By: Rayssa Cavalcanti
“Give your hands to serve, and your hearts to love.” – Mother Teresa
Cleia Lacerda, a Brazilian native who has been living in Toronto for the past five years, has overcome numerous obstacles and has now dedicated her life to serving others.
Her journey of struggles and selfless service is an inspiration to many in the Adventist church and Brazilian community.
When Cleia first arrived in Toronto with her husband Dhener Jonathan, she faced several challenges, including language barriers, cultural differences, and financial difficulties. However, with the help of other members of the Adventist church, Cleia was able to overcome these obstacles and establish herself in the city.
The Brazilian community is very large in Canada, Statistic Canada says around 49 thousand Brazilians are living here, around 23 thousand have chosen Ontario to live in, and close to 16 thousand are living only in Toronto. Many Brazilians come to Canada to find more job opportunities, better education, and more safety.
According to VisaPlace, the Brazilian Canadian community has established various organizations and annual events throughout the provinces that strengthen their community presence. But not everyone has a good start right when arriving, lots of people come here to have a better life and sometimes find themselves in a complicated situation, especially with housing because of the inflation. That's when people realize the importance of their community here.
From day one, Cleia became an active member of the Adventist church and started volunteering her time to help with various church activities. As time passed by, she became more involved in organizing charity events and other community programs.
"Cleia is a person that wherever you are she will welcome you with open arms and with a big smile on her face," says Sofia Barros, a member of the Adventist Church. "She has a great ability to empathize with others, is something to praise."
Cleia's selfless service didn't stop there.
She opened up her home to those in need, providing a place to stay for people whom she didn’t even know and who were struggling to find housing. Cleia's generosity and kindness have touched the lives of many people in the Adventist community.
Amanda Neves, Cleia’s sister, has been living with her for about a year now and participate actively in the church, “she is a very decent person, she tries to be more like Christ.”
Recently, Cleia had an encounter with a Ukrainian woman who didn't speak English and was in need of help. Despite the language barrier, Cleia did everything she could to find someone who could assist the woman. She contacted various Ukrainian organizations and reached out to people in her network to see if anyone could offer assistance.
Through her tireless efforts, Cleia was eventually able to find a Russian-speaking volunteer who could help the woman. This act of kindness and determination is just one example of the many ways Cleia has touched the lives of those around her.
“Cleia is a very helpful and considerate person,” says Maria Souza, a member of the Adventist Church. “Since before I arrived here in Canada, I felt welcomed by her. On video calls, she spoke words of support and she was always willing to help, always with words of encouragement and making herself available in whatever I needed help, and I didn't even know her in person at that time.”
"Cleia played an important role in my achievements here in Canada," says Laice Teles, sister of Cleia's friend. " She even put me in the job market."
Despite all the challenges she has faced, Cleia is still committed to helping others and giving back to her community. Her dedication and generosity have made a significant impact on the lives of those around her and have inspired many to follow in her footsteps.
“I just know one day, when I’m able, I want to help someone the way she helped me,” says Raphael Burkhardt, one of the people she invited to live in her house for one week before he was able to rent a place. “I will never forget that.”
As the Adventist community continues to grow in Toronto and beyond, it's individuals like Cleia who serve as role models and exemplars of the church's core values of service, kindness, and compassion.
To learn more about Cleia Lacerda’s story, you can listen to the podcast down below: