Sandra Sobral was only 36 when she suffered a debilitating stroke. As part of her treatment, she was placed in a medically induced coma for some time. “I couldn’t speak, touch, or see. People did not know that, even in that state, I could perceive their fear to approach me. It was almost as if I was dead, ” she recalls. It was during that lonely time that she made a pact with God. “If You return my health, I will dedicate my life to helping people,” she promised. Miraculously, she made a full recovery.
Sobral graduated with a degree in Social Work with full financial help from a Rio de Janeiro businessman. Five years after her coma, she began tutoring children with learning difficulties and Attention Deficit Disorder.
While talking with their mothers, she realized that the problem went far beyond studies. “That’s when I saw the need to help those mothers leave behind the humiliation and exclusion they felt, in pursuit of rights and dignity for their children. For them to be seen as people, not as a problem,” Sobral shared.
Out of those conversations grew the idea for the Beneficent Association for Citizenship and Culture Action (ABACC). As mothers shared their needs, Sobral sought to meet them. And, after receiving assistance, many families wanted to volunteer to help others in the same position.
On June 22, ABACC will be 12 years old. “We are living in a very delicate moment and many are going hungry and having other basic needs, mainly because of the pandemic,” highlights Sobral, a member of the Central Adventist Church of Pedras, in Duque de Caxias, Brazil.
The entity collects 160 tons of food and personal hygiene kits monthly through a partnership with Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a Brazilian retail company who owns Extra Supermarket Chain. An average of 12 to 15 institutions are assisted each day and approximately 5,000 families are benefited throughout the state. A team of 130 volunteers, including coordinators and support staff, assist in the collections, assembly of baskets and delivery in the communities.
Sobral’s organization has expanded to include the following services:
Program to Combat Hunger ABACC
The institution collects and distributes about 40 tons of food weekly. Shifts take place four times a week: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm. Each Extra supermarket associated with the organization has a trained coordinator and three or four other people on the team. Altogether, almost 130 people participate in each shift, which collects about eight tons of food per day. The teams are formed by volunteers from ABACC and from different religious denominations, as well as institutions (daycare centers, nursing homes, non-profit organizations and others).
Medicines are available at the organization headquarters from Monday to Thursday during business hours. They are free, upon presentation of the prescription and prior registration with the organization.
Consultation and Medical Examinations
ABACC also offers referrals for laboratory, image and other examinations in addition to consultations with medical specialties. The appointment is made and the patient is referred to the consultation unit.
Needy families can count on ABACC to provide free funeral services.
ABACC offers free social assistance for access and rights; specific care for patients with sexually transmitted diseases, cancer and, now, during the pandemic, coronavirus victims; social programs; benefits; registrations; exemptions; requests in public, judicial and social security bodies; eye exams at the Guia Rosa clinic; psychology; a community bazaar; medical exams at accredited clinics; general health referrals; guidance and conduct for guaranteeing rights; legal advice; and college discounts and courses for children and teenagers.
Each volunteer “loves what they do,” says Sobral. Fernanda de Castro Liberato, one of the coordinators, agrees. De Castro Liberato, who serves with her husband, has been with the non-profit for five years. “When I first met the project, I was unemployed and needed a basic food basket. My life has been changed. I started helping my family, neighbors and friends. One day I took a donation to a neighbor and she thanked me, crying with joy. She sent me a photo of her pantry, completely empty that day. Today, she is also a volunteer,” adds de Castro Liberato.
Amanda was once a drug addict. Today she owns a home and volunteers with ABACC. “I came to ask for help for a boyfriend who was very ill because of his addiction. At first, I didn’t say I was a user and I was very hungry. Gradually, Sandra helped me. I got a job and ABACC even got a piece of land for me to build the place where I live today. I never went hungry again. Through the association, I help many people to earn their rights and their daily bread. I received a lot of help and I am forever grateful to everyone,” she highlights.
One of the people working at ABACC, who prefers not to identify himself, is serving a sentence converted into community service. “Because of my debt to the Justice system, I was referred by the Judiciary Forum to perform community service at ABACC. My sentence is for three years, and I must attend once a week. I fell in love with what is done here. I participate in the delivery and organization of basic baskets and recycling food. During this year’s floods, I participated for the first time. I believe that after my debt is paid, I will remain here, because now I am part of this work,” he shares.
The Adventist Church Solidarity Action leader in the Central region of Rio, pastor João Custódio, says that Sobral is “a woman on a special mission from God, who has a caring heart, thinks more of her neighbor than of herself, and is a true instrument guided by God. For this project to remain for more than a decade, there is only one secret: God is in control of all actions. He approves acts of love for others, because He is a God of love.”
“I have been following the work carried out by ABACC for five years. What calls our attention is the fact that it is continuous work. Sobral realized that people are hungry all year. This institution has a program to fight hunger 365 days a year, without sponsorship, but with a focus on the mission of saving and serving. This spirit of solidarity in helping others provides an example of dedication and commitment,” highlights Custódio.
If you would like more information about ABACC, you may contact Rua Lieutenant José a Silva by phone at (21) 3029-1868, or WhatsApp (21) 97191-9375.