Over 60,000 Brazilians worked together on Brazil's Independence Day under the banner of "Mormon Helping Hands" - a service program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make much-needed repairs at 284 schools throughout the country.
"Education for Everyone," a nationwide program that focuses on the importance of education, sparked local Church leaders in Brazil to choose "Helping Hands for Public Schools" as one of this year's major service project.
"Volunteers consisted of Church members as well as friends not of our faith," said Nei Tobias Garcia Jr., the Church's assistant public affairs director in Brazil. "Throughout the country, school doors were painted, desks repaired and classrooms cleaned."
Elder Charles Didier, a Church general authority headquartered in Salt Lake City, was in Brazil for the service project. Despite his white shirt and tie, he put on a "Mormon Helping Hands" vest and picked up a paintbrush to help. With him was Dr. Mozart Neves Ramos, a member of Brazil's national education counsel, was also participated in the project.
"The most valuable element of this project is the involvement of the community in improving the schools," said Dr. Ramos.
Since the inception of the Mormon Helping Hands project in Brazil in 2000, over 1.5 million hours of service have been rendered.
Mormon Helping Hands projects have also taken place in many other countries, including France, Japan and Peru. A continentwide project will take place in Africa later this month. Service projects address the ongoing needs of communities and at times provide emergency-relief response, as was seen in the United States following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.