Birthday parties, going to the beach, owning books, or eating strawberries and pizza are things that most of us have enjoyed. But for many children living in the grips of poverty, these fun yet common experiences become distant dreams.

One of Compassion’s local church partners in Brazil was determined to make these dreams a reality. They asked children in the Child Sponsorship Program what their longed-for wishes were. And they set about making them come true!

These are the children’s beautiful reactions.

1. Leticia’s first birthday cake

Leticia could hardly hold back her tears when Compassion centre staff brought out the chocolate cake.

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“I’ve only eaten chocolate cake once in my life. It's been a long time, yet I still remember. Since then, I’ve had this wish. I wanted to eat that tasty thing again. My family has no money to buy this kind of food for me,” says the 14-year-old.

Her family lives on A$170 a month, which gives them enough for the basics. They’ve never been able to afford the ingredients to make a cake to celebrate her birthday before.

Her hands shaking, Leticia accepted the cake.

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“It's delicious! Better than the first time. I am very, very excited. I'm grateful!"

2. Marcelo’s sushi

In Brazil, sushi is an expensive dish. 15-year-old Marcelo has seen it eaten before on television, but he’s always wondered what it would taste like.

He was intrigued when the Compassion staff brought out the plate of sushi. Would he like it? Marcos took the first bite and made a face—and it wasn’t one of delight!

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“I didn't like it very much. But it was good to know what the taste is like! So even though I didn't like it, I'm pleased,” says Marcelo.

3. Ana Vitória’s very own book

Ana Vitória has a love of reading.

But the 14-year-old has never had the pleasure of owning her own book; she has only ever read free stories on the internet. Her grandmother is her full-time carer and can’t afford a book for her grandchild.

“My dream has always been to have real books, a bookcase full of them! I have never read a physical book,” says Ana Vitória.

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Now, not only does she own one book—she is the proud owner of two!

“I'm so grateful; this is my first book! I will read my books a lot. I will read very quickly.”

4. Jessica and Carlivan’s pizza party

Jessica and Carlivan share the same desire: to enjoy a pizza! It might be a common dish for those in the west, but it’s not a meal their families can afford.

“I wanted to try pepperoni and cheese pizza!” says Jessica. “People should be more grateful for what they have because a lot of people don't have them.”

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The two were ecstatic when they opened the box.

“It's been a long time since I wanted to eat a pizza. It was a surprise to me. I was thrilled because I had never eaten pizza in my life. I was so glad!” says Carlivan.

5. Carla’s surprise birthday party

Birthdays should be a joyful time to celebrate, but for Carla they are always a reminder of her family’s financial situation. She wished she could celebrate like other children.

“Usually on my birthday, my family wakes up and congratulates me. But only this. When I see other kids singing and having birthday parties, I was a little sad because nobody ever sang happy birthday, just for me, with a cake and candles.”

Maria, her mother, was heartbroken she couldn’t do something special for her daughter’s fifteenth birthday—a special milestone called ‘Festa de Debutante’ in Brazil. She went to the Compassion centre for help.

“It hurt my heart that I couldn't offer her anything,” says Maria.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, project volunteers called Carla to the centre. Suddenly, they put a blindfold on and led her into the courtyard.

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When they removed the blindfold, a surprise awaited!

“When I saw my cake, I was astonished! My cake was so beautiful! It was white and pink. My friends were there with me too. My first birthday cake completely mine. It was tasty. I am so happy," says Carla.

6. Kellyn, Antonia and Djalma’s burgers

“I know that hamburgers are not very expensive, but we have no money to buy them. That's why I’ve always wanted to eat a hamburger,” says Antonia.

Teenagers Kellyn, Antonia and Djalma has always wished they could try a hamburger. The recipe might be simple, but the cost of preparing the dish has never been achievable for their families.

When the Compassion centre organised the special treat, the teens couldn’t wait for the first bite.

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“It's as good as I thought!” says Kellyn.

7. Kissia and Ryany’s seaside adventure

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Kissia and Ryany have dreamt of this day for their entire lives. The girls live two hours from the sea, but their families could never afford a beach trip. They never thought they would have the chance to enjoy the seaside until Compassion staff announced the day trip to the ocean.

web CC BR MyBigLittleDream 24 1907 ⠀ “I hardly slept, thinking about what it would be like to see the sea for the first time! It's much bigger and beautiful than I imagined!” says Kissia.

8. Grazielle tastes strawberries

In Grazielle’s hometown, a tray of 12 small strawberries costs about A$3.70. This is the same amount it costs her family to purchase two kilograms of rice and one kilogram of beans.

Needless to say, tasting strawberries has always been out of reach for the 14-year-old.

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Grazielle could hardly believe her eyes when she was given a bowl of strawberries to enjoy from the project staff.

“Strawberries are a bit sour, but I liked them a lot,” she says

9. Francisco’s blue shoes

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Francisco’s only shoes are a pair of thongs.

His father works in landfill collecting plastic and metal material and is paid per bag filled. It’s a time-consuming effort for minimal pay. There is little money left to buy his son shoes.

"My dream is to have beautiful shoes. Blue shoes!" says Francisco.

Hearing this dream, Compassion staff made a firm decision—Francisco would have blue shoes!

When the eight-year-old was handed the box, he was in awe. He didn’t waste a second—the shoes were going on his feet straight away.

"I love my new shoes. They are blue!"

There's nothing better than knowing you're making a real difference in the life of a child living in poverty. Give a child the chance to experience new opportunities by sponsoring a child today.

Words by Ellyse McCallum with field interviews and photos by Sara Navarro.