The following article, written by Rosa Ruela, was originally published in Visão and was translated from Portuguese using Google Translate. To read the original article, please follow this link:

Inspiring Stories of the Power of the Internet to Start the Year Well

January 1, 2019

Social networks are also instruments of goodness - through them the last wishes of the elderly are realized, bone marrow donors are mobilized, volunteers are found to rebuild houses ... What you will find here are some of these inspiring cases.


Sofia Nunes and Ângelo Valente were unaware of Dana Klisanin's research when they created a Facebook page to tell what was going on at the Gafanha do Carmo Community Center. It was in 2012, and many of the family members who lived there had emigrated; the social network would serve to shorten virtually the distances, letting them glimpse the day to day in that institution of the county of Ílhavo.

The posts of the gerontologist and the animator soon captivated the attention of a wider community, to the point that many of the videos became viral on YouTube, but it was three years later, when they shared the project Before the Dying Quero, that they realized the scope and importance of "digital altruism". The concept was adapted to social networks by Dana Klisanin, a professor of psychology at Ubiquity University in Mill Valley, California, and photographs of Ms. Vitoria and mr. Alfredo aboard two small planes summarize it well.

Inspired by the international art project Before I Die, Sofia and Angelo asked the inhabitants of the center what they would like to do before they died, and photographed them with their dreams written on slate frames. There was a little bit of everything from airplane travel, to Brazil, to feeling the sand of the beach on the feet and to give a big kiss in the mouth, to paint the hair of blue, to eat casings of vine of garlic or to return to the bush. "Our goal was to create proximity and, above all, to demystify the word 'death'," says the gerontologist, "but as soon as we published the 24 dreams on Facebook, the phone never stopped ringing." The seemingly more difficult dreams, were soon realized. And even a call came from the Government of Mozambique, to spread the astonishment in the Gafanha do Carmo with the phrase: "The Lord who comes, we deal with everything."

Little or nothing surprised by this mass response would be Dana Klisanin, for several years studying how online interactions can promote compassion and altruism. The psychologist, who is currently writing a book on "good network", argues that information technologies are benefiting the world and being used to improve human life. And on digital altruism he even suggests three degrees: "day-to-day altruism," in which people click to make a donation in a solidarity action; "Creative digital altruism", which implies the design of a website to help others; and one in which groups come together to produce something for a "greater good" (after a natural disaster, for example).

Social networks such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are, in Klisanin's opinion, the platforms on which people are more easily aware that they can make a difference, thereby causing altruism to become viral. The psychologist is not the only one to reach this conclusion - Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, authors of the book Connected, also concluded that altruism is contagious. "Studies with people who have given money for various causes have revealed that about 80 percent did so because they were asked by someone they knew well," wrote David Gaz's Kindness is Contagious. To prove this theory, the two researchers, professors at Harvard and the University of California, have created artificial social networks involving real people. After several years of research, today they are sure that "if Jay is generous to Harla, Harla will be generous to Jay, in a kind of reciprocal altruism - and so on."

Altruism in networks is viral, yes, but often of short duration, "notes Sander van der Linden, a researcher at the University of Cambridge's Social Decisions Laboratory in the United Kingdom. Analyzing the impact of the phenomenon of the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign (which in 2014 made famous pouring a bucket of ice water on the head in order to raise funds to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), this social psychologist explains this short duration with the " consensus psychology ", which leads to superficial involvement, driven by extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivations.


The involvement with the Community Center of Gafanha do Carmo will not be superficial, cheer up there. "The fact that we have gone to social networks has made people want to help us - and they continue to do so," says Sofia Nunes, adding a few examples: "A company that sells LEDs has offered us all the lighting. talk of 7,500 euros which turned into a saving of 30% of the bill of light at the end of the month), the television in the room was given to us by a bank and the software by a company of the branch, and all the speakers in our Annual conference Futurity always partake of grace. "

Last Christmas, when shopkeepers came into the store to shop, they got an immediate 10% discount, and as soon as they thanked Facebook, they got a phone call from soccer player Gil Dias to promise, "I'll pay you all gifts. "Even the project Before Dying I want to continue to mobilize the community, Ângelo Valente says. "Not long ago, it was Mr. Antonio write his dream (return to Alvalade) and after half an hour there were people calling. Today, we already have so many contacts that we would get on our own, but we did as we did three years ago: we took a photograph with the verbalization of the dream and let society respond in a genuine way. "

The society's response also comes as a surprise to Fernando Pinho, who set up the Amelia Project to help transport sick children who live far from hospitals. "It was through the social networks that he grew up", emphasizes this Portuguese of São João da Madeira who one day woke up determined to leave a legacy. He had never forgotten the suffering of his younger brother Vasco, who at age 11 had been forced to fight cancer; the fact that he had a driver's license would take him to ancient Burma, now Myanmar, where hundreds of children with cancer die because they do not have access to treatments.

Fernando Pinho first entered the only Burmese pediatric hospital in Yangon three years ago. Less than a year later I was already helping children get there, and every month since then, their NGO, supported by World Child Cancer (WCC), financially supports more than sixty.

Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, the Amelia Project has now been called Please Take Me There (please take me there), also going to children locally and in Africa. The link with Facebook is almost umbilical: this social network gave you a global page, usually only allowed to brands; and last year doubled all donations received by the NGO on November 27, the Giving Tuesday initiative (Tuesday after Thanksgiving).

Fernando Pinho is only afraid that the banalization of requests for help in social networks leads to an opposite effect. "Suddenly we have appeals to fund alternative treatments of 100,000 euros when I need to sacrifice so much to get 16.5 euros to help a child with cancer travel to the hospital and receive treatment for a year in Burma. If I had 100,000 euros ... That's the equivalent of ten years of our work in Myanmar: there would be about 1 900 children that I could literally save just because I would take them to a hospital. "


That was not the case of the Facebook page Save the Life of Mary. The appeal made by friends of Rita Mota and Miguel Rosa, with the goal of finding a compatible bone marrow donor for the daughter of this couple from Santarém, did not involve any financial help. Maria, who was only one year old, had been diagnosed on December 28, 2016 with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, an unusual disease in children, with a rapid evolution and only curable with a transplant. Rita and Miguel had started by spreading the request through sms and Whatsapp, but when their friends suggested sharing it on Facebook it was an instant until the page gained 44,000 followers, multiplying the campaigns of blood donation and donation .

Maria was transplanted as early as May 2017 at the IPO in Lisbon. It is not allowed by law to know the donor, but it is known that his campaign was the third to raise more donors in the country. The page however remains active. "It is important to continue to disclose the need for bone marrow donors and to try to get the people who follow us to be 'ambassadors,' organizing their own clearing and harvesting sessions," Rita says.

A year and a half later, Maria dropped the antibacterials and the antivirus, and if everything continues to go well, soon enough she will be able to space the trips to the IPO and return to the nursery. In March of this year, Rita and Miguel created with a group of friends the association DNA Solidario, whose focus is education for generosity, namely through actions in schools. "The social network is the closest possible to a community of yesteryear," says Rita. "It's virtual, but it allows you to do real actions with good impacts."

The effect of the digital era on heroism is also real, as one realizes the history of these parents. Rita and Miguel could hardly accept being called "cyber-heroes," but that was the name the psychologist Dana Klisanin would give them, and rightly so: do not they actively use the Internet to help other people?

The same could be said of the translator Carla Lopes and the sociologist Camila Rodrigues who, without knowing each other, created the Facebook Women to the Work (MAO) group in March last year, based on a discussion in another group about the difficulty in reconciling family and professional lives. Involving currently more than 80,000 women, the MAO has become a platform that gives name to a podcast, a digital magazine and a training academy. "Facebook has allowed the birth and zero-growth of a mutual aid movement," say their founders.

Joel Silva already knew the aggregating potential of social networks when he created the ReConstruir Pinhal Interior Norte group - he works in marketing; use them frequently to make disclosure. "I have a lot of friends on Facebook and I realized that it would be easy to move these people around. I grew up in Vila Cã, a village in the municipality of Pombal, where people helped each other - that's how they reacted, "he says. "Now we can do this on a large scale, resorting to the internet."

Today, this project manager uses more of his own personal page to account for what is happening on the ground, but it was that Facebook group that made it possible to move forward with the reconstruction of two houses destroyed by last year's fires. The village of Figueira is being made without any money involved, that of Castanheira de Pera advances through a kind of crowdfunding: one group pays for electricity, another the kitchen and so on. To manage donations and deal with the bureaucratic side, the group has great help from the Rotary Club of Pombal. And while the houses are on the final stretch, the workforce continues to be welcome, says Joel Silva.

Those who do not have the chance to go on the ground can give way to their altruism digitally, it has already been written. In fact, more and more people are creating fund-raisers on Facebook as they age. If you take some advice, dear reader, the next time you stumble upon such an initiative, do not wring your nose.


I often say that my best business card is being the daughter of journalist and writer Fernando Assis Pacheco. I still worked with him on VISION magazine, lucky, learning that readers deserve articles with humor. "Good, good!" Or "You made an omelette without eggs, not bad!" Were the best compliments I ever heard. Omelets is not my forte and it's my mother's fault, Rosarinho Ruella Ramos, who only gave me cake recipes. Very good