By Janet Tappin Coelho
A Brazilian schoolgirl has become an overnight sensation after cancelling her fifth birthday party so she could spend the day donating hundreds of presents to needy children abandoned by their families.
In an amazing gesture of kindness little Maria Luna Rodrigues took the big-hearted decision to share her day with vulnerable youngsters living in a Roman Catholic home in Santana, north Brazil, after discovering many had never had a birthday party before.
According to her mum, Thayse, 27, her daughter initially decided to give all her birthday presents to the kids in the shelter, but when family and friends heard about her plan they launched a city-wide campaign in Macapa,10 miles from Santana, to collect enough toys and clothes to ensure every child had a gift on Maria’s birthday.
Last Thursday (4) the centre was inundated with over 15 huge boxes and more than 40 bags bursting to the limits with presents donated by relatives and friends who were inspired by the child’s incredible gesture.
The Casa de Hospitalidade (House of Hospitality), run by nuns, serves as a shelter for 94 people with multiple disabilities, some with mental disorders, and cares for children rejected by their family.
Thayse, a physical education teacher said: “We received loads of toys, from cars to dolls to teddies to kites. There were clothes, shoes, bags, cleaning materials to help the home and dozens of cans and packets of food.
“There was so much stuff we had to transport everything to the centre in six cars and small vans. Over thirty people were involved in getting the day sorted.
“We organised party food and drinks, and there was a special birthday cake for Maria. We also hired a trampoline and a clown to entertain the children.
“It was an amazing day and humbling to see how much love was poured into making my daughter’s day of generosity work.
“It was a joy to see the reaction of the children who couldn’t believe the range of presents given to them.”
According to Thayse, Maria came up with the idea of sharing her birthday with the children in the shelter after walking past the home every day on her way to school when the family lived close by.
Thayse said: “She asked me who the home was for and I explained it was for children who are less fortunate than her.
“I thought she had forgotten all about the story after we moved out of the area to Macapa. But one night, a few weeks ago, as we were having dinner I asked Maria what she wanted to do for her birthday party.
“To my surprise, she asked me what happens when the children at the home, who have no mummy or daddy, have their birthdays.
“I was at a loss as what to say. I replied ‘well most people celebrate their birthday but not all children get the opportunity to have a party and to receive presents’.
“She stopped eating and looked really sad,” Thayse recalled.
Maria explained: “I felt very unhappy to know that some children didn’t have a birthday party, so I decided to give them gifts on my birthday.
“I told everyone that I didn’t want any presents this year and I asked my family and friends to give them to the children and to help me get lots of new toys so they could play with them in the home.”
Stunned by her daughter’s kindness, Thayse launched a social network campaign calling on help for Maria’s cause and was overwhelmed by the response.
“I cried to see how big her heart is and how she touched so many people,” revealed an emotional Thayse.
“Maria has always been a kind and special child and her remarkable nature just shines through,” added the proud mum.
Sister Márcia Avelina, director of the shelter said: “Maria is an exceptional child who has a huge heart full of charity and love.
“I ask God to pour out many blessings on her and on those who gave so much to help our children and adults. Maria is incredible for one so young. May she grow wise in eyes of God,” she said in prayer.