Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kindness, Week Seventeen

I just found out that I kind of did the same act of kindness two days this week! Oops! Last week was pretty crazy, so I'll have to try to make up for it this week by doing some more unique stuff! : )

April 23- Went through my clothes. My church has this kind of free yard sale for disadvantaged people in the area every year. It's right before school starts again, and they post the needs in the bulletin this week. Right now they're trying to round up clothes for the Great Exchange (that's what the event is called.) So on this day, I went through my closet and dresser (for the second time this year!) to see if I could part with anything else. And I did!

April 24- Donated to Autism Speaks. I love opportunities like this, when you're out shopping and the clerk asks "would you like to donate a dollar today?" It reminds me to be generous and gives me the opportunity to learn about organizations I haven't looked into before!

April 25- Spread the word about World Malaria Day. In preparing for this kindness experiment, one thing that kept coming up was the idea to spread the word about important causes. On this day, I shared information about malaria with my friends, and I also wrote a special blog post.

April 26- Sent a birthday card to an old friend. On this day, I sent a card to a friend I hardly ever see anymore. I hope she was happy to see that surprise in her mailbox!

April 27- Put together a package for a friend. During my shopping trips this week, I saw some pretty stationery-type items that I thought one of my friends would like. She has been having a rough time lately, and I decided to surprise her with a present in the mail!

April 28- Donated clothes to the Great Exchange. This is what I was talking about when I said I did the same thing two days! This was a Sunday, so this was the day Brandon and I dragged a few garbage bags full of clothes (some from me, mostly from Bible study friends) in to church. I had completely forgotten that I had counted my time on the 23rd sorting clothes as my act of kindness!

April 29- Helped someone win a scholarship (hopefully!) The daughter of a friend of a friend wrote an essay for a scholarship about her adoptive grandfather. The public has a chance to vote for which essay should win the contest. For my act of kindness on this day, I cast my vote! You can read the essay here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Country Profile: Haiti

I hope you enjoy my profile on Haiti! 

The Haitian flag features Haiti's coat of arms. The white scroll reads "L'Union Fait La Force", which means "Unity Makes Strength."

The Land: 

Haiti is part of the island of Hispaniola, which also includes the Dominican Republic. Haiti occupies 10,714 square miles of the island. It is slightly smaller than the US state of Maryland. Haiti is made up of two peninsulas, which are divided by the Gulf of Gonâve. The island Gonâve in the center of the gulf also belongs to Haiti. Haiti is considerably more mountainous than its neighbor, the Domincan Republic. Mountain chains run east to west on both of Haiti's peninsulas. The highest peak, Pic la Selle, is located in Massif de la Selle and rises to 8,793 feet. People live in the hills and valleys between the mountains. Haiti has four main areas of plains: Central, Northern, Artibonite, and Plaine du Cul-de-Sac. Port-au-Prince, the capital, is located on the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac. Haiti is criss-crossed by several large rivers. The longest is the Artibonite. Most of the tree cover that existed before European colonization of the country has been removed for farming and the production of charcoal fuel. Haiti is a warm and mildly humid country. Frost, ice, and snow don't form anywhere in Haiti, even on the mountain peaks. The average temperature in the mountains is 66 degrees, but the average temperature in the capital is 88 degrees. Spring and autumn are rainy seasons. December through February and June through August are dry. July is the driest month. Hurricane season lasts from June to October.

One of Haiti's beaches


Haiti is home to almost 10 million people, and that number is declining annually by about .97%. Haiti has a high birthrate, but poor health and emigration keep the overall population growth rates down. Up to 300,000 people were killed in the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Most Haitians are descended from African slaves brought to the island starting in the 17th century, but a small portion of the population (about 5%) are white or of mixed heritage. Florida and New York have relatively large populations of Haitians, and there are Haitian communities in other parts of the US and Canada as well. Haitians also live and work in the Dominican Republic. Because of agricultural jobs in the Dominican Republic, particularly dealing with sugar cane, many Haitians moved to the Domincan Republic to live in urban areas and find jobs. However, the Dominican government has passed new laws to try to regulate immigration, and there have been mass deportations of Haitian immigrants from the country.


The official languages of Haiti are Haitian Creole (Kreyòl), and French. People use Kreyòl in daily conversation. French is used in government and business settings. Only educated adults or secondary students speak French. Though some people in Haiti do speak French, the levels of accuracy and fluency vary. Haitians who speak French may shun those who don't, as a grasp of the language has become a sign of high social status. Kreyòl is a unique mixture of French, Taino, English, Spanish, and various African languages. It is traditionally an oral language, though it had a written form as early as the 19th century. Written Kreyòl spread significantly after the 1940s, when there was a push for literacy programs. More Haitians know some English these days because of the popularity of American television programs, and because many Haitians have relatives living in the United States.


Most Haitians (about 80%) identify as Catholic. Some people regularly attend church, but others only participate in Christian religion when it comes to marriages, funerals, or other important events that may have church ties. Protestants account for about 16% of the population, and that includes Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Pentecostals. Vodou is practiced in varying degrees by most Haitians. It was given legal status equal to other religions in 2003. Officially, the Catholic church disapproves of vodou, but vodou practices and rituals include many Catholic and Christian images, including worshiping saints. Vodou ceremonies usually take place at night. People who practice vodou believe that during ceremonies in a temple, a vodou god may inhabit the body of a ceremony participant. Not all people who practice vodou do so openly.

A cheery Haitian church

The People:

Haitians are friendly, generous, and warm. They are very hospitable people. They are proud of their culture and heritage. Everyday life is a struggle for a majority of Haitians, but parents strive to provide an education for their children, so they may have a brighter future. The income gap in Haiti is enormous. The wealthiest Haitians and the rural poor have very different outlooks on life, and the poorer part of the population may hold stronger ties to cultural traditions. Haitians attitude toward other nations may also be affected by their economic status. The wealthy elite may identify more closely with Haiti's historical ties to Europe, while lower economic classes feel closer to the country's African and indigenous roots. Haitians often migrate to other nations in Central America, and some, if they are able, may move to Canada or the United States. Haitians' attitudes toward their closest neighbors in the Dominican Republic may vary based on geography, class, and occupation. Upper-class Haitians may have business ties to the Dominican Republic, and lower-class Haitians may make short trips across the border to buy, sell, and trade. A growing number of Haitian students are studying at universities in the Dominican Republic. After the earthquake in 2010, the Dominican government, private citizens, and businesses donated money and supplies to help rebuild Haiti.

Whenever possible, Haitians put great care into public appearance. Urban Haitians tend to prefer Western-style clothing. Women wear colorful skirts or pants. Sandals are the most popular footwear. Businessmen and government officials wear suits and ties. Rural men wear t-shirts and shorts or pants while they work. Almost all Haitian women like jewelry, though it is often unaffordable. Men may wear gold jewelry to indicate status.

When someone enters a room in Haiti, you're expected to physically greet them. Haitians usually shake hands when meeting someone new. Everyone else gets a kiss on the cheek! An older person might be called "aunt" or "uncle" even if they aren't related to the speaker. Haitians enjoy spontaneous gatherings among friends and family, whether it's in the street or at the market. At these gatherings, you can hear plenty of laughter and loud conversation, complete with hand gestures. If one is too busy to stop and talk, acknowledgement, such as nodding the head upward, is expected. Friends, relatives, and neighbors are welcome for a visit any time before about 8 pm. Calling ahead is not necessary, but if a guest arrives during a meal, they may be asked to wait in another room while the family finishes eating. Close friends may be invited to share in the meal. It is not considered impolite to decline refreshments. Haitians do enjoy having friends and family over for dinner. After the meal, the hosts may walk the guests to the door, but the visit will continue as the hosts and guests stand and chat some more. Guests may bring a gift to their hosts for special occasions such as baptisms, weddings, graduations, or first communions.


Families in urban areas may have three or four children. Rural families may have ten or more children. Extended family is the basic unit of society. Grandparents may act as parents if a child's parents are gone or work a lot. When school is not in session, children in the countryside may be sent to live with city dwelling relatives, and vice versa. Adult children are expected to live with their parents until they get married, and sometimes, married children continue living with the parents until they can afford a home of their own. Married couples usually make a new home close to their families. In the countryside, extended families may live in a sort of compound arrangement, with homes surrounding a shared courtyard area. The father is the head of the household, and is the primary income-earner. Mothers are responsible for cooking, homekeeping, and childrearing. Mothers also teach their children about morality and religion. Rural men work in the fields while their wives may sell goods in the market to earn extra income. Some middle class families have a servant to help with household duties. Single mothers are very common in Haiti, and many men have children with more than one woman. Despite the fact that men are traditionally responsible for providing a family with income, the family's money is usually managed by the wife. Children also help their families by cooking, cleaning, running errands, selling in the market, and laundry. Some families can only afford to send one child to school, and it's usually the oldest child. The other children are expected to help take care of the home, and bring in income.

Domestic violence is a big problem in Haiti. Unfortunately, women sometimes face unfair legal issues there as well. For example, if a woman murders her unfaithful husband, she will probably receive a harsher punishment than a man who murders his unfaithful wife. A growing number of women own their own businesses and participate in government, but the national legislative seats are held almost overwhelmingly by men.


Haitian houses are constructed of whatever materials are available. Cement buildings are common in Port-au-Prince. Some brightly painted, brick, two-story buildings remain in older areas of the capital. In newer settlements, cinderblock homes are very common. These homes are usually just single rooms, occupying 9 square feet. The home is finished with a corrugated tin roof and a packed-earth floor. A small minority of Haitians have electricity, and running water is even less common. Outside the capital, the traditionoal lakou (family compound) housing remains. Surrounding the courtyard are small sleeping rooms made of cement, mud and rock, or banana leaves. More than a million people lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake, and over a hundred thousand at least still lack permanent housing. Many of the homes that fell during the earthquake were unstable cinderblock structures. Many older wooden homes survived because of their flexible, more stable structure.

A cinderblock city in Haiti

Young Haitians socialize in groups, but they usually don't begin dating until they're in their late teens. After reaching adulthood and finishing their education, most Haitians focus on getting married. After dating for a few years, couples are expected to get married. Young Haitian men may ask their girlfriend's father for permission to marry her, but if her father is not around, he may ask her mother or her mother's husband instead. Asking permission is less common in urban areas. Unlike some other countries, parents are usually not very involved in the dating lives of their children, but they do expect their children to choose spouses from respectable families from a class similar to their own. Haitian girls as young as 15 can legally marry, but young men must be at least 18. Young marriages are more common in rural areas than urban areas. Rural couples may put their marriage off until they can afford a big wedding. The wedding is usually paid for by the groom or his family, but the bride's family may also contribute financially. Couples often live together and have children like they were married until they can afford a wedding. Urban couples usually have a church wedding followed by a reception. Typical reception food may include rice, beans, salad, meat, cake, champagne and soft drinks. Haitian wedding receptions are usually held in private homes. The guests socialize and dance until the late evening. Formal polygamy is nonexistent in Haiti, but it is extremely common for men to have girlfriends and even children outside their marriage. Women, on the other hand, are expected to remain faithful to their husbands, and are looked down upon if they are not. In rural areas, a man's wife and his mistresses acknowledge each other and may even live together. Divorce is not common in Haiti, but separation is. Children almost always live with their mother after their parents split up, but they may stay with grandparents or other relatives.

Haitians celebrate births joyfully, but so many young children die before the age of five that Haitian families are careful not to appear boastful. Haitian women usually don't announce that they are pregnant until they begin to show, and the gender of the baby is usually not announced until after the birth. Most births take place without formal medical assistance, for tradition's sake. The maternal grandmother usually comes to stay with the family for a while to help care for the baby. Haitian babies are named shortly after they are born. A great amount of care and consideration goes into naming a baby. Firstborn sons are usually named after their fathers. Naming children after other respected family members is common. Children have their father's surname unless the father is unknown or he denies paternity. In rural areas, a child's name reflects the circumstances of his or her birth. For example, if a couple had trouble conceiving, they may name their child Jesula ("Jesus is here"), or Dieufel ("God created him.") Children who survive past the age of 5 are given nicknames that they are commonly known by. Baptism and first communion are important celebrations in Haitian life.

Because of Haiti's low life expectancy, elders are revered, especially those who live past 50. Respect for ancestors is very strong in Haitian culture, so even very poor families try very hard to have a proper funeral for their deceased. Family and friends gather to reminisce about the person who has died. They have a viewing, then a religious funeral ceremony. Funeral processions in rural areas usually have a single car followed by mourners dressed in black, and a marching band. Urban funerals have more cars and fewer pedestrians. Traditional tombs are above ground and brightly colored. Food and other offerings, like alcoholic drinks made from sugar cane, are often left on the tombs. Families of the deceased have masses in their honor on the anniversary of their death.

Brightly colored tombs in Haiti


If they can afford it, Haitians eat three meals a day. People in rural areas may have coffee and cassave for breakfast. Cassave is bread made from manioc, or yucca. They may not eat again until the evening. Most Haitians eat rice and beans every day. If they can afford it, their bigger meal may also include meat and a salad. Corn and rice are staple grains. Spicy foods are most popular- garlic and peppers are added to many dishes. Pork is the most common meat, but Haitians also eat chicken, goat, guinea pig, and seafood such as shrimp and fish. Yams, sweet potatoes, eggplant and fruit round out the Haitian diet. Pastries, including meat-filled ones, are popular snacks. Haiti is particularly known for fresh fruit juices, like papaya, mango, cherries, passion fruit, oranges, and grapefruit.

Produce and grains for sale in a Haitian market


Many Haitians have access to radios. People like to listen to music and news throughout the day. Few people watch movies at home, but they may watch videos at video stores. The most popular sport in Haiti is soccer. If an important match is being televised, the streets of Haiti are empty because everyone is inside somewhere watching or listening to the game. Many Haitians of all classes cheer for various teams, especially the national teams of Argentina and Brazil, because of their success. Children like to play marbles, tag, or oscelet, a jacks game made from cow or goat bones. Storytelling remains a popular pastime. Tales include ghost stories, fables and traditional tales featuring characters from Haitian folklore. Special occasions such as weddings or baptisms provide an opportunity for Haitians to gather and socialize. They tell jokes, catch up with old friends, drink, dance, and talk politics. Cockfights are (unfortunately) a popular pastime for Haitian men. These fights are usually held on Sunday afternoons. Haitian men also enjoy playing dominoes and card games. Lower class women may tell jokes and chat with friends, usually while doing chores like laundry or gathering water.

Music is very important to Haitians. Classical music, such as that performed in religious ceremonies, and modern music, like rap, are both popular. Urban residents enjoy a variety of North American music. Haitian sculptors and artists are known for using striking colors and vibrant imagery. A popular form of art is sculpture made from flattened, cut, and often painted scrap metal. Haitian history and life is a popular subject for artists, and natural elements are also important. Painted wooden boxes and screens, baskets, and pottery are also popular crafts.

An artist works on metal sculptures


Haiti's holidays include New Year's, which is also Independence Day; National Heroes Day (January 2); Constitution Day (March 29); Labor and Agriculture Day (May 1); Easter; Flag Day (May 18); All Saints Day (November 1); the Day of the Dead (November 2); and Christmas. Historical holidays, such as those celebrating important battles and the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, are also celebrated, as are Catholic holidays and traditions such as Lent, Good Friday, and Carnival.


Many Haitians do not have access to running water and modern plumbing (such as indoor bathrooms.) Then, the 2010 earthquake caused such great destruction that many people are still living in tents and other inadequate houses. These factors contribute to many health crises in Haiti, such as the spread of diseases like cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid, and HIV/AIDS. Haiti recently had a mass outbreak of cholera which killed more than 7,000 people in a year and a half. These diseases, combined with malnutrition and lack of health care, lead Haitians to have an extremely low life expectancy rate. Infant mortality rates are high for a number of factors- low birth weight, home births, and lack of medical care and support for new mothers and babies. Children often aren't vaccinated until they are in school. The national healthcare system is simply unable to meet the needs of the Haitian people, due to lack of resources, shortage of staff, and the high expense of medical care. There is no reliable ambulance service; the sick or injured must find a way to get themselves to a hospital or clinic, if one is nearby. These institutions are rather rare in rural areas, and many have older equipment, not enough staff or other resources. Haitians have to pay for medical care out of pocket, and most simply cannot afford to do so. The 2010 earthquake brought foreign medical aid to Haiti, but often these organizations are only able to treat the most urgent cases. Traditional remedies and treatments are still very important to Haitians, particularly in rural areas. Natural remedies may be tried first if an illness presents itself. If a family has enough money, they may turn to a pharmacy to purchase medicine. Many illnesses and injuries are believed to be the result of magical intervention, sent by a religious practitioner (not always vodou, interestingly enough.) If an illness has an unknown origin, one may visit a specialist in herbal remedies or a vodou priest or priestess. Payments are usually made in cash, but sometimes a trade takes place (such as cattle or land for services.)


Haiti's school system is modeled after that of France. Children start with kindergarten, then have six years of primary school, and seven years of secondary school. Many children from poorer families do not attend secondary school, but instead help their families by working. Children usually start primary school at the age of 6. After primary school is completed, students must pass an exam to enter secondary school. Students must also pass exams at the end of the third, sixth, and seventh years of secondary school. The school system often does not adequately prepare students for these difficult, mandatory exams. Some schools are called "lekòl bòlèt", or "lottery schools." They are called this because people say students have as much chance of graduating as they do winning the lottery. Generally, schools lack sufficient materials and qualified teachers. In some areas, like Port-au-Prince, the school day may be interrupted by political demonstrations or other social unrest. Because of the frequent violence at these kinds of events, children are often removed from school or kept home when these protests are planned. Education is highly valued but mostly unattainable because of cost. Very few schools in Haiti are public. Private schools make up about 80% of Haiti's schools. These include Catholic schools, national and international schools. Most urban Haitians send their kids to private school, though tuition can be a huge financial burden. Even in public schools, families are financially responsible for books, supplies, uniforms, and enrollment fees. Haitian schools teach math, geography, history, and grammar. Later in their schooling years, students may learn foreign languages, literature, and extracurricular activities like sewing. Haitian students often only study and work on homework until sunset, because of power outages and the high cost of generators. Parents are usually involved in their children's studies, but parental involvement decreases as the child gets older. Cheating is frowned upon and may result in punishment at home and expulsion from school. Haitian students who complete secondary school may pursue a degree at a university. The most popular school is the state university. Wealthy students are more likely to attend higher education outside the country. The majority of less-wealthy students look for employment after secondary school.

Primary school students in Haiti

Books to Read:

Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson
Meet Our New Student from Haiti by John A. Torres
Circles of Hope by Karen Lynn Williams

Bible Verse:

"Paske, Bondye sitèlman renmen lèzòm li bay sèl Pitit li a pou yo. Tout moun ki va mete konfyans yo nan li p'ap pedi lavi yo. Okontrè y'a gen lavi ki p'ap janm fini an." Jan 3:16

From Compassion's Website:

"Compassion's work in Haiti began in 1968. Currently, more than 66,700 children participate in 240 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Haitian children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be."

All information came from CultureGrams. 
It's an excellent resource if you have access to it!

Sweet Greetings

On Mondays, blogging Compassion sponsors often post the letters they may have received during the week. I am linking up with Blogging from the Boonies- please check out Michelle's lovely blog and the wonderful Compassion-related resources she posts there.

It was another good week for letters! This week I got letters from my two oldest boys. The first was from Victor in Kenya. 

26 March 2013

Dear Jessi, 
How are you? I hope you are doing well with your family. Here we are also doing well. In fact, the last two weeks we elect our leaders and the election was conducted peacefully. What about your country? Here in our nation it is rainy in some parts especially where I live. Even other people have started planting their crops and I hope they will do well. What about your country? 
I want to inform you that I have started a beginning schooling in secondary school and I hope I will receive something at the end. I will make it if you and me are praying for each other. 
I'm praying for you so God may guide and treat you with his hands so you may continue working. Even I'm praying for your parents. Remember to greet for me your parents and husband. May God bless you. Goodbye!

Your beloved child, 
Victor Otieno

Wow, Victor's letters arrive really quickly! His last one was dated March 18 and I received it almost exactly 1 month after he wrote it. This letter arrived on April 25! I love the fact that Victor says he will do well in school because we are praying for each other. I pray for my kids every day, and it is nice to know that Victor is praying for me, too. And he is even praying for my parents! : )

The next letter I received was from Said in Tanzania. 

Dear Jessi, 
Praise the Lord Jesus. I hope you are fine. I and my family are fine. How are you? I hope you and your family are fine and in good health. On Christmas holiday, we celebrated well. In the morning, I went to the church and in the afternoon I wore my new clothes and went to visit my grandmother who lives in Kilosa. How did you celebrate Christmas holiday? I like to play football so much. Which is your favorite game? Thank you for your nice letters you sent to me I liked them very much. I pray for you that God will keep and bless you in all your activities. I ask you to pray for me on my studies. I am happy I passed my exams. 
Good bye and God bless you so much. 


I hadn't heard from Said in a while (since the letter writing process changed, I get fewer letters from this sweet boy) so it was nice to get this letter from him! I like to read about Said's visits to his grandmother. He and his mom also help her with her planting and harvesting after they take care of their own crops each year.  And I like the random mention of his love for football (soccer.) I'm going to have to find him some soccer-themed goodies to send soon!

I can't wait to see what this week holds, letter-wise. I am hoping to get our introductory letter from Brenda in Mexico soon, since she's been getting letters from us since January! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stop funding abuse. Please.

Six of my facebook friends took their kids or grandkids to the circus this weekend. We had a circus in town a few weeks ago (the Kosair Shrine Circus, performed by George Carden Circus International), but this weekend, it's the big one- Ringling Bros. I went to the circus a few times when I was a kid. I remember thinking it was OK, but I'd rather go to the zoo- the area where the performers and animals were was really far away. The only thing I saw up close was a clown, and that's no fun (sorry, clowns.) A few years ago I read a book about animals in the entertainment industry. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember what it was called, but I was intrigued by the things the book said about the circus. I decided to do some more research, and I was horrified by the things that I learned. I am not a radical animal rights activist. I am not one of those people that "liberates" lobsters from sea food restaurants or whatever. I'm not a vegan (I love cheese too much...) I don't have an agenda. I just have a problem with suffering. I don't like seeing people get hurt, or knowing that they're hurting. It's the same way with animals. I've had pets all my life, and I would never think to financially support a method of "entertainment" that hurts people or animals. I won't see a boxing match. I won't attend a dog fight. I won't pay to support something that hurts someone else.

Ringling Bros. has been repeatedly fined by the federal government for failure to provide adequate care for their animals. Circus elephants are trained by chaining babies to the ground, to teach them who's in charge. They are beaten, both as babies and as adults, with metal hooks on poles (called bullhooks), to force them to perform abnormal behaviors. Electric shock prods are also used. If you weighed several thousand pounds, and God designed you to walk on all fours, don't you think it would be painful to be forced to balance on two feet, or even one foot, just for applause? Circuses employ people to cover training wounds with makeup, but you can still see the marks on their thick hides. Elephants are hard-wired to roam. They travel miles and miles with their herd (a very tight-knit group) every day. In the circus, the only time they get to move around is when they're performing, or when they're confined to pens just outside the circus area. Then, when it's time to move on, they're crammed back into train cars and trailers, again in chains. Elephants are highly intelligent, emotional animals that form close bonds with their family members. Baby elephants are separated from their mothers (if they're wild caught, their mothers are almost always murdered) and spend their years traveling with a rotating group of animals. Wild elephants live twice as long as captive ones. An elephant in the wild can live to be 70 or 80 years old. A captive elephant is considered ancient if it reaches 50. And the animals used in circuses are not always passive about the abuse they suffer. They don't like being confined for our entertainment. That's not what they were meant to do. So sometimes they fight back. Sometimes elephants and other circus animals try to get away, injuring people in the process. They are almost always destroyed, sometimes violently (like with guns.)

I understand that many people are still unaware of what exactly goes into the training and handling of these animals. I know that if you're thinking about entertainment, maybe you're not immediately going to be aware of the fact that these animals travel around the country in cramped, filthy conditions, in trailers and trains that rarely have air conditioning or heat, that they are tied down and chained before being let out to suffer physical abuse in preparation for a show. That's why I try to tell as many people as I can about these facts. And that's what they are- facts. I'm sure that there are people who work for circuses that like animals, and that may love the animals involved like pets. But we aren't allowed to treat dogs and cats this way. In some areas, you can get fined for leaving a dog in a hot car. Mitt Romney took a lot of flak when it was revealed that his family improperly transported their pet dog on a vacation during the last presidential election cycle. And you can bet your bottom dollar that those pet training centers at PetSmart and other pet stores aren't using electric prods or bullhooks to teach your dogs better behavior. You could go to jail for treating a cat or a dog that way. And yet, hundreds of people are shelling out $38-$100 per ticket to go to the circus this weekend in my town. I don't get it. It makes my stomach hurt. It makes me cry. Every time the circus comes to town, I try to share at least some of this information with my friends on social media websites, and I do think it is making a small difference. Several people have told me that they were not aware of what goes on behind the scenes at animal circuses. But every time the circus comes to town, there are still people I know that take their kids to the circus. Many of these people have pets, some of which are very pampered. Why are some animals worthy of better treatment than others?

I think circuses are gross. They disgust me. And I truly think that, just like any other abuse of creation, they make God sad. Please stop going to circuses that use animal performers. There are plenty of good circuses that provide lots of entertainment with just people performers- who are, I might add, paid, free to see their families and friends, and avoid being bludgeoned with bullhooks.

Oh his way to the next show

How a circus elephant spends its free time in your lovely city

Training. Notice how the metal hook is embedded in this poor baby's thick skin.

Dragged to the ground, learning to be submissive

Video footage of Ringling Bros. trainers beating and whipping elephants before a show. They're just standing in the backstage area, waiting to go in, wearing their Ringling headdresses, and they are slapped around the body and in the face with leather riding crops and metal hooks. I realize that PETA does some pretty crazy stuff, and I would never offer a blanket endorsement of their organization, but the footage speaks for itself. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful Thursday

It's time to count my blessings! Here is what I'm thankful for today:

  1. Compassion stuff. This week I got new pictures of Joane in the mail, new pictures of Tasya were posted online, I got a letter from Said today, and we got a new correspondence kid, too! It has been a pretty great week, sponsorship-wise. : )
  2. My car/mobility. One of my patrons today spent about 20 minutes rambling about a bunch of random stuff, but one thing I did take away from the conversation is that I'm very blessed to be able to get around. This patron has mobility issues sometimes. Occasionally she has to wear a cast-type device on her leg, and when she does, she can't drive, because her car has a manual transmission. So she has to ride her little scooter everywhere. Today she was telling me about different places she can't get to because of a lack of ramps, and she also told me she is sometimes scared of getting hit by cars in areas where there are no sidewalks. I'm thankful that I can drive, that my car has automatic transmission, and that if I needed someone to drive me somewhere (which happens every few months), someone will help me out!
  3. New books. This week I visited my used book store, and managed to find a book that I have had on my wish list for a long time. It's called Beatrice's Goat, and it's a great picture book about a girl named Beatrice who receives a goat and is able to use that resource to help lift her family out of poverty and get an education! I love books like that, and I was so excited to finally add it to my collection- it is now sitting on the bookshelf in my spare room that will belong to my kids some day. : )
  4. Healthcare. I may have been sick lately, but I am thankful for the access I have to healthcare, whether it's over the counter or prescription, urgent care centers or an appointment I have to make months in advance. I have been thinking about that a lot today, particularly, because it is World Malaria Day. 
  5. Coworkers. Today was a pretty decent day at work, thanks mostly to the people I work with. I have to work all day tomorrow, but I'm thankful that I get to work with my best friend! It definitely helps the days more bearable, and working with her on weekends is fun because we usually get lunch!

Bite Back

Today is World Malaria Day. I am writing this post to raise awareness about this preventable yet deadly disease, and hopefully to inspire action!

Since I became a Compassion sponsor in 2010, my awareness of certain global issues has multiplied. I knew there were hungry people in the world, but I didn't worry myself sick about it until Tasya told me her family pretty much only eats rice. I knew that people practice religions that involve magic and dark things, but it felt like fantasy until Joane told me someone at her church's revival had demons cast out of him. And I knew that malaria existed, that it affected people in countries other than my own, but I had never feared for someone's life as intensely as I did the day I got a letter from my sweet boy Said in Tanzania, saying his mother was sick with malaria. I immediately started crying, afraid that in the almost two months it took for Said's letter to get to me, he might have lost his mom to this disease. I was so scared for him- he doesn't even know where his dad is, and never has. Who would take care of my sweet boy if something happened to his mom? What if, God forbid, he got sick? After all, if it happened to his mom, it could happen to him. I remember going online and looking into how much it costs to buy mosquito nets for people- it's so inexpensive, it's ridiculous. There is no reason that every family shouldn't have mosquito nets. There are numerous organizations that provide giving opportunities so mosquito nets can be purchased for people who need them. On average, the cost is about $10. That's it. That's a little more than a single fast-food meal. That's the cost of a movie ticket. A fancy bottle of nail polish. Less than a new DVD. If we all made a deliberate choice to skip just one gratuitous impulse decision and gave that money to malaria prevention instead, we could cover the world in mosquito nets in no time.

Said's mother made a full recovery. I wrote to him so many times, telling him I was praying for her and asking how she was doing, that his next half a dozen letters or so included some reassurance that she was doing fine. This has tied our two families together in a way I can't really describe. I truly believe that if I showed up in Tanzania tomorrow, needing a home, Said's mom would welcome me with open arms as if I were a blood relation. If I ever have the chance to visit Said or send him a package, the first thing I'm going to pack for him is a mosquito net!

Every thirty seconds, a child dies from malaria. In the time it took you to read this post, a mother lost a son. A brother lost a sister. We can help stop this, though. Please consider donating to Compassion's malaria intervention program (cleverly titled "Bite Back"), or check out other ways to help through organizations like Nothing But Nets or Samaritan's Purse. And if you have a moment, watch the video!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meet Mishel!

Yesterday evening I sent another email to Compassion asking to be put on the list for another correspondence sponsorship, since it seems like everyone I know has gotten new correspondence kids lately! I told them I figured my email probably got lost somewhere in the shuffle, but if they had a need, I'd be happy to take on another sponsor kid. I heard back within 30 minutes, and they said I'd be put on the list again.

Today I checked my account, and lo and behold, we have a new sponsor child! Yay! This is child #8 in our far-away family.

Our new girl's name is Mishel! She is 12 years old, and her birthday is January 11. She lives in Peru with her mom and dad. She is doing well in school and she likes to play games (running, ball games, and jacks!) I'm looking forward to getting to know her!

Kindness, Week Sixteen

Here are this week's acts of kindness!

April 16- Cleaned my mom's house. OK, actually I tried to clean my mom's house. My back ended up hurting so I took a break for a while. And mom helped, too. Even when she isn't recovering from surgery, sometimes taking care of the house is overwhelming for her (since my brother has physical problems and needs help, and they have lots of pets, my mom has a lot to deal with.) So I tried to help out.

April 17- Gave a friend a gift while helping others. This was like, a triple-kind act. There is an organization called the Apparent Project that works to help people in Haiti. They have an online store where they sell handmade goods (pretty much all jewelry) that supports the organization and also gives a fair wage to the artists who make the jewelry. They also have a fundraising program for adopting parents. The parents order these beautiful paper-bead bracelets, each with a tag showing a picture of the person who made it, and a little mini-biography is provided. The adopting parents sell the bracelets to family and friends, and after a certain period of time they send the leftovers back to the Apparent Project. The adopting parents get to keep a portion of the profits for their adoption, people in Haiti get an opportunity to earn money, and I get pretty bracelets! Everyone wins! My friend Ashley, who is adopting from Haiti, is doing this fundraiser, and I got some bracelets from her on Tuesday. On this day, I gave one to my friend Jess.

April 18- Donated old magazines. You should never, ever throw away magazines. There is no excuse. You can recycle them, you can give them away, you can sell them sometimes (my local Half Price Books buys them)...I donated them to my library. We have a basket in our foyer where people can drop off their old magazines, and they are free for anyone to take. It's like that "take a penny, leave a penny" thing, but for magazines. Our patrons get pretty excited about it. Anyway, I donated a stack of magazines on this day. If you have old magazines to get rid of, ask your local library if they take them!

April 19- Thanked the Boston Police Department. Thanking my local police department was on my list of ideas for acts of kindness, but the living Boston bombing suspect was caught on this day, and there was a huge outpouring of support and gratitude to the police (even those not in Boston.) So often on the news all we hear about is abuses of power and bad behavior by public service members. It was great to see people applauding and cheering for the police. They worked really hard. I left a note on the official facebook page of the Boston Police Department (and I wasn't the only one- when I left a note there were about 8,000 comments on their post about catching the suspect alone.) It's not too late to send your support! You can also check here for other ways to support the people who have been involved in this ordeal.

April 20- Made packages for my kids. My sponsor kids are getting activity books and sticker books soon! I also sent hand-written letters (which I send about every 4-6 weeks.) My girls got letters written on pretty flower-decorated paper, and between the pictures on the paper and my big handwriting, Tasya's letter ended up being three pages long. Oops! Well, she sent a big letter to me- I had a lot to respond to!

April 21- Went "Idle Free." My city has this campaign to get residents to stop idling their cars. They basically want you to turn your car off if you're going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds. It's an act of kindness for the planet (happy Earth Day!) and also for my fellow Louisvillians. We actually have kind of awful air quality here (it's something about living in the Ohio River Valley- allergies are always really bad and it's not just because of man-made pollution.) Every little bit helps! On this day I went to pick up dinner (Brandon got a belated birthday gift card from my grandparents last week- thanks, Mimi and Pappaw!) While waiting for my carside service, I rolled down my windows, turned off my car, and enjoyed the nice weather!

April 22- Donated my change. This is such an easy act of kindness! I went to my local bookstore on this day and put my change in the box to buy books for disadvantaged kids. I also bought some kids books to send to Operation Paperback, for the children of our troops. So there's two acts of kindness in one!

I was sick this past week so my acts of kindness were kind of wimpy, but I am looking forward to some I have planned for this week! : )

Monday, April 22, 2013

My beautiful Tasya!

This day just got a whole lot better! I logged into my Compassion account to check to see if our new correspondence kid has appeared yet, and saw that Tasya's picture has been updated! I figured it would be soon since her birthday is coming up. I am so excited!

Here is the first picture of my girl, when we started sponsoring her in 2010:

Here is the picture we got last year around her birthday (she is wearing a pink Minnie Mouse shirt):

And here are her new pictures! I will add the high-res version to the side of my blog when I get it in my email. 

She is so beautiful! And she's wearing another Minnie Mouse shirt- which is good because I sent her a Minnie Mouse activity book for her birthday, and I was a little worried that she might be getting too old for Minnie. : ) Yay for new pictures!!!

Sweet Greetings

On Mondays, blogging Compassion sponsors often post the letters they may have received during the week. I am linking up with Blogging from the Boonies- please check out Michelle's lovely blog and the wonderful Compassion-related resources she posts there.

It has been so long since I got more than one letter in a week that I hardly know what to do with myself! The joy that accompanies getting a letter has really helped brighten what has been a rather dark week. 

The first letter I got was from Joane. This was especially exciting since we usually only got one letter from Joane last year (maybe two, but I'm pretty sure it was just one.) 

20 February 2013
Dear Jessi, 
I am so glad by getting the chance to write this to you in the name of the Almighty God. How are you, your family, your health and activities? My family and I are doing very well thanks to God. My schooling is going very well, thanks to God. I do live near a hospital. I will live far from my family. I celebrated Christmas with all my heart and all my soul. I have a favorite song, the #27 of the songbook. No, I do not help at church. Thank you for the letter, the card and the stickers. I am glad to get a lot of training. I am praying to God to bless you in everything you do. Please pray to God to give me more strength in everything I do. May God bless you!

Joane wants to be a nurse when she grows up, so I had asked her if she lived near a hospital. I also told her about how I help out in the nursery at church, and asked her if she helps at her church. And I think it's so cute that she told me her favorite song is "#27." Maybe some day I will find out what that song is! : )

The other letter I received this week was from my precious Tasya. Tasya usually writes to me fairly often. Since Compassion changed the letter writing policies, sometimes I get three letters from her, stapled together. I hadn't heard from her all year, until a few days ago! Tasya's letter was a full page, front and back, plus four extra small sheets of paper (two with her writing, two with the translation.) I absolutely love it!

20 February 2013

Dear Jessi Jones, 
Greeting in the love of Christ. First I want to tell you that all of us are healthy and don't worry because we live far from the volcano. The distance between our place with the volcano takes one night trip by ship. So, our place is safe from the volcano. We only had a little earthquake some time ago. Our teacher said it was the impact of the mountain under the sea that is still active or the impact of the other mountains that are not active. There is a mountain under the sea that is still active in our place. I heard from my teacher about that mountain. Its name is Mahengetang and the teacher said that it was one of natural wealth of our place because there live various kinds of fish and other animals. Last December before Christmas, the fishermen found some corpses in the island that was located in the south of our place. They said that they were Filipinos that were stranded in that place because of Bophe storm. It was so sad because their faces couldn't be recognized again. 
I feel sad to know that mama is very sick. I am scared to hear the word "operation." But I believe mama can get through from it just like the first operation and I believe God will give you courage and strength to have operation. I also pray that the Lord gives wisdom to the doctors and nurses, so that the operation will be going well. Because I believe what Paul said in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth." That's why I hope mama doesn't be scared and doubt because Lord Jesus keeps faithful to the care of and to protect us all. 
I will tell you about wedding ceremony in my place. A bride usually wears a white dress and headdress and small crown on her head, sometimes white flowers around their head just like a princess. A bridegroom will wear tuxedo and gloves. After wedding ceremony at church, they will return to their house that is decorated with kinds of flowers and at the edge of the tent is hung young coconut leaves or young palm leaves. In the place where the bride and bridegroom are sitting, we call it "puade" (just like the stage) It is decorated just like king and queen throne. Then in front of it there is custom cake named Tamo which is made of glutinous rice flour, brown sugar and coconut milk. It is shaped like a high mountain tat surrounded with various fruit, eggs, and shrimp. Only one person can cut the cake and he will with local language. And there is held "masamper" program at night. It is tradition program were people sing in groups and they take turn in singing. 
There is also a yearly program in our place named "tuliede". It is our tradition to give thanks to the Lord for His blessing and guidance. It is held on 31 January. 
Mama, my school is going well and I am glad that our school has been renovated. I am also happy to serve at church like to organize the offering of the congregation, and I often lead the worship in Sunday school. Right now we are preparing to celebrate Easter Day. I really look forward to celebrate it. We, the children, will compete to search Easter eggs that have been hidden by Sunday school teachers. What are the activities of the children, same age with me, to celebrate Easter Day in your place?
Mama, how are you doing now? 
I will always love you and pray for you. 
With love, 

I couldn't even make it through the first part of Tasya's letter without crying. She is so sweet! I desperately hope that some day I am able to go visit her so I can give her the world's biggest hug. I also thought it was really cool how she told me about Indonesian weddings (her aunt got married recently.) She sounds so grown up in this letter! Tasya's letter also came with an envelope with some surprises inside. She made me two bookmarks and a card. Everything is laminated so I can keep them forever. She decorated the bookmarks with shiny stickers and gold ribbon. The card is heart-shaped. The front of it as a heart cut out from the middle, and a piece of white mesh is glued to it, so it makes a sort of picture window on the card. It's hard to see in the picture (I put these on my scanner for the best picture quality) but they are all just super cute! I love them so much!

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13

"I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though dead, will live." John 11:25
Below that, she wrote "GOOD DAYS!"

Friday, April 19, 2013

Country Profile: Brazil

I hope you like my post on Brazil! Thanks to my friend Jess for suggesting the next country to profile! : )

The flag of Brazil. The words translate to "Order and Progress", 
the country's motto. 

The Land: 

Brazil is the 5th largest and 5th most populated country in the world. It occupies half of South America- almost 3.3 million square miles. Brazil is larger than the continental United States! Brazil borders every South American country but Chile and Ecuador. Forests cover about half of the country. This includes the world's largest tropical rainforest, in the Amazon river basin. Many of us are aware of the innumerable "save the rainforest" campaigns of the last few decade- this would be one of those rainforests! Even with heightened awareness and increasing conservation efforts, illegal logging and slash-and-burn forest clearing remain a problem. Brazil has five distinct regions: north, northeast, south, southeast, and central-west. The Amazon River is the longest river in South America, and travels through the rainforests in northern Brazil. Savannas and tropical grasslands cover the sparsely populated central-west region. The northeast region is particularly prone to droughts. The southeast region is the most populated and most industrialized. It is rich in natural resources and minerals. Farming and agriculture are common in the south. One of the world's largest hydroelectric dams can be found here, near Iguaçu Falls. Less than 5% of Brazil is higher than 3,000 feet above sea level. The climate is mostly tropical. High humidity is found in the forests and along the coasts, but the highlands areas (such as those around São Paulo) have a more moderate climate. January is the warmest month, and the coolest is July. Temperatures in the far southern region sometimes drop below freezing. 


Brazil has a population of almost 200 million, and that number grows by about 1.1% annually. More than 85% of the population live in cities. The two largest cities are São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. More than 2 million people live in the capital city of Brasilia. Almost every detail of the city was planned by the government, and it was completed in 1960. Children under 15 make up about a fourth of the population. Brazilians of European descent (mostly Portuguese) make up a little over half of the population. About 39% of the people are of mixed heritage, and about 6% are of African descent. The indigenous population is comprised of only a few hundred thousand people. Groups of German, Italian, Japanese and Lebanese descent maintain ethnic communities. Oddly enough, Brazil is home to the largest cohesive community of Japanese people outside of Japan. Black Brazilians descended from the slaves that were brought over from Africa before the 1880s. These people mostly live in the northeastern states of Brazil. 


The official language of Brazil is Brazilian Portuguese. The pronunciation differs slightly from the language spoken in Portugal. English is a popular second language. Spanish is becoming more popular in the cities, as Brazil establishes stronger economic ties with neighboring, Spanish-speaking countries. Though some Brazilians may understand Spanish, they may be offended if deliberately addressed in Spanish. In some areas of the south, descendants of European immigrants may also speak some Italian or German. Indigenous peoples may speak one of more than a hundred local languages. 


Traditionally, Brazil (along with much of South America) has been strongly Roman Catholic. At one point, over 95% of the population claimed to be Roman Catholic. Now that number is hovering around 75%. Other branches of Christianity are growing rapidly in Brazil. Religious freedom has been guaranteed since the founding of the republic in 1889. Most Brazilians only attend church on special occasions, though they would consider themselves very religious. Some Brazilians practice Afro-Brazilian religions that combine African religious traditions with Catholic ones. 

The "Christ the Redeemer" statue in Rio de Janeiro

The People: 

The Brazilian people are fun-loving, free-spirited, and warm. They are outgoing and enjoy socializing with others. They are also very hard-working. They take great pride in their country's diverse culture and natural resources. Most people of mixed heritage are quite proud of and identify with all their ancestral groups. Brazilians can be very opinionated and will passionately defend and argue their points. Despite some economic difficulties, most Brazilians are hopeful and optimistic about the country's future. People in most regions have a very relaxed attitude about time. Time is viewed more as a series of events rather than a sequence of hours and minutes. Brazilians in the north and northeast regions are generally more conservative in many aspects. Traditional military and religious celebrations are more common, and the folklore is stronger here. 

Many Brazilians prefer to be highly fashionable and wear the latest styles. Name-brand clothing is hugely popular in the cities. Residents of the most humid and warmest regions dress more casually, often in bright or light colored clothing. People in São Paulo and southern parts of the country tend to wear black, white, and neutral colors. Suits and jacket/skirt combos are popular business wear. Traditional clothing is more often seen in rural regions. 

Brazilian women wearing traditional dresses

Brazilians greet each other with a handshake in formal situations, but a common greeting among friends is a kiss on each cheek. They enjoy visiting friends and family. The warm climate allows for lots of time spent outdoors. Friends may spend time chatting outdoors, well into the late evening. If a guest arrives while a meal or snack is in progress, it is considered rude to not invite them to eat, but most people will politely decline the invitation. In rural areas, not accepting refreshments might be considered rude. If you are invited to dinner in Brazil, you might take candy or another small gift to your hosts. Invited guests often arrive up to half an hour late to dinner, except in São Paulo, where punctuality is considered a higher priority. Brazilians enjoy conversation, but sensitive topics such as religion and politics are avoided. Asking personal questions, like about salaries or age, is considered inappropriate. 


Brazilian families are very close and tightly knit. Extended family forms a kind of safety net in times of need. Families gather together at various holidays throughout the year. Spending time together is very important. Family size is determined by a number of factors: economic status, location, and education level. Families in middle and upper classes are usually smaller, with one or two children, but poorer, rural families may have as eight children. Children in poorer families may not finish their schooling because they have to help their families. The government helps the people with short term income issues, but extreme poverty remains a big problem, both in urban and rural areas. Brazil is largely a patriarchal society. Usually, the men are responsible for working and earning income, and the women maintain the home and take care of the family. Changing ideas about gender roles mean that more women are entering the workforce, though. More women are seeking education, and more workplaces are offering childcare for working women with families. In rural areas, men usually remain minimally involved with child-rearing and household chores. 

Brazilian children rarely leave home before they're married. Unmarried men may leave their homes to seek out better economic opportunities, but often they live at home until they are about 30. Most young couples move into their own home after they are married. The Brazilian economy, like much of the world, is a bit weak right now. Because of this, some couples may live with one set of parents while they save up money to buy or rent their own home. Elderly parents who can't take care for themselves often live with their children, which is preferable to staying in a nursing home. 


In the cities, Brazilians live in homes or apartments similar to townhouses seen in the US. Typical homes have a half-bathroom, a kitchen and a living room on the ground floor, with two bedrooms and a full bathroom on the second floor. Homes are usually made of brick and concrete with tiled roofs. Families like to decorate and redecorate every few years. The style of decoration depends on the family's income. Floors are usually cement, tile, marble, or wood. Indoor plumbing may be common in the cities, but due to water shortages, Brazilian families often buy their own water tanks, which are kept on the roof. There is an emphasis on home security in high-crime urban areas. Guard dogs may be purchased, alarm systems may be installed, and homeowners may even put broken glass on their roofs to deter burglars. High walls and security gates are often built at the front of the house. Many people who can't own their own homes live in shantytowns outside the cities. These people struggle with poverty, and are unable to obtain many necessities. Brazilians are determined and creative, though, and they find a way to make use of whatever they have to improve their homes. 

A shantytown in Brazil

Attitudes about dating have changed a lot in recent years, but socioeconomic status, geographic location, and personal values still affect those attitudes greatly. In less traditional families, kids may start dating around 12 or 13. Parents often encourage group dating. Traditional families expect boys to ask permission from a girl's parents before taking her out. Most couples date 2 or 3 years before getting married. It used to be common for Brazilian couples to marry young, but now couples may wait longer, even into their 30s, to get married. Couples may wait until they have obtained a degree, found a house, or obtained a good job before getting married. Brides-to-be usually have a bridal shower attended by close friends and family. Weddings usually consist of two ceremonies- civil and religious. The civil ceremony has to be held before the church ceremony. Couples appear before a judge, obtain their marriage certificate, and exchange rings. The church ceremony is expected to start a little late (up to 15 minutes) while the bride finishes getting ready. The bride's father and the groom stand at the front of the church, near the altar. The bride is escorted into the church by her father or another close relative, and the bride and groom stand together at the altar to be married by the priest. After the religious ceremony, there is a party, usually held at a rented hall or the home of the bride or groom's parents. There is a lot of food, drink, and music at a Brazilian wedding reception. Partway through the celebration, the couple leaves for their honeymoon, and after they leave, the guests keep partying. Wedding reception parties often last late into the night. Possibly because of the country's strong ties to the Catholic church, there were once many restrictions placed on divorced people. After a divorce, a Brazilian resident may have had to wait several years before becoming remarried. However, attitudes regarding marriage and divorce are changing, and life is now easier for people who are divorced. Pregnancy is highly celebrated in Brazil. Brazilian women make no attempt to hide their growing bellies. Friends and relatives often thrown baby showers for expectant mothers a few months before the baby is born. The baby may be named for one of his parents, or he may be named after a close friend or relative. A baby's first birthday is cause for a big celebration in Brazilian families. 


Mealtime with family and friends is very important to the people of Brazil. Most Brazilians eat three meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Extended family often comes over for Sunday dinner. Brazilian cuisine reflects its cultural diversity. Each region has its own traditional foods. Staple foods include bread, meat, beans, rice, eggs and cheese. A typical breakfast would include coffee with milk, fruit, and bread with butter. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and often includes rice, beans, salad, meat, potatoes, bread, and fruit. Dinner tends to be lighter and may include soup with bread, coffee with milk, and a piece of cake. Pastries are often eaten for snacks. Each region has its own popular foods. In Rio de Janeiro, the favorite dish is feijoada (black beans with pork, beef, sausage, and sometimes pigs ears and feet.) Churrasco is a barbecue dish from the southern regions. 


Brazilians are passionate about football (soccer.) Some businesses and schools may even close during the World Cup. People all over Brazil love football, both playing it and watching it. If they can't watch the games in person, they will watch them on TV. If a playing field is unavailable, games take place in neighborhood streets. Fishing and boating are popular in Brazil, as is auto racing. 

Many people consider Pelé (Edison Arantes do Nascimento) to be the world's most famous soccer player. He is from Brazil. 

In their freetime, Brazilians like to visit friends and family, or watch television. Any occasion may be a reason to celebrate in Brazil. Get-togethers often include singing and dancing. People young and old enjoy dancing. Young people often go dancing in clubs. Music is popular among Brazilians. The arts in Brazil reflect the country's rich and diverse background, influenced by European immigrants, African ancestors, and indigenous roots. Samba is the most popular music, and it uses African rhythms and European-style singing. Brazil is also home to several important architects. Many aspects of the arts, including architecture and literature, were heavily influenced during the country's years of colonization, particularly by Jesuit missionaries. 


Brazil's holidays include Carnaval, the celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday; Lent and Easter; independence day (September 7); Tiradentes Day (April 21); Labor Day (May 1); Memorial Day (November 2); Republic Day (November 15); and Christmas. Carnaval is undoubtedly the most famous Brazilian holiday. 

Carnaval parades are full of fantastic floats, elaborate costumes, dancing, music, and more!


Brazil has universal healthcare.That being said, rural areas rarely have adequate healthcare facilities. For those with financial resources, excellent medical care is available in large cities. Some areas have trouble accessing clean water. Yellow fever, malaria, and other tropical diseases are an issue in some areas. There is a grassroots effort to send mobile healthcare units to rural areas in order to improve infant mortality rates and other common issues. AIDS is a growing problem in Brazil, while in other areas of the world, HIV/AIDS is on the decline and may be considered a chronic health condition compared to the death sentence it once was. 


Education is very important to Brazilians. Education is seen as the key to overcoming economic difficulties. However, lack of resources prevents some families from providing their children with a good education. Education is mandatory for nine years (ages 6-14.) Primary school lasts for five years, then there are four years of middle school. After that, students may attend three years of secondary school. Attendance is not always strictly enforced, particularly for older students, who may need to leave school to help their families. Brazilian children usually start school at the age of six, but some may go to preschool before then. In elementary school, students learn basic world history, science, math, reading, writing, Portuguese, and physical education. Late middle and high school students take classes in physics, chemistry, biology, history, calculus, geography, art, psychology, sociology, and foreign languages. Many schools have labs, libraries, and technology such as computers, but uniforms and school supplies are the financial responsibility of the students and their families. Sometimes students who can't afford these costs receive donated items. Almost all Brazilian students attend primary school- aboput 95%. Boys make up a little more of that group than girls. By secondary school, girls outnumber the boys- 85% of girls attend, and 78% of boys attend secondary school. Private schools are available in Brazil, but they are very expensive and not affordable to most Brazilian families. Admission to the country's top universities is difficult. There is a special college-prep course available to students, and then an entrance exam. Much of secondary education focuses on preparing students for this exam. About half of secondary school graduates go on to trade schools. Adult literacy rates have risen substantially since literacy programs have become available.

Schoolchildren in Brazil enjoying a healthy lunch.

Books to Read: 

So Say the Little Monkeys by Nancy Van Laan
Spotlight on Brazil by Bobbie Kalman

Bible Verse:

“Porque Deus tanto amou o mundo que deu o seu Filho Unigênito[a], para que todo o que nele crer não pereça, mas tenha a vida eterna." João 3:16 (via Bible Gateway)

From Compassion's website: 

"Compassion's work in Brazil began in 1987. Currently, more than 38,800 children are registered in more than 150 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches and denominations to help them provide Brazilian children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be."

All information came from CultureGrams. It's an excellent resource if you have access to it!