Emanuelle, at ten years old, working in support of flood victims, and, at twenty-one, helping in a new tragedy in the same city. [Photo Credit: Tribune of Petrópolis/Emanuelle Blanco/South American Division]

General Conference

Volunteer Who Acted in the Petrópolis Tragedy in 2011 Helps Again in 2022

The first time, at the age of ten, Emanuelle made a point of wearing her Pathfinder Club scarf and helping to support the victims of the rains.

Brazil | Ayanne Karoline

In 2011, heavy rains hit the city of Petrópolis, in the mountainous region of Rio. The floods wreaked havoc on the city, leaving people dead and homeless. Student Emanuelle Blanco, at the time just ten years old, saw her parents open the door of their house to shelter neighbors who escaped risky areas.

Even as a child, Blanco convinced the family and went out to help. Wearing her Pathfinder Club scarf, she sorted donated toys at one of the support sites.

“I believe being a trailblazer is what I did. That attitude of leaving the house and going to help represented everything I believed to be the definition of that scarf,” comments Blanco, now 21 years old.

Now, the young woman has relived the nightmare of a new tragedy. This time, Blanco was even closer to the affected sites. A Business Administration student at a university in the city, she saw the rain come and, with it, the trail of destruction that took cars, houses, and lives. On the rainy day, she arrived at 5 a.m. at home, as the traffic was chaotic. Her parents, who live in another state, came to get her car, which was muddy, and she went with them. However, it didn't take 24 hours for Blanco to make the decision to come back.

“The same girl who, at the age of ten, did that and who, this time, lived and survived the tragedy, needed to do something. And I went out, created a campaign to help fuel the vehicles of friends who would also help, and we started to work, draining the donations that arrived at the college to the shelters," she explained. 

[Photo Courtesy of the South American Division]

[Photo Courtesy of the South American Division]

Sense of Mission

For Blanco, the feeling is of having a duty as a citizen and Christian. “They are store owners that we buy from; they are people who teach us; they are family friends. We have a duty to help. Other than that, this is the Christian attitude of showing God's unconditional love through our actions. At times like these, our action speaks more than just preaching through words,” she comments.

With an innate desire in her heart to help others, Blanco donated much more than her physical strength. She shared her faith with fellow volunteers. “They are of another religion, and they invited me to be with them as they said their prayers, in their own way. There, I also asked to pray, and it was a very emotional moment. We were experiencing sad scenes a few days ago, and at that moment, we felt the presence of God there taking care of people,” she says.

Solidarity that Moves

Adventist churches throughout Rio de Janeiro and in various parts of the country are working to collect donations as well as helping search teams. The solidarity truck of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is in Petrópolis producing about 1,000 meals a day and washing up to half a ton of clothes (see the video here: https://youtu.be/j6P2-TsSh34). 

“Social work is the consequence of a life in unity with Christ. As I live this communion, I more easily recognize God's merciful actions in our lives, and this drives us to do the same for those around me and in need. People's interest in the gospel message increases by the witness given through our actions," highlights Pastor Hiram Kalbermatter, president of the Adventist Church for Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Espírito Santo, who is also working to help the victims of the rains in Petropolis.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s news site