A former rubbish picker has begun a career as a model after handing back more than Â£50,000 which had been accidentally thrown away in a hospital’s rubbish.
Ana dos Santos Cruz, 23, would work for ten hours a day sifting through dumps in Barretos, near Sao Paulo in southeast Brazil.
The single mother, who struggled to raise her three-year-old son, had been doing the work for four months when she came across an envelope inside a plastic bag.
Inside she found Â£52,000 in blank cheques, which she discovered were donations to the town’s Barretos Cancer Hospital.
The next day Ms dos Santos Cruz went to the hospital to personally deliver the cheques to its director.
She told a local TV news programme: ‘I never thought of keeping any of those cheques. The hospital patients need them much more than I do.’
Her selfless act prompted a shopping mall to invite Ms dos Santos Cruz to star in a publicity campaign on TV and billboards in the town, which launched this week.
She appeared with a male model for the adverts for North Shopping ahead of Brazil’s Valentines Day on June 12.
Ms dos Santos Cruz, who has also started evening school to complete her studies, told Brazils G1 website she has already been offered other modelling jobs after being taken on by a local agency.
She said: ‘It is a dream come true. My son says I look beautiful and loves seeing my picture on the street.
This is definitely what I want to do with my life.
‘I used to be invisible. But I’ve already had people asking me for my autograph and everybody wants to talk to me on Facebook.’
Ms dos Santos Cruz said she had been forced to take up the demeaning work of sifting through rubbish dumps in September last year, when the father of her son Mauricio was jailed for drug trafficking.
She would start at 8am and finish at 6pm, sometimes taking home less than Â£2 a day.
She said: ‘I would earn next to nothing and it was very hard work. To tell the truth, it was man’s work. Women only do it when they really need to. I was the only woman among the rubbish pickers.
‘Even so, I wasn’t able to pay rent and we had to move in with my parents.’
She added: ‘I believe that things are going to get better now. My dream is to own my own home, where I can have a room for me and another for my son.
‘I hope to show people that, however difficult life is, being honest is always the best thing to do.’ – dailymail.co.uk