Published On: July 8, 2015

Rewards for Honesty in Brazil

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Ana dos Santos Cruz, 23, was a single mother from Barretos, a small city in São Paulo state, struggling to raise her 3-year-old son. Since September of 2014, Ana had been raising her son Mauricio alone after the boy’s father was arrested for selling drugs. Unable to find work, Ana began picking through the garbage dumps in her city. Desperate for money to support herself and her son, she spent ten hours a day sifting through garbage for anything of value, such as recycling cans and bottles.

Even working ten hours, Ana sometimes made less than 10 reais each day. “I would earn next to nothing and it was very hard work. To tell the truth, it was man’s work. Women only do it when they really need to. I was the only woman among the garbage pickers. I wasn’t able to pay my rent, and I had to move in with my parents.”

Then her life changed – during one of her days working through the garbage, she found a large envelope inside a plastic bag. In the envelope was a group of signed, legitimate checks totaling 250 thousand reais. Ana soon realized the checks were valid, and from the contents of the plastic bag, she was able to discern the checks were intended donations for the Barretos Cancer Hospital. (In Brazil, it’s common for people to sign a check with the amount without adding the name of the recipient.)

The next day Ana went to the hospital to deliver the checks. The director of Barretos Hospital was so grateful to Ana for returning the blank checks, even though she is desperately poor, that they insisted on doing something for her. They offered her a reward but she declined it. “I never thought of keeping any of those checks. The hospital patients need them much more than I do,” she said.

The hospital decided on a different reward. They called a local TV news program, who came to the hospital and interviewed the hospital director thanking Ana for her selfless act. The owner of a shopping mall in Barretos then saw Ana’s story on TV and invited her to star in a publicity campaign for the mall on TV, as well as appearing as a model on billboards in Barretos.

Ana appearing in a TV advertisement with a male model

Ana appearing in a TV advertisement with a male model

The lovely and honest Ana later appeared with a male model for a TV advertisement for the mall for Valentine’s Day. She has also started evening school classes using her modeling earnings, and has already been offered other modeling jobs after being signed by a local modeling agency.

She said: “It’s a dream come true. My son says I look beautiful and loves seeing my picture on the street billboards. Modeling is definitely what I want to do with my life. I used to be invisible. But I’ve already had people asking me for my autograph, and everybody wants to talk to me on Facebook.”

She added: “I believe that things are going to get better now. My dream is to own my own home, where I can have a room for me and another for my son. I hope to show people that, however difficult life is, being honest is always the best thing to do.”

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