Changing tacks but still on the quake, the Brazilian media has reported that over 14 of its peace-keepers died in Haiti on Tuesday and 4 others were still missing up until Friday (Jan.15). Two of the dead were from Rio Grande do Sul, this writer’s native state.
Sadly, too, we have learnt that one very important person in the field of human rights and awareness has also perished in the earthquake: Dr. Zilda Arns,75, a pediatrician - and sister to one of Brazil’s foremost catholic priests, Paulo Evaristo Arns, Archbishop emeritus of São Paulo - was in Haiti on a mission.
Zilda Arns when alive was the founder and president of the Children’s Pastoral, a catholic organization specialized in caring for malnourished children amongst the poor of the country. Her organization oversees charitable and awareness-raising programs from the extreme north of the country to the last tip of Rio Grande do Sul. Zilda Arns was our Mother Teresa of sorts.
"Today, the Pastoral is one of Brazil's best-known organisations, and Zilda Arns was one of the nation's best-known faces. The organisation is present in 42,000 Brazilian communities, with 260,000 trained volunteers attending to 1.8 million children under the age of six. In communities where the Pastoral is present, the infant mortality rate is 11 per 1,000 births; in Brazil overall it is 22.5." (www.telegraph.co.uk)
Not a nun herself, Zilda came from a sacerdotal family in which three of her sisters and one brother are linked to the Catholic Church either as priests or nuns. Zilda Arns, when widowed, embarked on a career to help the have-nots. “A mission,” as she described it.
Even though in her work we do not see reference to birth control as one would expect, Dr Zilda Arns was of the opinion that birth control is achieved “by the education of women.” Educated women are the best birth control method, she used to say.
However you might think about it, she contributed significantly to the well-being of mothers and children by teaching them how to improve their diets by a combination of well-balanced meals using the country’s own produce in the form of dietary supplements, breast-feeding as well as education and awareness.
We feel when people like that leave this Earth.