Preventing substance abuse among Brazil’s youth

By Bella DiFilippo*

Jose Miranda and his family lived in a neighborhood where drugs were very easy to access. Both of his parents were heavy drinkers and had difficulty holding jobs. When Jose was 11 years old, he became involved in the São Gabriel Community Center in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

“This is the place where I began to believe in myself,” said Jose.

Today, Jose has his own family and successful business. The São Gabriel Community Center’s impact on people like Jose inspired the creation of a United Methodist afterschool ministry for at-risk youth, Shade and Fresh Water.

“In this program, we include educational enrichment and a program for building character and values, so the kids become positive citizens, grounded in Christian values that work for a better world,” said Gordon Greathouse, United Methodist missionary and a program founder.

The Methodist Church of Brazil and other faith communities open their doors to host Shade and Fresh Water programs, with the support of church members who volunteer. Children are loved, affirmed and strengthened as future leaders for their community.

Over the past 10 years, the number of Shade and Fresh Water programs has multiplied, reaching thousands of children and teenagers. Such programs contribute to The United Methodist Church’s Abundant Health initiative to reach 1 million children by 2020.

Children who participate in Shade & Fresh Water programs preform a song in front of clergy and members of the Methodist Church of Brazil during General Conference. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHADE & FRESH WATER

Combating substance abuse

“Brazil has had a huge rural exodus—people who have come to the cities,” Greathouse said. “Parents can’t take care of their children while they’re away working. When the kids are left at home, they get involved in drugs, crime, and prostitution. People exploit them for their own needs.”

Drug and alcohol abuse can have a wide range of negative effects that can be devastating to families. Substance abuse poses a significant threat to the health, social and economic fabric of families and communities worldwide. Through the generous contributions of United Methodists, Global Ministries supports Shade and Fresh Water as well as other substance-abuse prevention and recovery projects around the world.

You can make a difference

Preventing substance use and related problems in children and adolescents is critical to their behavioral and physical health. Research has shown that early intervention is key. If communities and families can intervene early by increasing protective factors and reducing risk factors, substance abuse might be prevented or symptoms mitigated.

To learn how your church can respond to the substance abuse epidemic, contact Ashley Jester, Global Ministries’ health education specialist, at

To support The United Methodist Church’s Abundant Health initiative, please donate to Advance #3021770.

Bella DiFilippo is communication specialist from Mission Engagement for Global Ministries.