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Brazil erupts over viral photo of little girl’s face mask swap for food

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THE photo of a little Brazilian girl, Ana Julia Costa Sabino holding face masks and a cardboard sign that says “I will exchange a face mask for food,” moved Brazilians to show their solidarity for the family of the young child.

  The photo of nine-year-old girl went viral after it was taken and posted online by a man driving through the Recreio dos Bandeirantes district in west Rio de Janeiro, where she was standing on a corner amid dozens of street vendors.

  Amid Brazil’s raging outbreak of COVID-19, which has kept people apart in a bid to lower transmission rates, Ana Julia gave Brazilians something to rally around.

  Famed personalities, such as actors and singers, championed her cause, including TV host Luciano Huck were reported to have requested for aid for the family on air while hundreds of people have been showing up to bring food or buy some of the knickknacks the little girl and her mother Silvana Cristina Costa sell to eke out a living.

  Costa told Brazil’s GloboNews network that she was a domestic worker, but the mother of four lost her job when lockdown measures were put in place due to the pandemic.

  “I sold candy at the beach and then I decided to try my luck on the street. I asked a neighbor to make some face masks for us, and those are the ones Ana Julia is holding in the photo,” said Costa.

  “It was my only option to keep going. I received the government aid of 600 Reais (110 U.S. dollars), but it isn’t enough for all of us,” Costa said.

  “I always worked to put food on the table and never took them (the children) to work, but they’re small and I don’t have anyone to leave them with,” she said.

  According to Costa’s mother, Ana Julia, “My mother is very hard working. She cleans homes, works at the beach, and seeing the situation, I asked if I could accompany her.”

  Ana Julia goes to a public school in the Santa Cruz district of west Rio de Janeiro, but classes have been suspended as part of the lockdown.

  Since her plight went public, one of the high points was a call from Huck to her mother, in which he pledged to help the family if they give up vending on the streets and stay home.

  Huck was reported to have told Costa that she imagined her own children, who are the same age as Ana Julia, in that situation.

  “As I always say, solidarity has to be more contagious than the virus.”

  Costahas maintained that it was an angel that passed and took the photo and she can only offer thanks”

  “People keep calling to say they want to help me, and I tell them I don’t want to take advantage of their goodwill.

I just need food for my children … I want to work with dignity,” said Costa.

  Politicians have also taken notice. A local lawmaker from the Socialism and Liberty Party saw the photo and put the family in contact with the human rights commission of Rio’s legislative assembly to follow up with additional support.

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