Video: Making a Difference

By Bob Faw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/5/2007 4:20:09 PM ET 2007-01-05T21:20:09

In a land that's beautiful and wealthy, millions of children are begging.

Thayan Reis was one of them.

"I don't have nothing," he says. "I look at, how you say, gum in the street, I take, put in my mouth."

But then Reis was rescued by Hope Unlimited, which has made a difference for more than 500 children since its founding 16 years ago by the son of an American missionary, Philip Smith.

"We want to tell these kids; we believe in you; we believe in you so that you can believe in yourself," says Smith.

Hope Unlimited doesn't just house and feed and smother them with affection. It also teaches them skills like food preparation. It's funded by donations, mostly American: Sewing machines from Singer, supplies from 3M.

"They build a discipline and they rebuild, literally transform, these young people," says Paul Husby, former head of 3M in Brazil.

Hope Unlimited's mission is a real mixture: Job skills and education; shelter and tough love. But what Hope Unlimited has learned is that that combination goes only so far.

Kids here also learn that the spiritual is foremost.

"The parenting stuff goes a long way with a lot of them," says Smith, "but in some cases, without God, they're just not going to change."

Recently, 31 former street kids completed the four year program.  

"I can't tell you how it's changed my life, more than I can imagine," says Fabiana Eustakuro.

What if the kids hadn't ended up here?

"I think I would probably be using drugs," admits a girl named Grace.

"He really thinks he would be dead," says Diego about a friend.

Lives that were wasting — now reclaimed.

Remember Thayan Reis? He just started a new job at a law firm.

"I have [a] life," he says. "I have power. [But] no money. Future, very good for me."

On the day we visited, the song the kids sang was called "Conquering the Impossible" — because they have.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments