Paula's Extraordinary Story

Prevailing Over Poverty and Hardships

Paula was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a very poor and violent household. After her father nearly beat her mother to death one night, Paula, her mom and two brothers finally fled—running from place to place for safety. By age 10, Paula was cooking, cleaning and caring for her siblings while her mother worked.

Fighting for Improvements

Paula had a voracious drive to learn, teaching herself to read at the age of 4. She went to public school up until she was 14, when she dropped out to work full-time. However, this did not mean Paula lost her ambition. She was a frequent visitor to the library, and fought for improvements in Brazilian schools.

After having her first child at the age of 20, Paula was determined to make a better life for her and her baby. “When I realized that I had become responsible for someone, I decided to go back to school. I was able to get my high school diploma. I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t believe I could pass the entrance exam and I would not be able to stop working because I had my young son to raise.”

Creating a Stable Home Environment

Her financial situation worsened, and she struggled to pay rent. She and her son moved to another city in Brazil, where she focused on getting an education and creating a stable home environment.

Paula wanted nothing more than to study at medical school, and her never-ending persistence got her there. But it wasn’t easy. She worked hard to pay her way to a prep school to study for the medical school entrance exam, which she ultimately passed.

Paula continues to strive to reach her goals.

My dream is to become a good doctor and help other women understand the great value of their bodies and health.

Her main challenge is working at several jobs while also going to school. She has to survive and make ends meet, but the jobs take time away from classes and studying. “The Live Your Dream Awards will help me finish my internship and only focus on medicine in my last year, without worrying about bills and other external obligations.” Paula, no doubt, will succeed in achieving her dream.

Watch Paula share her amazing story


Soroptimist relies on the generosity of individuals like you to improve the lives of women like Paula. Your support gives women the help they need to overcome obstacles—like poverty, domestic and sexual violence, and addiction—and follow their education dreams.

Please consider donating. Your gift of $100, $50, or even $10 today will go a long way and will transform the lives of women in need!

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