By Hannah Jeronymo
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 39) should be the mission statement of Paraísópolis, SP, Brazil. It should also be the reason for philanthropic activities throughout the world. In the summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to witness non-western philanthropy first hand. I spent my summer vacation in the second biggest slum of São Paulo, Brazil, which is called Paraísópolis. Over 80,000 people live in this slum (Vilicic, Bergamo, Salvo, & Duarte, 2010), which is located deep in the heart of São Paulo’s richest neighborhood, Morumbi (Sertich, 2010).
In Morumbi, there is a high class hospital called Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein. This hospital only attends those who have a good health insurance, or those who are rich enough to pay for its services. However, they give back to the less fortunate by setting up the “responsibilidade social” program (which means, social responsibility). They set up 3 health clinics inside this slum, which is paid for by the government, and here they provide first hand care to the slums residents (Albert Einstein, 2009).
What is amazing about this philanthropic program however is not what the hospital is doing for the slum, but what the slums citizens are doing for themselves. In the clinic I worked in, there was 5 health care teams to be in charge of 1/3 of the slum area. The teams consisted of 1 doctor, 2 nurses, and 3 helpers. The helpers were paid residents who lived in Paraisópolis, who assited the doctors and nurses in getting around and meeting the patients. However, each block of the slum had a person who was in charge of caring for the well being of its residents, making sure each person attended their appointment, and visiting the person to follow up on their care. The person who was in charge of each block though was not a hospital employee, but a fellow resident of that block! These people, even though they did not have much, took time from their day every day to visit each one of their neighbors and help them stay on track with their health. They would check on their neighbor weekly to see how they were doing, would take them to the clinic if they were sick, and would help connect them with the clinic to provide them with the resources they needed.
In our society, we are used to doing everything with the intent of getting something in return. The Brazilian residents of Paraisópolis willingly, and freely, cared for each of their neighbor’s health, working in collaboration with a government funded clinic, to make sure each person, each child, had access to good health care. According to McClintock (2004), 69% of Canadians don’t volunteer because they “do not have extra time”, and 38% don’t volunteer because they give money instead of time. If Brazilians adapted this mindset, the system of helping one another in Paraisópolis would fall to pieces and every one would be back to having inadequate care. Time is something that is precious to all of us, but in Paraisópolis, it is something most residents are willing to give for the best interest of their neighbors.
Also, each nurse and physician employed by the hospital, gave up the comfort of working in a first class facility, to go into the slums, and risk their safety every day to serve their fellow human being. These health care professionals did not just stay in the clinic and wait for the people to come to them; they also went out to the patients’ homes at least once a month to check up on them. It’s very hard for certain families who work full time to take the family memebrs to appointments, and these employees take that into consideration, and walk all over the slums, risking their safety, to help get care to these families.
If western philanthropy consisted of health care professionals going into the ghetto to help a fellow human being get the health care they deserve, our community would be a better place. In North America, we forget that there are other ways to be charitable, and focus only on the financial help we can provide, when sometimes, all someone needs, is a helping hand; sometimes it is better to give a little love, than a couple of bucks
Albert Einstein (2009). Responsabilidade Social. Albert Einstein: Sociedade Beneficente Israelita Brasileira. Retrieved on September 24, 2013 from http://www.einstein.br/responsabilidade-social/Paginas/Responsabilidade-social.aspx
Jeronymo, H. (2013) Personal experience and observations of Paraisópolis and Einstein clinics.
McClintock, N. (2004). Understanding Canadian Volunteers; p.8. Canadian centre for Philanthropy. Retrieved on September 25, 2013 from http://www.imaginecanada.ca/files/www/en/giving/reports/understanding_volunteers.pdf
Sertich, A. (March 16, 2010). Paraiso-polis. Favela Chic. Retrieved on September 25, 2013 from http://favelissues.com/2010/03/16/favela-chic-paraisopolis/
Vilicic, F., Bergamo, G., Salvo, M., & Duarte, S. ( December 7, 2010). Violência em Paraisópolis, a segunda maior favela da cidade. VEJA: São Paulo. Retrieved on September 25, 2013 from http://vejasp.abril.com.br/materia/violencia-em-paraisopolis-segunda-maior-favela-da-cidade