It Happened in Brazil: A Good Deed Is a Reward in Itself

    Father and daughter

    Father and daughter March 9, 1999 is a day which I will remember forever. That day I had a huge thrill, one of the biggest and most rewarding of my life. Explaining the facts: on November 24, 1998, I received an email from a young woman called Martha Elva Motta, 24, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, living in San Antonio, Texas.

    She asked me for help to find her father, who she had seen only once when she was 2. According to her information, her father was a sailor from the Bahia state, Brazil, who met her mother in Tijuana, Mexico in 1974, and his name was José Roberto Motta Farias.

    Martha was then the result of the love affair between a Brazilian sailor and a young Mexican girl.

    The message was showing a sad and almost desperate appeal. Believing in her story and moved by it, I decided to help in any possible way I could. She had written to various people in Brazil, via emails located through the Internet. Only two responded, and I was the only one who was willing to help her.

    I started to do searches in my spare time, always via the Internet. I asked for help from newspapers and radio stations in Bahia and from TV network Globo. I never received a single response.

    I searched on the Telebahia’s online phone book, but they had no José Roberto Motta Farias. I also asked a friend from Bahia to get information from the Navy office in Salvador, the capital city of Bahia, but they would not provide information to a non-relative. I also had sent an email to the Navy before contacting my friend. The message was never even acknowledged.

    Figuring he could have moved to another state in Brazil, I also searched in the lists of all telephone companies of the country, always unsuccessfully. The man I was searching for looked like a ghost, what made me fear that he was no longer alive.

    After all these failures, I embarked into a “wholesale” action, writing to all Motta and Motta Farias found in Telebahia’s list. I sent about 30 letters explaining Martha’s request and asking for information. That was on March 1, 1999.

    On the morning of March 9, around 10 am, my cell phone rang. It was a call from Salvador, from a woman who identified herself as Ana Neri Motta Farias. She told she was José Roberto’s sister, and informed me that he was well and living in Salvador. Imagine my excitement to receive this news! I got goosebumps!

    He was 46 years old at the time, was in good health and had a new family in Salvador, with five children. He did not know where Martha was or how to search for her.

    Immediately, I emailed Martha with the good news. I can’t imagine her excitement when she read it. She called her father the next day and they talked with all the emotion accumulated in 22 years of separation.

    On the evening of the next day, Martha called me to thank me. She could hardly speak, crying so much from happiness. When she told me she had a very sad childhood, rejected by her mother’s family and always dreaming to meet her father, I ended up crying together.

    On the night of March 13, just four days, after that first call from Ana Neri, in Salvador, I received a call from the also very thrilled José Roberto himself. He could not believe, he said, that a stranger would be willing to help so much.

    He told me about his hard life and how sorry he was for having lost contact with his daughter, for so many years. He told me he did not assume the relationship with Martha’s mother for fear of their families and also that he had long dreamed of meeting his daughter.

    He thanked me several times for the unexpected opportunity to get this reunion.

    Father and daughter had an exciting meeting on June 15, 2000 in San Antonio, Texas.

    To give such an immense joy to father and daughter, I spent only a few hours of my time and a few bucks in Internet hours, envelopes and stamps. For a priceless result!

    Below is the text of the email received from Martha on November 24, 1998:


    My name is Martha.

    I hope you can help me. I am looking for my father. I have never seen him but once when I was 2 years old. I am 24 now. Of course I don’t remember him. His name is José Roberto Motta Farias. He is from Brazil. I know he lived in Salvador in 1974, his family lived there too. My mother’s name is Maria Guadalupe Camacho, she lived in Tijuana (Mexico) in 1974 and that is where she met my father.

    Please help me. Maybe you know him or are related to him. Please e-mail me back and let me know if you know him or not. Yo hablo español tambien si usted conoce a mi papa, José Roberto Motta Farias. Por favor digame, lo estoy procurando. El estuvo en la naval do Brazil. La hermana de mi mama se llama Irma Camacho mi papa la conoce a ella tambien. Hasta despues y muchas gracias.

    Martha Elva Motta

    Hélio Shimada is a Brazilian geologist. You can contact him at


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