Sisters Tatiana Monteiro de Barros and Marcella Coelho grew up in a family dedicated to social causes. So when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Brazil back in March of 2020, they created a WhatsApp group to raise funds to face the rising crisis.
“We couldn't be numb in the face of such foreseen tragedy,” says Marcella, who created the União Rio WhatsApp group.
In the first days, the group raised R$ 10 million for new ICU beds at Hospital do Fundão, in Rio de Janeiro. It would become the seed of a much larger movement that would grow and grow.
Today, this seed has become União BR, which has expanded its activity far beyond the States of Rio and São Paulo, to have more than 3,000 volunteers in 22 federal states. In one year of operation, the national movement raised R$133 million, impacting the lives of more than 10 million people. União BR has sent 12 thousand tons of food to vulnerable families, supplied 26 hospitals in Amazonas with oxygen, and raised more than $R 7 million for PPE.*
“União BR Movement only exists due to the existence of WhatsApp,” said Tatiana
WhatsApp is crucial in reducing response time, as well as enabling an immediate connection between donors, public authorities, NGOs and people in need.
Gabriela Marques, a businesswoman who works with Tatiana to run the national group, has never met many of her collaborators in person. “I could trust Tatiana with my entire life and I only know her by WhatsApp,” jokes Gabriela, who is in touch with Tatiana about União BR all day long.
União BR volunteers intend to strengthen the network and continue to respond promptly to the demands that arise all over the country.
“Despite being in social isolation,” says Marcela Balthar, a volunteer at the head of the movement, “we have never been so close together as a group.”
*Data corresponds to May 2021