Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). Since the end of April 2024, heavy rain has continued to pour on the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and other neighboring territories of Uruguay and Argentina, causing flooding, destruction of homes and infrastructure, blackouts, lack of drinking water and basic necessities, several victims, and thousands of displaced persons.

The State is divided into 497 municipalities and has 11.3 million inhabitants, which corresponds to 6% of the national population. Its capital, Porto Alegre, is the most populous municipality, with 1.4 million people (data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics IBGE).

According to data from the Civil Protection of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (14 May), 446 municipalities were affected by the rains. About 80,000 people had to leave their homes because of flooding and other risks such as rock falls or landslides. More than 500,000 displaced persons are staying with relatives, acquaintances or other places. More than 2 million people are affected across the state and the numbers continue to rise. Across the state, about 27,700 rescuers are committed to saving the population. More than 4,400 vehicles, 41 aircraft, and 340 boats are in use (Data).

The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Our Lady Aparecida Province (BAP) are present in four cities of the Rio Grande do Sul: Porto Alegre, Rio Pardo, Uruguayan, and Bagé.

Of these, only the city of Bagé has not been affected by the floods, but the population is suffering equally because of the excessive humidity in the houses, where often they cannot wash or dry their clothes. In addition, the city depends on products from other regions of the Rio Grande do Sul, immersed in water. Food in supermarkets is in short supply and prices have risen sharply because the city is isolated, with no access to the capital due to blocked roads. The FMA of the Community Bl. Laura Vicuña of Bagé help some families of the neighborhoods of Ivo Ferronato and Malafaia with food and clothing where they work in the pastoral.

In Porto Alegre, a city where the Guaíba River has reached 5.25 meters in height, the FMA of Casa Santa Teresa welcomed 120 people. Two FMA are collaborating in shelters for people who have lost almost everything. Two others offer their help at the Association of residents of Morro Santa Teresa, located south of the city, where there is a “solidarity kitchen” that prepares meals for the homeless. Others take care of the people who come to the house and, in addition to helping them in their first needs, carry out activities of listening, pastoral, and prayer.

In the desperate situation of Porto Alegre, an FMA felt the need to offer, on the streets of the city, pastoral listening, empathy, and closeness. She noted that many people facing the harsh reality of the street desire something more than food: they hunger for presence, a compassionate gaze, a warm embrace, and gestures of affection. Many choose to stay on the street rather than seek refuge, out of fear, or simply because they have lost everything and are aimless. This experience reveals the urgent need to offer not only material help, but also emotional and human support.

In the city of Rio Pardo, crossed by two rivers – Rio Pardo and Rio Jacuí – the FMA run a social work, the Instituto Medianeira Casa da Criança (IMCC), which serves about 67 families and 80 children. Nine neighborhoods were affected, over 15,200 people, and the river’s population suffered the most. About 558 people were accommodated in shelters provided by the municipality.

Faced with this situation, Mary Help of Christians Community of Rio Pardo chose to maintain activities with children – even when some educators had to leave to recover and save their things – to ensure psychological support for children and to guarantee the food and safety that the Institute offers. The Sisters keep in touch with the families to monitor the situation. For two and a half days, the entire city was left without electricity and communications, which made contact difficult. The families also remained without drinking water for several days. The IMCC donated clothes, shoes, and food, as well as listening to and supporting the families of the students. There are 11 who need help and their needs are varied. Among the people affected by the Rio Pardo flood are some IMCC educators and their families.

ARCORES Brazil, the network of the Augustinian Recolletta Family, is raising funds for the homeless of Rio Pardo and will donate them to the IMCC, to buy some furniture for the affected families, provide food and, if possible, renovate some homes.

The city of Uruguaiana is facing the third worst flood in the history of the Uruguay River, whose level reached 12.37 meters on May 11. The flood has already displaced more than 2,300 people from their homes. 346 people (86 families) are homeless and 1,941 (483 families) are displaced. The city has 5 public shelters in the municipality of São Marcos. Families in shelters receive meals with food donated by the population and the Municipality.

The Laura Vicuña Institute of Uruguaiana, a school run by the FMA, promotes the ILV Ajuda campaign. It is a movement that intensifies with the support of students, their families, and all collaborators. Every day donations are received at the school: non-perishable food, clothes, water, and toys.

Many employees are involved in various initiatives to help people affected by the flood. Children from the 1st to the 5th year of the Primary also played their part: in Mother’s Day week, they wrote letters with messages of support and faith for mothers who are going through difficulties and are displaced in the Porto Alegre area.

The hope for a new life

The testimony of a family that has sought hospitality in the Casa Santa Teresa in Porto Alegre.

“On 6 May 2024, due to the floods in the State of Rio Grande do Sul and the flood in our neighborhood of Menino Deus in Porto Alegre, I, Mariana, pregnant with Miguel (9 months) and Lucas, my husband, began to seek refuge in a place near the hospital Moinhos de Vento, where Miguel will be born. So Divine Providence wanted us to find refuge – just like the Holy Family – at the Salesian House of Saint Teresa, where the Sisters received us with an extraordinary welcome on May 6, the day of Saint Dominic Savio.

At the end of the day, during Mass, we learned that it was the day of this Saint, patron saint of pregnant women. When we arrived at the house, we saw the images of Our Lady Help of Christians, who we are certain is our Mother and intercessor, especially in this moment of calamity and on the eve of Miguel’s birth. In a little more than a week of staying here, we learned more about the Salesian Family, celebrated Holy Mass with the Sisters and priests who passed through here; we prayed the rosary and we really managed to prepare ourselves spiritually.

We are certain that God wanted our refuge, our Bethlehem, to be here, with the Sisters and with Our Lord. Today is May 14, and we are still waiting for the arrival of little Miguel, whose date of birth is May 22. Our hearts are trying to welcome this new life that is coming even in the midst of the chaos that Rio Grande do Sul is experiencing right now. Miguel will be and is already a sign of hope for us in the midst of all this. God allows suffering for our edification and conversion. We are fortunate to be able to spend this difficult moment safely and to pray for all those who most need prayers, help, and strength to overcome adversity. We are immensely grateful to God, to Mary Help of Christians, to Don Bosco, to Mother Mazzarello, to Saint Dominic Savio, for all that we are experiencing. May these intercessors of ours always be a light in the life of the FMA, that they may make a home for many people and families, as they are for us. We are eternally grateful.”

The biggest flood of all time

Before the historic floods of April and May 2024, the largest such catastrophe in the capital Porto Alegre dates back to 1941. At the time, the maximum level reached by the waters of the Guaíba was 4.76 meters. Another factor that makes life difficult for the inhabitants of the Rio Grande do Sul are the temperatures, which have lowered in the last hours, reaching 11 º C between dawn and dusk.

Solidarity grows in all presences BAP

Since the calamity of the Rio Grande do Sul began to assume unthinkable proportions, all the Educating Communities of the BAP Province, both Schools and Social Works, have begun to organize and expand their arms and hearts to meet those in need.

The activities are countless, one more creative than the other with the collection of non-perishable food, water, clothes, toys, hygiene products, cleaning materials, mattresses, sheets and blankets. Several trucks with donations have already traveled to the south of Brazil. There is also collaboration with the Post Office and other NGOs so that the material collected reaches the Rio Grande do Sul communities.

The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians offers concrete support to the population and counts on the generosity and solidarity of all. You can send contributions and offerings in the manner indicated on the Web site of the FMA Institute, designating in the reason Emergency Floods Rio Grande do Sul.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.