Updated: May 24
Sueleide is the second on the left wearing glasses. Jenyffer, her niece is on the far right wearing glasses.
On November 23, 2021, Sueleide, 46 years old, Nayara and Sayonara’s mother and aunt to Jenyffer, passed away due to impaired lung capacity left by COVID and an old tuberculosis that took over her system again.
A team sent by Happy Child in October, 2021, that is, just a month before, had interviewed Sueleide about her plans for her daughters and niece. According to Sueleide, her best decision as a single mother had been to take them, first to the social project conducted by Instituto Solidare and later to the church that supports this project, Igreja Batista do Coqueiral, Recife, PE. She did not separate the two things, social project and church. In her view, that space was a living community, where there was hope, love, and a lot of energy. This combination of good things would propel her daughters and niece to a promising future. A month after that statement, she was gone.
We spoke with the niece, Jenyffer,, aged 19 at the time, 21 now, and asked her to tell us a little more about her aunt Sueleide. She sent us eight long audios that were transcribed to nearly 3,000 words! Here are some excerpts from Jenyffer,'s testimony.
She took pleasure in taking care of me:
Talking about my aunt Sueleide is a pleasure. Nowadays, she is my greatest inspiration. She was the one who taught me how to be the girl, the woman, this Jenyffer, that I am today. Victoria. That's what she called me. She took pleasure in taking care of me like she was my mother and didn't let anyone mess with me.
She defended me:
I was born with a congenital malformation, and I learned to accept myself because of my aunt. She influenced me a lot and showed that my disability was just a disability and that I was capable of overcoming anything. I don't have the first, second and third phalanx. And because of that, there have always been people interested in knowing the “why”. Once, they asked if my mother had tried to kill me. That was the last straw for me and for her too. She would always snap back and show the person how hurtful they were being.
During my childhood, several other things happened and that's why I was ashamed of my hand, and so, I hid it in the photos. But she always encouraged me to accept myself as I am. It wasn't because of a phalanx that I was going to stop being who I am or lack resilience and courage.
She taught me how to overcome my disability:
I needed to learn to do things my own way, in order to adapt. I couldn't wash a glass. I learned by practicing. I have a thumb and the thumb assists me in gripping. My aunt would cheer me on: “Oh, do this.” or “Hold it like this”, and I really needed to hold it to be able to learn. So, she taught me.
My mother was also there to help me. She was very afraid that I would burn myself because of my hand, as I have less sensitivity to heat. It takes two seconds to identify that I have hot water in my hand. So, she wouldn't let me do things in the home, but because I was stubborn, I would. I washed dishes when I was a little girl, fried eggs, swept the house, put things in order, did the laundry.
The only thing I don't know how to do nowadays is write with my right hand. I can't help the other hand either. If I'm using the left, the right must be free because if I force it, it hurts. So, my aunt was always careful not to let me pick up heavy things or touch the fire by myself.
I know how to use the computer; I know how to type. All this I learned little by little. With her words “Go Victoria, do this, you can do it”. Because she knew that I could learn and I could also teach others around me. So, with all that, I learned to adapt. So much so that I didn't even have to use my disability status to get my first job.
She taught me to fight for my rights:
One time, we were at the mall and I went to pay a bill. I went to the priority queue and a woman started questioning me. We didn't respond to the woman because my aunt always told me that I had to assert my right and that I didn't need to justify myself to strangers. After much insistence from the woman, my aunt said that we didn't have to show anything to her, just to the person who was at the register. She taught me that I didn't need to expose my disability to random people. When we got to the checkout, I showed my handicap card. It was my right, and that was it. And for me, that was a huge taboo breaker.
She struggled a lot to provide for us:
There was a time when she worked two jobs. One in the morning and the other at night to support our home. She finished her studies and went to the marketplace to fight for our subsistence. She always went after everything for us. Always. And she never let us want for anything.
She looked for many opportunities for us:
She took me to my first day of elementary school. I got my first job through her. My aunt was a woman with a beautiful heart, who cared, who went after, who fought, who spared no efforts to be able to help people. She always showed that she was there for us at all times.
When Nayara, Sayonara, and I were little, we were part of a social project, and she participated in all the meetings and worked as a volunteer. She always did her best to stay at the church (where activities happened). And it turned out that the four of us became volunteers and members of this church. Sayonara still volunteers there. As I'm working in the morning and studying at night, I can't go there to help. And it was something she enjoyed doing. So, I want to go back and do it again. My aunt was and continues to be a huge influence in my life.
She taught me to be cheerful:
She was a brave person; She loved to celebrate things, so on all the commemorative dates we have, we get together and celebrate them as a memorial to her, because if she were alive she would want this to happen. She always encouraged us to do everything, to chase our dreams. When we made mistakes, she was there, showed us when we were doing well at something and congratulated us. She would say: “Look, here you can improve, but here you did very well.” She always gave us encouraging feedback. People were always very happy around her.
And her vision, which bears fruit today, was our future. Today, we have patience and perseverance, just as she had with us. She taught us to always study, seek the best for us. Today we do just that! We finished school like she always wanted us to. We work. Me, her daughters Sayonara and Nayara, and my brothers Lucas and Mateus, each earn our own money, and that was what she wanted for us. She wanted us to give our best in what we were doing and that we would always seek to improve. That’s what we try to do!
Written by Jenyffer, edited and translated by Elsie Gilbert.