“My dad does everything for me! … I love him so much. One day I asked him to buy me ice cream and even without much money, he managed to buy it for me,” exclaims Davi about his father, Damião.
Upon hearing his son’s words, a tear falls from Damião’s eyes. In their culture, men rarely cry in front of others. But in the last few months, crying has been a normal part of Damião’s life.
His Trying Upbringing
Damião’s childhood was tough; he and his 11 siblings lived in a rural community and all started working from an early age.
“My childhood was difficult. I never learned to read or write my name. When I was a child, we didn’t have time to dream, and nobody asked us about our future. Our concern was to work to survive,” Damião explained. Agriculture was the only skill he learned in life.
Later, Damião got married and had three children, Camila, 15, Davi, 10, and Luan, 6. He continued to farm to care for the family.
In their culture in Brazil, it’s typical for men to work hard outside while wives take care of the house. “Every day, I leave my home before the sun comes up and go to the fields. There I plant beans, rice and corn. Then I try to sell at the market, and if something is left, I take it home. It’s a hard job,” says Damião.
Broken Family Bonds
About a year ago, Damião says he was working in the field when he received a message from his wife saying that she would be leaving. Her reasons were many and complex; she wasn’t coping. He ran home, but her bags were already packed. She was ready to leave.
Damião’s wife asked the children where they would like to live. They preferred to stay with their father. So she said her goodbyes, took her things and left.
Damião was stunned. He says, “Now, when I get home and I see only my children, I feel like crying. I thought we’d built a family to last forever.”
“When my wife left me, I thought so many bad things. I thought about taking my life several times. What made me give up on this idea was the knowledge that my children need me and that I cannot abandon them.”
Since Damião needs to leave the house every day to work, many of the home responsibilities fell on his teenage daughter. One day, she also said goodbye to her father and moved in with her mother, hoping for a more comfortable life.
Damião’s heart was weighed down by sadness again. Luan, Damião’s youngest son, was traumatized by the changes in the family. When his father used to leave him at his Compassion center, he used to cry and beg his father to stay with him. “I am afraid that you will leave me and never come back to pick me up. I am afraid that you will abandon me, as my mother did,” Luan would cry.
Grief and Restoration
No one should have to grieve alone. With the support of the staff at the center, Damião and his sons learned to press forward, even through their heartache. “The volunteers are always around, visiting us, asking how we are, worrying about us,” says Damião. “It was great to receive their advice and help when I wanted to give up. Little by little, the idea of wanting to die was leaving my head.”
His oldest son, Davi, is responsible for housework and caring for his younger brother. “Every day, I wake up, wash the dishes, sweep the house and make beans for us to eat. When there are noodles, I also make noodles. Then I help my brother with school duties and try to study,” Davi says.
Despite his enthusiasm, Davi struggles with these duties. For this reason, the Compassion center staff, whenever they can, step in to help and teach Damião and his children how to take care of the house.
“Center staff sometimes come to help us clean our home. During the pandemic, when everything became more expensive and hard, they also helped us with food. I really appreciate this care for my family,” says Damião gratefully.
Although challenges remain, the love that Damião’s children have for him shows what a good father he is.
An Unwavering Dedication
“My biggest dream is to see my father happy. I know he is happy when I am obedient. That’s why I always try to help him. I love my father very much. When I was a baby, and I was born with a club foot, he even asked for money on the street to buy me an orthopedic boot,” says Davi.
“I love my dad a lot. I want to live with him forever,” says Luan.
Damião admits he isn’t the best cook and housekeeper, and he cannot afford everything his sons want or even need. But he loves them and promises to never leave. Even on his darkest days, he refuses to give up.
He reminds his children that “Being a family is being united. I’ll never abandon [you]. It doesn’t matter what happens. Being with [you] makes me happy.”
Ava Bruns, a Marketing Specialist intern at Compassion, contributed to this blog article.