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Extending the Philanthropy’s Reach in Brazil

bridge in Sao paulo

One of the next new clinics of the Shriners Children’s healthcare system may be in São Paulo, Brazil.

This past December, Imperial Sir James E. “Ed” Stolze Jr. and a delegation went to São Paulo to tour and meet with five hospitals that would like to partner with the Shriners Children’s healthcare system and house the new clinic.

The country seems like an attractive locale for the healthcare system and its services. Masonry is thriving in the country. Shriners temples and clubs are growing. Most importantly, the Brazilian temples and clubs are eager to bring Shriners Children’s specialty medical care to their country, Imperial Sir Stolze said.

“They truly want to help kids,” he said. “That is their drive.”

São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, has a population of 22 million people, about 20% of whom are under the age of 14. Brazil has a national healthcare system, established in 1988, and, on top of it, a private healthcare system, for those who can afford it.

In the years since the founding of the national healthcare system, Brazil has dramatically reduced its infant mortality rate and made great strides in infectious disease control.

However, experts say the country has a distinct shortage of pediatric specialty and subspecialty physicians and care — precisely what Shriners Children’s provides.

Shriner leaders in Brazil

Shriners and Masons

Masonry has been present in Brazil since the country’s founding in 1822. The first emperor of independent Brazil, Dom Pedro I, was a Mason. There is even a town, south of Rio de Janeiro, founded by Masons roughly 250 years ago, where Masonic symbols adorn buildings all over in the historic parts of the city.

That strength of Masonry is good news for the Shriners fraternity. Amal Shriners in São Paulo has over 700 members, spread out over Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Hikmat Shriners, in the state of Matto Grosso, grew by a third in membership last year. Salah Shriners, in Florianópolis, is the newest temple in Brazil, and before they even received their charter last year they were already hard at work renovating and working to reopen a pediatric burn treatment center that had been closed for five years.

Filling a Need

Imperial Sir Stolze said that when he was talking with medical professionals in Brazil, they summed up the need for more healthcare of the type Shriners Children’s provides by telling him that in São Paulo, a child with scoliosis needing spine surgery has to wait 18 months to get it.

At Shriners Children’s locations in the United States, surgeons generally wait no longer than six months to a year. Eighteen months is too long, they maintain, because the curve can get much more pronounced, and stiffer, making the surgery potentially harder and less successful.

“They have a huge need for pediatric specialty services, closer to home,” Imperial Sir Stolze said. And there are a whole lot of Shriners in Brazil who are standing at the ready to help provide access to it.