Good evening everyone and thank you for being with us tonight. It is once again my pleasure to be at this beautiful Embassy to celebrate and enhance the work of ALG - A Little Gesture A Great Help in the South of Mozambique. 5 years ago we had our first gala. Then, we had launched our UK arm supported by a small group of colleagues and friends; today I am proud to report I do not know half the people in the room. 5 years ago, I stood here talking about the work to help 1000 children; today we have surpassed 2500 children who are helped by one of our programmes every day. 5 years ago, I still knew many children's names by heart; today I welcome the stories of new children and new families, as they thrive with our support.
We have had a busy 5 years in the UK, and a busy 13 years in Mozambique. Our sponsoring program, the basis for our projects, driven out of Portugal, reaches over 800 children, providing them with access to school and food for their families. We have significantly invested in education financing 2 pre-schools, school feeding for 900 children daily, after school support for over 350 children and, for those taking the next step, professional or university scholarships. We have seen our first dentist, our first accountant and our first judge graduate. We continue to provide infra-structure support building huts and sanitation facilities for the families. We support the children infected with HIV financing a day center where they can be monitored, fed and taken care of in the close way that they need. In times of need, as last year's strong drought and inflation or 2013 devastating floods, we are quick to respond to the needs of our partners and the communities in which we work.
It seems like a lot you may think and a short paragraph certainly does not give merit to the work that is being done on the ground every day. At ALG, we believe in providing each child or family with a deep and personalized support, by promoting access to food, education and skills development in a healthy and dignified environment. But we are only at the beginning. In recent years, we have increased our efforts in supplying the children with technical courses that allow them to have an occupation in the future - IT, sewing, cooking, amongst others. We have also developed our efforts with the families, especially the mothers, to help them create a sustainable base of income for their families.
Our vision is to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty. For this, we focus on each child, each family and seek to help lift them out of poverty. It starts with food and education, but it is key to be there for their next step so they can make a living for themselves. It is often hard to work with the older children and help them think through what they want to do next, what they can do next, before they drop out of school for an easy solution leaving their country or just to have babies, in the case of the girls. I see it as our greatest challenge ahead, to ensure that the seeds that we plant by giving them food safety and access to school, are able to flourish as the kids become teenagers and don't know what hopes they can have and what dreams they can dream. We need to develop their skills and develop their minds to believe they can do better than begging on the street.
Tonight, you will see first-hand, 3 stories that captured the hearts of our volunteer documentarists Niko and Mattia as they sought to capture the work and impact of what we do on the ground last September. They show you the extremes, the difficult place from which our children come from, but they also show you the aspirations they can have, just like any other kid in the world. It finishes with the will to succeed of Lenço and Ernesto as they work hard to sell water on the street to earn the 2£ needed to achieve their dream - to record their first every music clip. I trust the images will say more than I ever could.
Working on the ground can sometimes be frustrating - kids dropping out of school, girls getting pregnant too early, floods hitting recently build houses. We know our donours share these frustrations with us, but we ask for your trust, your generosity, and your patience. Together we will celebrate the ones we help break out of poverty and continue to add more success stories.
Before I give the ground to the highlight of tonight, I must stop and say thank you, perhaps with a small pat on the back for all of us. Tonight would not have been possible without the Little Gesture of many people helping.
Sometimes the thank you moment ruins the message you want to convey, but in the case of ALG, the thank you expresses exactly how we operate. We are a small charity, mostly volunteer based, mostly ran by finance people.
We are obsessed about impact on the ground and we are obsessed about numbers. We want to give more of what we get from YOU to the children. We target to apply 90p per pound received on the ground, and this is probably the reason why the 24 hours of the day do not suffice for any of us. We could have put together a standard event, rent a venue, hire staff, catering and an event manager and spend thousands of pounds to do so. Instead, we have chosen to apply these funds on the children. And for each £1000 we save, we get to build another family hut. Or to pay a full year for a university scholarship. Or to put 30 children to pre-school for na entire year. We will chose losing sleep every time we can to get this outcome!
- · We are here tonight, first and foremost, due to the generosity of Ambassador Manuel Lobo Antunes, who has opened his home to us.
- ·We are eating and drinking tonight, thanks to Chef Nuno Mendes, and Quinta do Pinto and Herdade do Rocim Wines.
- The documentary you will see is the result of Niko and Mattia's volunteer efforts and we appreciate them being aligned with us in keeping the costs low every step of the way.
- When you are bidding for an item or buying a raffle tonight, know that each pound is going to the children as almost 90 sponsors donated items to make this possible.
- We thank the volunteers who are (hopefully) chasing you to show you the beautiful gifts we have on offer. Each time you chose to spend £100, you are helping us feed 50 children every day for a full month.
- We thank the GALA hosts who lent their name to this event and helped us reach to a broader audience. And we thank the amazing host committee for this gala, a strong committee of strong women - Catarina, Filipa, Izabela, Madalena, Maria, Noelia and Sara. They were precious at making sure this night was a success.
I also thank my fellow trustees. I am grateful about the way in which they have embraced the cause of the Mozambican children. I am grateful for how they became fierce defenders of our children. I am grateful that we stand together for making a difference, one child at a time. And finally I thank my family, for all the time that gets taken away from them, while still giving me unconditional love and support.
It's time to watch our much expected documentary, do enjoy the rest of the evening. You should know that just by being here, you have assured a full 6 months of meals to 900 children in the Santa Luisa school. Let's see if we can increase this further