Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I was lost but then I found a place for me...

Today I went back 11 years in my life…to my first trip to Mozambique as a volunteer in Escolinha do André. In this Africa day, Sister Beta marked the occasion (the teachers left because it was Africa’s day) with a sports tournament. When we arrived they already ran all over the place but the joy was still in the air. I was surrounded by children; hugs; hands that wanted to touch me; fingers searching for mine; soft strokes in my arms and in my clothes... It was the warmest welcome, and the children joined the party. It was already worth it for me.
The surprise did not take long. Old students were warned that Mana Sara was coming and, for the first time, they showed up. Edia who sells in the market to provide for her 3 children – she sent the husband away… Irene has a small child and another one at the pre-school. Salvador who was a skilled basket maker and spent two years in the Chokwé construction works…
We reminisced on their lives, on their choices which drove them away from pre-school. We talked about education and about what they want from life these days. I saw a nostalgia I thought didn’t exist anymore. Years after their departure many knew now they made the wrong choice and asked for help. We discussed what could be different, how they could turn their lives around. How could the sisters and A Little Gesture help. The talk lasted a few hours. We talked about how they could give back to the pre-school, spending time with the little ones, learning a trade. They showed interest, then enthusiasm and, after a while, a strong will.
During a special moment I remembered the song I wrote for them 11 years ago. Hearing  the first word the oldest (the regretful but still rebellious) gathered in a circle sharing a moment of happiness; remembering perhaps the times when life was much easier and they joined me singing even louder “ I was lost and then I found a place for me – Andre’s Pre-school. I have a friend’s help, no longer wander the streets, now I’m going to study”
The song was heartfelt by all of them and I cannot forget the deep sadness in Salvador’s eyes who want to help us in basketry. I wonder if he is going to return to his place in Escolinha do André ?

by ALG Chairman and Founder Sara Vicente, during her visit to Mozambique , May 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Celebration day by Sara Vicente

Today cannot be described in any other way other than Celebration Day. From dawn to dusk the communities spoiled us and showered us with joy and gifts, always with a smile and a song.

We started the day in the Banhine community where we joined the celebration (99% in changana dialect) of the Pentecost Day. From this point forward we didn’t stop celebrating. With lots of dancing, oranges, peanuts and capolanas (traditional cloths) we left the community with the car loaded. We talked about the importance of children’s studying and having the support of their families to enable them to make their future Little Gestures. Father Amine talked about the importance of charity. Everybody should give a little of what they have, if they do not have money they could provide other things. For instance a community Mom could, at the end of her day, help the little children practicing their ABC. It was a lively joyful visit filled with good ideas for the children’s future.
We continued to Nhancutse, where the party continued under the orders of Mom Florda. The children were thrilled and we joined the dancing. There were some absent children for health reasons but most of them was healthy and happy. We assessed the monthly basic basket and moved on for another celebration, this time in Bungane.
Bungane’s community is smaller, just over 20 children. It is led by Mom Marta who appears to be not only the coordinator but also the family of each children under the programme. We realised with concern the high rates of children with malaria and Mom Marta agreed on the need to provide more training to the families on the use of mosquito nets they already have.
Before ending our day, and after another dancing session, we visited the Bungane well which is unstoppable in the true sense of the word. They start collecting water from 5 a.m. and the last container is filled around 5 p.m. 12 hours of relentless work, in a time where the draught seems to make the job harder. I couldn’t resist joining Mano Arnaldo helping him to fill a container. After 3 minutes we admired the strength of women and girls who secure the provision of water for all the population.

We successfully concluded our day, as always surprised by the local strength to fight adversity!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A short life story of the lovely Sister Sidónia!

Sister Sidónia Mário Alfândega was born on the 17th of September 1991 in the Ile district, Zambezi province. Her parents Mário Alfândega and Eugénia Ovesse had five children and father is a farmer and the mother is a teacher.
Sister Sidónia began her primary education in 2000 at Santa Isabel School where she studied up to the 7th grade. She was considered the best student of her class and of the school several times and she was awarded for her good grades. Sister Sidónia remembers she loved to study, and she learned to read and pray, with her mother, when was very young.
Sister Sidónia told us she started to feel the calling of God in 2007, after concluding her primary studies. She entered the convent in January 2008 where she concluded her secondary education.
The postulancy came in 2011 and in September of the following year she was admitted in the Daughters of Charity Sisterhood where she stay two years in discernment process.
Later she was sent to the Manjangue community, in the Gaza province where she works currently in the HIV Day Care Centre.
Sister Sidónia is in charge of the centre’s daily supervision, welcoming over 30 HIV/AIDS affected children. She loves IT and also enjoys embroidery and soon she will star teaching this skill within the scope of ALG technical courses.

Welcome to the ALG family Sister Sidónia! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Meet brother Cristóvão!

Let’s find out a bit more about the smiling brother Cristóvão, who provides a great help at the Santa Luisa de Marillac School, in Manjangue.
Cristóvão Carlos Ngovene is 22 years old and he is a scholarship holder of our sister charity UPG Portugal. With his scholarship, for which he’s so grateful, he’s able to go every day to Chókwè’s high school to conclude his education. He’s in the 11th grade and lives around 20Km away from school, in Manjangue, with his parents Carlos Ngovene and Arminda Nhina and his 4 brothers and 1 sister - Elias, César,  António, Azaias and Mónica.
Cristóvão is working with Santa Luisa de Marillac School (SLM) from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. providing a crucial support in several areas within the scope of ALG’s technical courses area. He visits the children who are ill or who miss school and he accompanies ill children to the health clinic. Cristóvão acts as connecting link between the children since he knows all the sponsored children very well and speaks the local dialect - Changana.
But his main function at SLM is After-school Support were he’s been brilliant! He’s proactive, attentive to detail, hardworking and extremely creative in the art of teaching Portuguese. Cristóvão told us he loves working with children teaching them how to read and write.
In his spare free time he likes to help his mother in the farming plot and once he finishes his high school education he would like to become an English teacher.
 Khanimambo brother Cristóvão for your daily effort and dedication to these children who look up to you and respect you so much. You are a role model!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Busy Bees at Our HIV Day Centre!

Milk and freshly baked bread for breakfast
It's 7am, sunny and bright, and 32 children are already lined up in their uniforms, ready to greet Sister Sidónia and Mana Atija and take their medication.
This is how every day starts at our HIV Day Centre in Manjangue, in the province of Gaza.
The Centre runs alongside Santa Luísa de Marillac School, ensuring HIV-infected children have access to  medical treatment, education, and a balanced diet so they, too, live healthier lives and have a chance to prosper and succeed.
This region, Gaza, is heavily affected by HIV/AIDS, with many children being orphans or depending on infected relatives.
From 7am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, a small but hardworking team of five makes sure these children, aged 3 to 15, follow their daily routines, attend school and don't miss doctor appointments, learn technical skills such as cooking or farming, enjoy themselves in a safe environment,  work as a team, and – above all – feel loved.
They also regularly visit the families to talk to the parents, assess their needs, and provide advice on how to best care for their children.
Busy bees at our HIV Day Centre
Visiting the Centre is always a special moment for us. 'Mana Patrícia, Mana Cris!', they'll shout as soon as they see us. There's always laughter and you can feel the energy in the air. Only nap time is quiet!
If they're having breakfast, they'll ask if we want to take a seat and offer us a piece of bread. If they're singing outside, they'll grab us and invite us to sing along. If they're studying, they'll proudly show us their notebooks.
Despite being a relatively recent project, the HIV Day Centre is already well known in the community for the brilliant work they do to support this group of seriously ill children, so much so that other parents will very often approach the Sisters who are in charge of the Centre, asking if their sons and daughters can join too.

Having seen and felt the difference this programme is making in these kids' lives, our only hope is that the Centre continues to expand and reach even further!

Time for an after-school class to polish our Portuguese

Having fun with soap bubbles

Having fun with soap bubbles

Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Meals at Santa Luísa de Marillac School!

Children enjoying their meals
Before Mana Patrícia and I flew out to Mozambique, I launched a fundraising campaign to raise £1,000 for the school feeding programme run by ALG and Portuguese UPG at Santa Luísa de Marillac School. I chose this particular project as a balanced diet is key for school achievement: well-nourished children do better and are less likely to drop out.
We've been in Mozambique for a month now and every day we stop by the school kitchen, this magical place where amazing women like Mamã Deolinda cook for about 800 students. The pots are huge as you would expect and the wood-spoons look like boat paddles! From chima with beans to rice with chicken and salad, everything is cooked with such passion that the end result always smells delicious.
Our mamãs cooking a lovely meal
The school staff is brilliant in keeping lunch time orderly and at the same time enjoyable and social. After everyone has washed their hands, they will start serving. Children will queue, wait for their turn, and then sit under the trees to enjoy their meals. Believe it or not, for many of them this will be the only meal they'll have the whole day... Once they've finished, they will take their plates back to the kitchen and again wash their hands.
It's been great to witness the amazing work the school is doing with the school feeding programme funds. And we couldn't be more proud to be part of such a brilliant team!

Our fundraising page is still open and any donations are most welcome! So far we've raised £1,291 (with gift aid) – impressive, isn't it?!

Khanimambo to everyone who has chipped in. The happy faces you can see in these pictures are all because of you and your little gestures!

A big khanimambo from our students at Santa Luísa de Marillac School

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Supporting Women in Rural Mozambique

Article from "Domingo"
In an interview to the Mozambican newspaper "Domingo", Ana Flávia Azinheira (Vice-Minister of Youth and Sports) stated that we need to "educate women and offer them the right conditions for them to be able to produce and generate their own income" if we're to overcome some of the social and economic issues that still, to this day, impair women in rural Mozambique, namely illiteracy, teenage pregnancy, and discrimination.

In Mozambique, 60% of adults cannot read or write – and most are women. This is the reason why ALG runs adult education and literacy courses for women (mostly mothers) from underprivileged communities. Apart from improving their education, these literacy and numeracy classes also have a significant impact on their children lives. If mums value and prioritise education, so will their children.
Street stand managed by one of the mothers who took part in
 the income generation project developed at Chokwé
In addition, ALG offers income generation programmes that support entrepreneurial mothers in developing small businesses like farming plots or street stands. We provide the resources and training for them to start managing their own businesses, and then follow up with the activities. Our aim is to encourage them to become self-sufficient and at the same time promote local commerce.

It is our belief that these initiatives have the potential to improve the quality of life of these women and their families in deprived rural areas of Mozambique.

Women working at São Vicente de Paulo School farming plot

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Library with a new Look!

When we arrived to Santa Luísa de Marillac School, in Manjangue, we were impressed with the amount and quality of books available in the library! They were so many and so well organised that we immediately accepted the challenge of reorganizing the room to make it more appealing, and easy to use by the students and teachers.

After the work done in the library we can now find specific sections adequately identified: textbooks, literacy manuals, themed books, Portuguese and English fiction, magazines, children’s books, games, jigsaws and even an encyclopaedia! We also have a board, a television and several educational videos.

It is in this spacious and naturally lit room that the school runs literacy classes for adults, as well as, with the support of our charity, after-school support classes directed at the UPG Portugal sponsored children.
Promoting reading habits is crucial for children and youngsters’ education. With this new look and organization the teachers will be able to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One month later by Patricia Mesquita!

We asked Patrícia for a testimonial, she didn't hesitate and sent us these heartfelt words. Thank you Patrícia

"There is less than month left for this experience to be over and all I want is to stay longer. There is no similar experience like abandoning your comfort zone to go to one of the poorest countries in the world, where everything is done differently than what we are used to. This difference makes us grow and look at the world through a different perspective.
Being here, in the rural area of Mozambique, makes us rethink everything: our priorities, where we stand in our life. Here there is no stress – what cannot be done today will be done tomorrow… peacefully. Here every neighbour tries to drive poverty away. Here the daily logistic difficulties are not discouraging nor do they take away the contagious smile of everyone’s face.
Above everything, I learned that Mozambicans are fighters: the moms and grandmothers who work every day in the farming plots, under an unbearable sun, to go to the market to sell their produce for little sums; the children who spend the days off school selling corn or farming produce on the streets; the women in general who have to be the head of family, in charge of 4, 5, 6 children, making a living of close to nothing. These women spend their day in a good mood, waking up in the morning, getting by the whole day without eating, and walking several quilometers to get home. These women get home…to a home without water, electricity and they risk having their hut flooded during the night if it rains. These women eat chima (cooked corn flour) every day and they rarely have beans or greens to cheer up their stomachs. Here fruit is very expensive, and fish or meat are rare luxuries in their lives. We also have the young fighters we have been meeting, many of them supported by ALG, who wake up at 5 a.m. to go their jobs/schools, also spending most of the day without eating, having to pay the crowded chapas (local transportation), where every movement is difficult, even taking the money out to pay … and in the evening they still go to their classes to study and fight for a better future.
Here things are not easy, but they are true. Here everything goes with the flow, in tune with nature. There is not a single day that goes by without listening to a heart breaking story, but at the same time this teaches us to be brave and to value what we have. Each day that goes by I am more and more grateful to ALG for the work being carried out here. For making such a difference for so many children – either by securing their only meal of the day or by supporting their studies, enabling them to overcome their difficulties or learning a skill that will provide them a dignified livelihood.
Khanimambo ALG, for existing and for fighting so hard for this people who is so worthy of a chance.

Mana Patrícia Mesquita"

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our New Accountant in Chokwé

Teacher Graça with her thesis supervisor and jury 
We are proud to congratulate our ALG Scholarship holder Graça Silvestre Sitoe, who got her Accounting and Auditing degree last week at the Chokwé Economy and Management College (ESEG)!

Teacher Graça has been working in the education area for 15 years and currently she teaches Portuguese and Music to 6th grade students at the São Vicente de Paulo School in Chokwé, her home town. She is married and has five children.
Four years ago, teacher Graça decided to go back to study and enrolled herself in the Accounting and Auditing degree after working hours. Since then she has been a role model for her students and colleagues, motivating several other teachers to follow her example. ALG supported her studies until 2014 through a Uni Sponsorship paying for school fees, documentation and other educational costs.
Teacher Graça before her presentation 
It was a long and difficult journey – managing a full time job, a big family and classes every night – but it was worth it! Teacher Graça presented her final dissertation today: “The importance of Internal Audit for Companies’ Development” before an audience composed by her supervisor, family, friends and the two UPG Portugal volunteers.
The presentation went very well and teacher Graça is now our newest graduate!
In her thesis’ acknowledgements teacher Graça thanked ALG for “the huge contribution we provided to her educational path.”

We could not be prouder!


UPG Portugal volunteers and Cris with teacher Graça and Hilário Langa, ALG General Coordinator in Mozambique

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

“I want to save lives!”

Henriques reading a story to his colleagues
Henriques Ausendo Tivane is a child under our sister-charity UPG Portugal’s sponsoring programme. He attends the São Vicente de Paulo’s School in Chokwé, where ALG has an intervention programme ranging from educational support to the construction of family huts. Henriques’ dream is to become a doctor and work in hospital. “I want to save lives”, he said to the UPG Portugal volunteers!
Henriques is well behaved and hard working. His favourite subject is Portuguese because he likes to read and write.

He attends After-School Support classes, supported by ALG, to advance the education of the most underprivileged students in the school. The volunteers currently on the ground through UPG Portugal went to teach there a day last week, and Henriques was elected the best student of the day. He read an entertaining story to his colleagues, coloured several drawings, wrote a text with no spelling mistakes and made a beautiful drawing. For his commitment and enthusiasm on that day he won a little present - a lunchbox!

Well done Henriques!

Henriques showing a drawing he will send to his UPG Portugal sponsor