By: Brenna Miles. Photos and interviews by Sara Navarro.   |   Posted: June 17, 2024

Every Compassion center is equipped with a Child Protection Officer who helps children facing abuse. Here are the stories of these warriors in Brazil.

Compassion Warriors: Meet the Champions of Child Protection

Every Compassion center is equipped with a Child Protection Officer who helps children facing abuse. Here are the stories of these warriors in Brazil.

Written by Brenna Miles. Photos and interviews by Sara Navarro.
A silhouette of a child protection officer and a child in front of a stained glass window.

Sister Dulce cried as she looked down at the young boy lying in the casket. On the day he was shot, she had given him a food basket to soothe his rumbling belly. The boy had fallen into bad company in a community dominated by drug trafficking. However, he'd told Sister Dulce that he wanted to change his life.

That day, she had insisted that the boy go home with her so he would be safe. But out of fear, he refused. Minutes later, Sister Dulce heard gunshots as the young boy's life was taken on a neighborhood corner.

Out of the millions of people around the world who live in poverty, children account for half. And 1 out of every 5 of these children experiences extreme poverty, which intensifies threats of abuse and violence.

In Brazil, on average, 6,970 children, just like the boy from the story above, suffer serious violence that leads to death each year. While this stat seems to paint a hopeless picture, there are warriors in Brazil, like Sister Dulce, who are fighting to protect and defend the rights of the most vulnerable.

What's Here:

Child Protection Is a Matter of Life and Death

Children and adolescents living in poverty are at risk of harm in various forms, from neglect and forced child labor to sexual abuse, child trafficking and domestic violence. All forms of violence lead to lasting consequences for these little ones.

Children suffering from violence often experience physical and psychological trauma, leading to mental health impacts like anxiety and depression. They may also suffer injuries or illnesses that keep them from going to school or finding a job when they get older, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

For children to grow and develop in the way God intended, they must be able to live a life free from violence and fear. Their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being depend on their safety. And it's our responsibility, entrusted to us by God, to ensure these children are known, loved and protected.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

— Proverbs 31:8-9, NIV

Meet the Champions of Child Protection

In Brazil, our local church partners, those on the front lines, take this call of child protection seriously. Each Compassion center has a child protection officer responsible for identifying, reporting and monitoring all cases of violence against children.

A silhouette of two children in front of a stained glass window.

These officers must handle incredibly sensitive cases, facing those who expose children to danger head-on. They're pastors, directors and tutors committed to loving and protecting children, sacrificially carrying their burdens to free them from violence.

Meet Sister Dulce, Pastor Paulo, Sister Laura and Pastor Guilherme*, four of our champions of child protection.

Sister Dulce: "The Love for Them Keeps Me Standing"

Sister Dulce has faithfully served as a child protection officer for over 23 years. And it's cases just like the one involving the young boy from above that keep her moving forward. Each day, she watches for signs of violence, reporting them to the proper authorities.

When neighborhood gangs started forcing children to fight each other in gambling games, the abuse was reported by Sister Dulce, leading the police to put an end to the fights.

Even with the best of intentions, Sister Dulce often experiences anger from those she tries to protect: "A mother once cursed me during a child protection process. Despite my constant insistence to talk to her, she even prevented her daughter from coming to the center for a few months. On my last attempt, the mother came around through our hard work."

Sister Dulce doesn't allow the resistance to stop her. She knows that each child she advocates for is one less loss. While the thought of losing the young boy to gang violence often causes tears to flow down her face, it also inspires her to keep standing.

I know the difficulties I face in this position. I suffer from anxiety and sometimes episodes of depression, but my love for these children has driven me through these long years. The love for them keeps me standing, facing each challenge.

— Sister Dulce
A silhouette of a child protection officer in front of a stained glass window.

Pastor Paulo: "Protecting Children Is Protecting the Future Generation"

In Pastor Paulo's community, cases of violence often go unnoticed. Dominated by fear, those experiencing abuse keep quiet, lying about what happened to them if asked.

Unfortunately, this fear results in severe consequences for children. In one case, Pastor Paulo saw a child with a bruise on his head. When Pastor Paulo asked the boy what happened, he lied, afraid of what might happen if he spoke.

Pastor Paulo and the local church investigated, discovering that the child suffered serious domestic violence. The perpetrator, afraid of the child protection council, had not taken the child to the hospital for care. Pastor Paulo took the child to the doctor, where he underwent minor surgery. Paolo then reported the perpetrator to help protect the child from further abuse.

Unfortunately, reported cases are not always handled efficiently and quickly enough by the local authorities. To Pastor Paulo, this is overwhelmingly frustrating: "Following the cases is emotionally tough for us. The cases are heartbreaking, and we often feel like our hands are tied."

But Pastor Paulo doesn't give up. His Compassion center has become increasingly involved with the authorities. Pastor Paulo and others within the center are working alongside the government, partnering with them to monitor and protect children in the community now and in the future.

We believe that protecting children is protecting the future generation, which is why we don't give up.

— Pastor Paulo
A man in a blue shirt with his back turned to the camera stands as blurred children walk and play around him.

Sister Laura: "We Are Not Here Just to Listen, But to Act for Them"

Sister Laura works in an isolated community marked by sexism and cultural norms that often result in direct harm to children. These children suffering abuse do so in silence. Even if they dare to speak up, they're often ignored by those in the community.

"We often hear adults ignore their children's pain and say, 'This trauma will pass; they will forget it soon.' In a sexist culture like ours, many parents take their children to brothels or expose them to pornographic content to prove their manhood. Abuse against girls is seen as part of the experience of being a woman in society," says Sister Laura.

However, Sister Laura and others within her Compassion center work hard to establish trust with the children and teens they serve. She wants these children to know that they're not being ignored but that someone is listening when they speak.

More importantly, someone is going to act on their behalf, stepping in to protect them from abuse and violence.

Sister Laura knows that action can’t be taken without proper training. That's why she does her part in facilitating child protection training for Compassion staff, ensuring they know what to do at the first sign of abuse.

The action Sister Laura and the staff are taking builds confidence in the hearts of those suffering violence. Children in the community know exactly where to turn: Sister Laura at the Compassion center, a beacon of hope amidst dark circumstances.

All of our staff receive child protection training provided by Compassion on the first day they start working here ... When the staff hear something suspicious, they report it to me. We seek to build an environment of trust that is reflected in actions. We are not here just to listen, but to act for them.

— Sister Laura
A woman in an orange shirt stands with her back turned to the camera as blurred children run and play around her.

Pastor Guilherme: "I Want to Be the Kind of Pastor Who Is Close to His Sheep"

For Pastor Guilherme, child protection is a calling, and his mission field is the Brazilian community he currently serves. Pastor Guilherme wasn't born in the community he works in as a child protection officer. But as a child, he would visit the community with his parents and preach the gospel.

Pastor Guilherme's zeal for following God’s call and love for the community has grown into a determination to speak up for its children, no matter the cost.

Years ago, he received death threats due to his active work. While Pastor Guilherme didn’t live in anxiety over his own life, he became fearfully aware of the violence children in his beloved community face: "My life is in God's hands, so I have never been afraid. But when they targeted my children's lives, it filled me with fear."

Pastor Guilherme responded with urgency, leading to years of work as a child protection officer. Part of this work includes establishing relationships with government agencies to build awareness in the community.

As a result, even families of children not part of the Compassion program come to the center asking for support.

Pastor Guilherme's love, dedication and advocacy are doing more than preventing violence; they're also changing lives. Those in need of safety know they can come to him for protection. And as their earthly pastor and shepherd, he points them to the Good Shepherd, who is their ultimate source of eternal rescue.

I wanted all the knowledge I learned in the seminary to be taught and understood by a poor mother with a child on her arm. This is my calling. I was called to this mission, and it is up to me to fulfill it. I want to be the kind of pastor who is close to his sheep and understands what they feel.

— Pastor Guilherme
A silhouette of a man against a black background with light shining from the left just touching his face.

Your Role in Protecting Children From Violence & Abuse

As the hands and feet of Jesus, it's up to all of us to do our part in protecting children from violence and abuse. Just like Sister Dulce, Pastor Paulo, Sister Laura and Pastor Guilherme, you have a role to play in advocating for the most vulnerable.

How can you help protect children living in extreme poverty in countries like Brazil? Here are three ways you can get started now:

  1. Pray for children at risk: Prayer is our first line of defense against all forms of violence. Join us in prayer! Pray for the physical safety and mental and emotional health of all child protection officers. In addition, pray for the children and adolescents in Brazil facing violence, abuse and exploitation. Pray for God's protection as well as healing for each child's mind, body and soul.
  2. Give to those most vulnerable to abuse: Our Highly Vulnerable Children fund helps children who urgently need rescue. With your help, we step in to protect children and offer emotional healing through prayer, counseling and rehabilitation. Any amount helps when it comes to intervening for children in desperate need.
  3. Sponsor a child to provide ongoing support and protection: By sponsoring a child, you provide them with the physical, emotional and spiritual support they need to journey out of poverty. Your support ensures a child is surrounded by safe adults trained in child protection who can advocate for them. They also receive the hope of the gospel, which changes everything.

While horrors like violence and abuse exist in the world, there's hope to be found in Christ and through us as his body. All of us, including our dedicated child protection officers, Compassion staff, volunteers, pastors, directors, tutors and you, can work together as warriors, protecting children and releasing them from poverty in Jesus' name.

*The names of the child protection officers have been changed to protect their identities.

Sponsor a Child in Brazil

smiling girl

Join us as we protect children vulnerable to violence by sponsoring a child in Brazil today.

smiling girl