At first glance, the people who gathered recently inside a Sao Luis stake center in northern Brazil seemed a disparate group.

Some wore shirts and ties while others donned the colorful skirts and the traditional beadwork of local indigenous tribes. Most spoke Portuguese as their first language, but some conversed in their native Guajajára. Many held advanced degrees. A few could not read or write.

But all shared a common, even sacred, purpose: keeping babies alive in the sometimes perilous first moments after birth.

Brazil’s Maranhao region, which is home to thousands of indigenous people, has a high infant mortality rate. There are 16.3 deaths per thousand births, according to the Ministry of Health.

In response, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Society of Pediatrics of Maranhao once again partnered last October to host the Pediatric Neonatal Day—an annual course that trains local health professionals in advanced techniques of neonatal resuscitation.

Babies not being able to breathe at birth cause most infant deaths, said Elder Ryan Wilcox, a physician and Church medical missionary. “Nine out of 10 babies are fine at birth—it’s the 10 percent that need help, and most of the time it is often just a matter of simply opening their lungs up quickly.”

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