10/15/2013 11:57 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Testimony From a Mother Supported by Saúde Criança/Brazil Child Health

In 2011, I was devastated when my five-year-old son, Ricardo, had a stroke. He was hospitalized three times that year at Hospital da Lagoa and was eventually diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. As if Ricardo's health problems weren't enough, I have three other children to take care of: Tiago (16), Christian (five) and Isabelle (two). I also had to face other difficulties at the time such as Tiago being assaulted at school. The case was brought to the police, and we ended up having to withdraw him from school. Another concern I had was that our house was located in an invaded area, and we had no documents to prove ownership of it. I constantly feared being evicted and losing what little that we had. And lastly, my husband was unemployed.

It was at this time very difficult time in my life that I was introduced to Saúde Criança, where the volunteers and staff transformed our family's story. For one, the organization obtained the necessary documentation to legalize our home and encouraged me to start a campaign in my community to get the City of Duque de Caxias (RJ) to legalize the terrain. This mobilization turned out to be successful and we were able to help 300 other families obtain their own documentation for their properties. To our surprise, we also secured asphalt, electricity and sanitation, as well as garbage collection services for our community.

Even though we were able to legalize ownership of our house, it was not suited to the needs of a child with health problems. It remained unfinished and stood in a precarious area at risk of collapsing. When it rained, our fears of something bad happening increased. Saúde Criança intervened and remodeled the entire house, providing labor and construction materials. It also covered our rental costs of another property during the construction of the house and when it was finished, furnishing, a water filter and even air-conditioning for the children's room came included.

All the changes in our home increased the self-esteem of the member of our family and instilled the motivation to keep improving. Tiago, who suffered from bullying and had to stay out of school, even won a scholarship to attend a private school. I also benefited from receiving courses in crafts and waxing funded by Saúde Criança. During this period, I was separated from my husband for a few months and practically had to support our kids on my own. It was very hard, and I suffered from depression, but I kept pushing forward, knowing how important it was to be financially independent and raise the children.

Now I have new aspirations and a different personal reality. My dream is to one day open my own wax salon. I'm already a step closer to this goal as I acquired some materials needed to start working as professional waxer, once again, thanks to the help of Saúde Criança. I even have some clients in my community already. I am very thankful to the organization for the opportunity for growth, learning and for believing in my family and me. That's why I ask you to support Saúde Criança in the Skoll Foundation's Social Entrepreneur Challenge so that more families can be helped by them!

-- Cristiane de Oliveira dos Santos Campelo