The Real American Dream
Cecilia Stoll: The Blessings of a Brazilian Orphanage
By Uma Outka
This summer was life-changing for Cecilia Stoll. She's a networker at the top of her company and no stranger to helping people achieve their dreams, but this experience was all new.
"Someone in my church told me he was trying to get a group of people together to go to Brazil and build an orphanage," she explains. "We learned that there were 31 girls ranging in age from five to 17 living in a two-bedroom house in Aracaju, Sergipe, one of the poorest states in Brazil. Most were physically, sexually, and emotionally abused; none of them were wanted by their parents. Two women were caring for them and they needed a team of people to help build a dormitory and minister to the girls, because they were very scarred. As soon as I heard about it, I knew in my heart that I needed to go."
|"I encourage everyone in network marketing to be conscious of God's blessings in your business and to look - not wait for it to come your way, but look - for opportunities to give back what you've been given. When you find a cause bigger than yourself, this incredible power shows up."|
Cecilia herself was born and raised in Brazil; she first came to the States as an exchange student in high school and then returned at age 20 to attend college in Oklahoma. She did whatever she could to pay tuition, from cleaning houses to babysitting. She didn't see her family for five years - with typical plane fare to Brazil hovering around $1200 per ticket, the cost was simply prohibitive. When she got married after college, her parents couldn't afford to come to the wedding. Her job as an executive secretary was not going to change the situation. Then a friend introduced her to network marketing.The Birth of "Projeto Florescer"
"I always knew America was the land of opportunity," she says, "but when I started working in corporate America it seemed like a nightmare. Once I understood how network marketing works, I thought, this is the American dream everyone was talking about!
"Not seeing my family for five years put a big 'why' in me - if my family needed me, I wanted to be able to get on a plane the next day."
That was 1991, and since then, she's long since exceeded that original "why." When she heard about the group going to Brazil, she didn't have to think twice about booking a ticket - even though it was just three months after a visit to her mother with her two young children in tow. In all, 48 people went from a number of churches in her area and with a wide range of skills. They left on June 7 and stayed for ten days. Cecilia served as the interpreter for the group, and when they arrived at the airport, all 31 girls were waiting to meet them.
"The women caring for them held a sign that read 'Projeto Florescer' - 'projecto' meaning project, and 'florescer' meaning to grow and flourish. It signifies that purpose of the project is to help those girls grow, physically, emotionally, and spiritually - to be the women God called them to be."
The ten days flew by but the group accomplished a lot - while the men and some of the women worked on constructing the dormitory, others including Cecilia taught vacation Bible school to the girls, in a tent at the construction site, and took them horseback riding and swimming. What they couldn't finish on the building, locals in the town finished for them.
Returning to regular life, Cecilia was not the only one who felt depressed - her perspective on the world had been fundamentally altered.
"I was changed forever," she says. "All of a sudden, you realize that some of the little things we complain about are not problems, they're just inconveniences. I saw real problems, girls who have been raped by their own brothers, girls with no one in the world. When we left, they were bawling. As much rejection and pain as these girls have experienced, their ability to love and willingness to be loved was so beautiful. Their innocence was amazing to see."
Cecilia and others in the group have been sending care packages and made a commitment to go back next year for phase two: building a cafeteria.
"I would love to encourage everyone in network marketing to be conscious of God's blessings in your business and to look - not wait for it to come your way, but look - for opportunities to give back what you've been given. When you find a cause bigger than yourself, this incredible power shows up. I thought I was going to Brazil to bless other people, but I came back with the biggest blessing."
A Face I'll Never Forget
Consistently with her religious beliefs, Cecilia feels that she was meant to serve these Brazilian girls. Without knowing it, the financial success she's been working for had a higher purpose.
I feel like my business was blessed so that I could go to Brazil, to help these girls. They've never been loved, so I spent a lot of time just loving them, helping them see that they matter in this world and that their lives can make a difference. I was able to be an example to the girls because I was a Brazilian who grew up there.
There was one girl who had arrived at the orphanage with her clothes stuck to her body because of the open wounds from the abuse she had received. This girl had been there several months and never smiled. She was so embarrassed of her body that every day she wore long pants and long-sleeve shirts. On the last day we were there, we took the girls swimming - and she actually borrowed one of our swimsuits and went in the water. She was laughing! That is a face that I have had with me ever since.