Brazil Relief - 080709 International Crisis Response

Providing Clean Water and More in Flooded Brazil

When the Guiba River’s levee system was compromised, all but three neighborhoods in the city of Canoas were suddenly, violently flooded. Any buildings still above water became shelters and distribution centers as donations poured into the region from across Brazil.

As floodwaters now recede, new needs are uncovered, and Samaritan’s Purse continues to support churches, community leaders, and volunteers who are working tirelessly to care for displaced people. As we partner together to meet physical needs, Brazilian Christians and our Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) are able to share the hope of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scrambling to Meet Overwhelming Needs

On May 4 at 6 p.m., Vice Principal Marcia Tavares received a phone call from the city government. She was told to gather her staff and go to their school because it may become a shelter for flood survivors. Soon, buses full of people with nowhere else to turn pulled up to the school. Many arrived empty-handed, soaking wet, and shoeless.

“We didn’t have time to process at first,” she said. “We were just running around trying to find food and clothes for them.”

Around 200 people were dropped off at the school, and the staff scrambled to provide the necessities. About two weeks later, a Samaritan’s Purse team found the shelter and heard Tavares’ story. Our team was quick to return with thermal clothing, hygiene kits, and shelter tarps for everyone at the school.

“I was trying to be strong since the 4th of May,” the vice principal continued. “But the first time that I cried was when you guys came here and prayed with us and gave us a hug.”

No matter their profession, working in the wake of this catastrophe isn’t a job anyone was expecting, and the needs are overwhelming.

“It seems that the first day hasn’t come to an end yet,” said Pastor Isaac, whose church regularly distributes food, bottled water, clothes and other items to 400 people. “It seems that we’re still living the Friday night when the flood started.”

Pastor Isaac explained that many of the beneficiaries who come to pick up donations are traumatized by the disaster. He points out the words on the wall of the church, “You are not alone,” and prays for them while meeting their physical needs.

When Samaritan’s Purse knocked on the door, it was Bohm’s turn to be reminded that he isn’t alone. “It was a miracle,” he said. “We didn’t have any contact with you, and God made it.”

Samaritan’s Purse quickly set up a community water system at Pastor Isaac’s church. The new system can provide clean water for up to 10,000 people a day, and it’s just one of 10 systems sent to Brazil aboard relief flights by Samaritan’s Purse 757 and DC-8 aircraft.

Most water points are set up at churches with a lot of foot traffic so anyone walking down the street can access the water.

Offering Water and Hope

In another part of Canoas, Marilia was out on a walk when she noticed a line coming from a church courtyard. Curious, she joined it and was excited to learn people were getting an unlimited amount of free, drinking water.

Marilia, who’s been living at a friend’s home with other displaced people, said water has been a major concern for everyone in the house.

“We were having to ration our water for everything,” Marilia said. “We were using water, reusing water. When we would wash dishes with water, we would put it back in the bottle and reuse it.”

Collecting water at the same time as Marilia, Paulo added, “This water came at a good time, and it’s good water. Look, let me tell you something; not even our treated water is as good as this one.”

Both Paulo and Marilia have returned to the water point in their neighborhood multiple times. While there, they’ve befriended those living on site, including Pastor Ricardo, who shares their experience of fleeing the floodwaters.

“It’s very tough when you and your loved ones have to leave a place so instantly and things are ruined and upended so instantly,” he said. “I think of the memories that we have with my kids and the people from that area that are no longer with us—so much was lost, and you are powerless to do anything.”

Despite his loss, Pastor Ricardo is full of hope, and he’s quick to share the reason.

“We are in such a beautiful time of telling people there’s still hope,” he said. “His Name is Jesus.

“It sounds crazy, but If I had to give up all my material possessions to be in the position that I am today, evangelizing, I would have done it much sooner.”

As displaced people begin returning home, they will come face to face with what they’ve lost. Samaritan’s Purse is beginning Biblically based trauma recovery workshops to equip pastors, volunteers, and community leaders to take care of themselves as well as others in the months to come.

Brazil Relief - 080709 International Crisis Response