. I wanted to give my parents a better life, buy them a suitable home and, most importantly, change the world for the better.

Finding Focus

When a loving sponsor paved the way for me to start attending Compassion’s child development center, a new world opened up for me.

Before that, while I was lost in my ambitious dreams, everything seemed so far away from me. I knew I wanted a different life from the one we had, but I had no idea how to get there.

The Compassion center helped me set realistic expectations and take it one step at a time. Instead of having thousands of goals, I learned to create focus amid all the opportunities the center offered us. There, I learned to discover and develop different skills — including my leadership abilities.

Even more possibilities unlocked as my family met the Compassion center. I still remember our first family Christmas with a real Christmas dinner. The center director presented us with a basket of food for supper and even sent gifts to me and my brothers. It was an unforgettable night.

My mother was so engaged with the center’s activities that she was invited to work there as a volunteer. Over time, she became a teacher, then a coordinator, and 15 years ago she became the center director. I am so proud of my mother; today, she is dedicated to the education of hundreds of children.

Eraldo with his parents at the Compassion center he attended as a child, where his mother is now center director
Eraldo with his parents at the Compassion center he attended as a child, where his mother is now center director.

A Meaningful and Impactful Life

I was deeply grateful for everything I was receiving from the center, and I wanted to repay all that my sponsors and volunteers were doing for me.

When I was 17, I left my home to study and apply to medical school. My parents had no money to support me in another city, but they always said, “You can achieve anything if you work hard.” So I started working and studying at the same time.

While doing this, I also volunteered to help people in need. Then I was invited to work as a teacher in the Voar (“to fly,” in Portuguese) Association, a project founded by missionaries to support children living in poverty. I treasured the opportunity to show love and inspire other teenagers just as the volunteers at the Compassion center had for me.

I tried the entrance exam for medical school for four more years, but I never qualified.

After so many years, I realized that becoming a doctor was no longer my biggest dream. It was hard for me to admit that because I used to think that becoming a doctor was the only way I could help people.

I had to change my thought process. I realized that it’s not my profession that dictates if and how I can impact people’s lives for the better. We can have a meaningful and impactful life being a street sweeper or an attendant at the gas station. We change the world with who we are and what we have to offer others.

Working for a Mission

After moving past my dreams about medical school, I received an opportunity to volunteer in an international program for two months and went to Colombia to support adults with autism and Down syndrome. While I was there, I realized that my craziest dreams from childhood were already being fulfilled!

When I came to Brazil, I got a scholarship to law school and was invited to lead the Voar Association as its president.

For a long period of my life, I thought that I had to help people as an effort to compensate or repay all the investment my sponsors put into me. But now I see things differently; it’s not about compensation, it’s about living a life of mission and purpose.

I love the name of Voar Association because I relate to the need to fly. That’s what I used to want when I was a child — and I still do today. What I want to encourage other children to do is the same: fly high.

Through one of our projects, I’ve been able to collaborate with a Compassion partner, and I am grateful to be supporting children in the exact same city where I was born.

I know it’s not about me; I’m not people’s savior. I’m someone who’s willing to work for the sake of a mission, knowing that sometimes I won’t see the fruits of my labor, because God’s mission is bigger than mine.

This mission is what gets me up from my bed every morning. When I feel down, I remember each child’s story and that gives me encouragement to keep working. I see children charting a path to a different life, despite their context, and changing their family.

Sometimes a simple “Who are you? Tell me your story” is more meaningful than food.

Still Dreaming Big

Eraldo holds a picture of himself as a child in the sponsorship program.
Eraldo holds a picture of himself as a child in the sponsorship program.

Today, I’m 29 years old. When I look back, I see that the path I walked wasn’t made just by me but by all the people who encouraged me along the way. I don’t know what I would be if I never had my sponsors, the church, the center volunteers and my family by my side. I would be different, but I cannot imagine another me.

I still have a lot of dreams, crazy and big as always. I have dreams for me, for the centers, for the children, for their families and communities.

If ever I feel discouraged, I remember what I learned from my parents when we had nothing to eat: live by faith, show love always.

Support a Child’s Dreams

an older boy stands in a shop

You can help someone like Eraldo write their success story.

an older boy stands in a shop