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When Al Gerwing called one day and asked if the Journal would be interested in interviewing Dona Lourdes Monteiro, I jumped at the chance to meet her.

But on the way over, I wondered what kind of person she would turn out to be.

All sorts of crazy notions flipped through my imagination. Would she be an eerie Christlike personality, emitting a golden aura and sporting a halo over her head?

Or would she be a bent old woman, worn out and exhausted from caring for over 400 adopted children?

The first thing one notices about Lourdes is her strong will and no-nonsense attitude. Undoubtedly, she developed this during her years of teaching school and honed it to perfection in the 10 years she has spent looking after her street kids.

Combined with her stern motherly outward appearance is a twinkling eye and a friendly smile, which offers a glimmer of insight into her kind and brave soul.

With Al acting as translator Lourdes told me the fascinating details of her life.

Lourdes who is now 70 years old hoped to relax and maybe keep busy by helping the elderly.

But, sadly, genuine altruistic intentions are often misunderstood. People started gossiping. They snickered among themselves and said, "Oh, you want to take their little pensions off them."

She had noticed that the number of street children was growing before she retired, but was not presented with an opportunity to help them.

One evening, upon returning home after finishing the part-time teaching job she had taken just to keep busy, Lourdes found her water tap had been left running. "At first I wondered why my water bill was so high."

She suspected it might be naughty kids playing a trick on her and so she waited for them to come back the next evening. "I was going to give them a sock."

Lourdes watched as two boys splashed each other with water as they played and drank from the tap. "Why aren't you home with your family?" she inquired.

"Don't have a home," they replied, "Don't have anything to eat."

After she fed them a bowl of soup for a couple of evenings in a row, they brought a few friends along.

Lourdes told herself that she must do her part to help the homeless kids.

"It is not the time for the government to strike, because they aren't ready to," she thought, "but it's the hour for me to strike."

Being responsible for others was nothing new for Lourdes. Her mother had died when she was 20 and she brought up her family.

Since her brothers and sisters had all grown up and she was more or less retired, she saw the opportunity to do what she could to help the street kids.

"It didn't occur to me before," said Lourdes, "until I felt that shove form God."

She felt very good about helping the children, but was taken by surprise when two more children showed up the next evening with the first two boys. "Not four," she thought. "I've got my hands full with two."