Friday, April 29, 2016

Sister Antónia’s delicious cookies recipe

Sister Antónia is our children’s mentor at SLM and she’s a gifted baker and crafter! Besides her friendliness and generosity, Sister Antónia bakes these delicious cookies that will please everyone and she teaches how to bake them in the culinary technical courses.
Today we share Sister Antónia’s delicious cookies recipe:
·         ½ Kg wheat flour
·         ½ mug of sugar
·         2 eggs
·         1½ glass of water (not too large)
·         Zest of 2 lemons
·         2 spoons (soup spoons) baking powder
·         ½ mug of vegetable oil

Whisk the 2 eggs with the sugar, then add the water, the oil and mix well. Add the lemon zest, the baking powder and the flour.
Mix everything until homogeneous and let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes to prove.
With the rolling pin roll the dough (always with flour on the working surface) and cut small squares and then cut a whole in the middle of the square.
Fry the squares until golden on both sides and soft inside. Remove with the slotted spoon and sprinkle with brown sugar.


Thursday, April 28, 2016


Our Technician and Scholarship holder Hélder, supported by Cascais City Hall since 2013, keeps sending us heartfelt testimonials to thank all the help he has been receiving. Here’s another one:

How are you?
Everything is ok with me, thank God! I’m writing this message to express my gratitude for your support. Not only it enables me to attend university, but with your help I’m acquiring a wider sense of the impact studies have on one’s life.
Things are quite simple when you are able to observe the world from a wider perspective and when you try to make the world a better place than it was before. When you try to share your experiences to make others see how important it is to contribute towards the construction of a modern society, free of the addictions that afflict young people all over the world.
Life is the great “MASTER” of all times, and despite being a late student and only learning when “IT” considers appropriate, I have learned many things that are worth sharing with others. Many say like father like son, nevertheless I think not all of us are as “alike” as the idiom states. I think life gives us all a “MOMENT TO SHINE”, and each one has the capacity of using it well or let it slip away.
People have the chance of helping others in need. Thus, since 2013 CASCAIS CITY HALL has been contributing immensely for making my life so different from my parents’ life, and from the lives of others surrounding me. But this does not mean that I cannot help them in return. On the 18th of April at SÃO TOMAS DE MOÇAMBIQUE UNIVERSITY, where I’m attending the 1st semester of the 4th year of Law, I was selected as the best student of my class. This allowed me to start my internship at the University facilities, providing assistance in matters related with domestic violence, land ownership conflicts and suicides.
On the other hand, we have A LITTLE GESTURE A GREAT HELP through which Cascais City Hall is able to help me on my learning journey. This organization has done everything to support the beneficiaries in a timely and efficient manner which is a noble and positive gesture.
For this reason and for other initiatives developed by ALG and CASCAIS CITY HALL, I hereby leave my heartfelt thank you, hoping that similar actions continue to help many others worldwide …
Thank you!
A big hug to all!

Hélder Machel"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Graça shows us how every Little Gesture counts!

The lovely Graça Sitoe was the first female graduate of ALG’s Uni Scholarship programme. In 2015 she graduated in Administration & Management and sent us news on her happier life this week.

Graça was a teacher at the SVP school in Chokwe and in 2012 asked ALG to support her studies at the University of Chokwe. She dreamed of graduating since she was young but was held back by the efforts of supporting a large household on her own. Now she is working in the public secondary school of Manjangue where she holds the important role of Head of School Office. Our team went to visit her in the new office where we were warmly greeted by her colleagues Arlindo Cossa and Emilio Langa and school headmistress Ana Jesus. Graca misses her child students and the joy of the classroom but her life is so much better. She is busy every day with her new responsibilities in school accountancy and payroll control. But best of all, is her salary increase: from 6.000 meticais to 24.000 (c.£312) which let her offer a much better quality of life to her 4 children.

Women disproportionately lack access to higher education in Mozambique with rates of only 3.73% in 2011, and lags behind other Sub-Saharan African countries in enrolment in STEM disciplines such as sciences, technology, engineering and maths*. Graca is the living proof of how a Little Gesture accelerates positive change and a huge source of pride for ALG! 

*from World Bank 2015

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Little Gesture really changes EVERYTHING!

These have turned out to be the most different and touching “holidays" I ever had in my life!

My name is Jesuina and I joined UPG Portugal’s sponsorship programme 5 years ago. I am the proud “godmother” of two girls, one in Bungane and one in Nhancutse. Now that I am finally on the ground in Mozambique with Anabela, Head of Sponsoring and Operations at UPG Portugal, I have not yet left and already I feel the urge to return here!

Our arrival was lovely. While I came full of expectations in my heart, none of them have failed me so far. Yesterday I discovered the school of Sao Vicente Paulo and today Santa Luisa Marillac, where ALG has its two biggest individual programmes (Feeding and HIV centre). The smiles carried by these children, their constant hugs, make me be sure that a Little Gesture really changes EVERYTHING!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Warm Colours and Happy Faces in SVP

“Our day kicked off nice and early but we were so eager to get started we didn’t even need an alarm clock!
We took breakfast, know here as “mata-bicho” (kill-the-bug) and rushed to the SVP - Sao Vicente Paulo school, in Chokwé. There I finally had in front of my eyes the warm colours of the places and the happy faces of the people I communicate with everyday: Mano (“young brother”) Hilario, Sister Alice, Mamã (“mummy’) Erma, Mano Donaldo, …
I knew in this trip to Mozambique [as part of ALG’s sister charity UPG Portugal], I would meet people that would touch me deeply and whose lives I would like to keep following forever. It would also make so much more sense of the work we do daily...
Today I share the story of Darcia, who was a UPG Sponsored child and is now 20 years old. She learnt how to read in the UPG After Class and she's now supporting in SVP pre-school! Darcia's dream is to keep studying.
She lives with her grandmother (who's too old to live on her own) and she is a precious help to this elderly lady. The family is very proud of her!
It was a day full of hugs, Kanhimambos (‘thank yous”) and lots of tenderness around! We had lunch at the house of the Vicentine Sisters, our Local Partners in SVP that filled our HEARTS and our bellies too!
Chokwé is much more that I imagined, it is smiles, it is colours, it is smells and images…
Tomorrow we are off to the SLM School in Manjague. Till tomorrow!”

Sonia Martins, Sponsoring Assistant, UPG Portugal, on her first visit to the ground.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Joana C’s trip to ALG Mozambique continues full of emotions…

The bank holiday yesterday was helpful to digest a bit the emotions of the last few days. However I was sorry for wasting an entire day of my short visit. Yesterday it was a celebration day - the day of the Mozambican woman - and there were celebrations in the main squares of several towns / villages like the ones I briefly witnessed in Bilene, 30km from Chokwe.

Friday started with rain again but it was fortunately over by the time we arrived with Mano Hilario at the Santa Luisa de Marillac (SLM) School in Manjangue.
The Sisters Antónia e Sidónia gave us a warm welcome. The Culinary Course of Sister Antónia, part of the ALG sponsored Technical Courses in the school, was just about to start - today was the day of the fried pastries that looked very much alike the Portuguese "filhoses”.
While Sister Antónia and the students prepared the dough, we visited the Vegetable Hut of the school. It had rained at last (although not much!) and a few students were working on the land. I enjoyed in particular the banana trees which were growing there very timidly due to the lack of rain.

One of the highlights of the day was the moment when I saw the new School Canteen almost done! The indoor part will be finalised soon but it was very rewarding to imagine the canteen full of children having their daily meals.
Sister Sidónia guided us to the HIV Day Center where we spent some time with the infected children. On Fridays the schedule is flexible so this morning they were watching cartoons and playing games. The table was ready for the lunch that was to be served in a short while.

We returned to the school playground and went to see the culinary course again. There were some pastries ready and many others to cook. A few of the students had just left to sell the pastries. Sister Antónia told us that today there were not baking bread due to the rain. However on Wednesday the bread was very good and was sold very quickly.
The younger students were already queuing for lunch in the playground when we met Orcidio, the young ALG local technician, in the room where he does all the admin work for ALG and UPG Portugal, including all the individual data on the 120 Sponsored children under the Portuguese charity’s programme such as the student marks that will be shared with their respective UPG sponsors.
As we did not want to disturb Orcidio's task, we left the room and I witnessed from a distance the lunch distribution under the School Feeding programme, the largest single project supported by ALG. Small groups of students got their meals in their green plastic plates and sat under the trees jointly with other students to have lunch. This was one of the unforgettable memories that I will keep in mind from this visit.

And just like this we spent almost 4 hours (it felt like much less!) in the school. And even then we have not visited the After-Class support classroom which had ended while we were discovering and talking around the school.
This afternoon the sisters were to visit the family huts of some students and other children in need as it is customary every Friday afternoon. We said goodbye but were sorry for not being able to wait for the return of Sister Flora, the school headmaster. However Isaurinha was already expecting us in Chokwe.

Uni Scholarship student Isaurinha is one of the students of High Institute of the Gaza Province who has been granted a scholarship sponsored by ALG. She is on the second year of the Nutrition degree and she lives in Chokwe in the house of the Vicentine sisters. Last year, at the time of my 30th anniversary, I decided to kindly ask all my friends for a small contribution to finance Isaurinha's degree. Everyone contributed above the expectations therefore ALG is now financing her tuition fees and part of the accommodation costs. Unfortunately we did not have much time to chat with Isaurinha as her classes were about to start. However it was enough to remind her that her commitment and dedication will be critical for her to complete her degree. We also added that we would be very proud should she become the first woman to graduate under the ALG scholarship. 

We said goodbye with a big smile from Isaurinha at the entrance of the High Institute after having significantly reduced her daily journey with a ride. We were very disappointed with the poor access conditions that every student has to face to arrive to the newly built High Institute in Chokwe - we believe each student takes around an hour of walking to reach the institute by foot!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Joana C., after the first emotions, she shares with us the feeling to know Mafita and Nazário!

The day started with downpours in Xai-Xai and I could not recall the last time I was so happy to see rain! All our chats yesterday were around the severe draught this year and that precious rain should have fallen months before..

We left towards Chokwé where Mano Hilario, our General Coordinator, was already expecting us. The recent rains (and a fair mount of street holes!) delayed our journey but we still made it into the S Vicente Paulo School at 10.30 am. Our Local Partner Sister Alice received us together with Donaldo, the young ALG Technician in the school, and showed us around the extensive SVP school compound. 

We visited the After-Class support classrooms where ALG offers tutoring and a meal to the most vulnerable children. The year 6 students were in class and the teacher explained us how important this programme was to improve the learning capabilities of these children. 

We were interrupted by the arrival of our Sponsored Child - Mafita Nazario Pedro - that Bruno and me support since 2009. I was so excited to finally meet her in person! We had lots of questions for Mafita but we controlled ourselves so she would have the chance to make her questions first. Very shy and reserved, she asked if we had children of our own, parents and siblings, and seemed to enjoy all the photos that we showed her of our family. She timidly and softly answered most of our questions. I was very impressed to hear she really enjoyed attending the Culinary course in school, financed by ALG, and that her favourite gift from us were school notebooks! She hasn’t yet decided what she wants to do when she grows up but she really likes Portuguese and English.
Our friendly chat was interrupted by te arrival of her brother - Nazario Pedro Jr - who is also sponsored by Bruno and me. They both live with their grandma, which is unfortunately HIV-positive, and they seem to be close and good friends with each other.  Nazario turned 18 this month and is currently in year 10. As his sister, he also needs to figure out what to do next. We spoke a bit about soccer - he is a huge fan of Ronaldo and Messi! - and also about the Culinary classes in school. 

By now the morning class shift had ended and the afternoon children started arriving. We gave our warm farewell to our two sponsored children and promised to keep in close touch!

We then went to visit the Technical Courses area of the school where today children were learning Culinary and Arts&Crafts. The friendly and smiling Sister Aida received us with open arms. She showed us how to small purses and wallets with recycled carton boxes covered in beautiful “capulanas” (local painted cloth) . They were impossible to resist - I bought mine for just 75 meticais (one pound)!

While we were waiting for the monitor in the Culinary class, brother Hilario took us to see the family huts built by ALG for some of the children in the SVP school. We saw the building works on the new home for orphaned sisters Maria and Delfina.

We returned to SVP to catch the culinary class midway. Today Lucilia showed the students how to make delicious fried dough covered in coconut. Everyone was very focused on their tasks and delighted to be there. And we of course could not resist and bought a package of 10 for 30 meticais. The others will be sold tomorrow.

Before leaving school, we went to check the vegetable hut. Brother Hilario showed us the seeds that were planted but that the lack of rain in Chokwe was compromising its proper development.  

We left school when the afternoon shift ended. As we approached the gate to leave school, we were greeted with so many happy waves and smiles… I could not have wished for a better godbye fors such a full and rewarding day in the wonderful SVP school.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mana Joana, for the first time in Mozambique (testemonial)

"I was not yet able to digest the last 24 hours, so do not expect to much from my first "report". The day started early and the trip went well, and not as long as I expected it. I was very attentive all the way.  Two things impressed me - 1) the number of small children vs. the rest of the populationand 2) the amount of people spread around (living or passing by) each 5km of the National 1 Road. I clearly underestimated both.

Mano Hilário received us very well when we arrived to Xai-Xai and we went to the Pre-School Escolinha Flor da Infância. We arrived by 11. "Vovo" (Grandma) Etelvina received us and showed us the 3 classrooms. We spent more time with the 3 year olds. At first, they were very shy, but as we sang with them we got some smiles back.  The highlight of the visit for me was to see how well the children looked (including smiles) and the way they screamed out of their lungs "we are doing very well thanks to God". :-) I found them very well behaved for their age and obedient. Two children from the 5 year old classroom counted to 10 for us.

We sat down with "Vovo" and she explained to us how the school was created and how it used to be. I asked about the breakfast - milk 3 times per week and soy meal 2 times per week - and lunch - which included multiple things such as rice, vegetables, beans, chicken (once a week). Today, was soy meal for breakfast and rice with vegetables for lunch. We talked about how the price of certain produce had increased, including rise and peanut (use as basis in their food).  I asked about the children's health and what they did when they were ill. After our talk, "Vovo" showed me the kitchen, the bathrooms and the oven.

They offered us lunch but we chose to watch the children for their lunch instead and distribute the candy we brought with us. This was another high point of our visit, as I finally experienced what I so often before have seen in the pictures. I was not worried in taking more pictures. The candy were well received!

I was very impressed with Vovo and her memory and energy in light of her advanced age.  We left the school at the same time as some of the children who were heading home.  I was impressed by the ones that were going on their own, but happy to see some older brothers (also quite young) waiting for them outside the school.

From the school we went to the IT Center of Mano Arnaldo. He was very kind and received us well.  He explained to us how the IT Center worked and what the workshops were.  He said he had more competition this year and introduced his new assistant to us. The IT Center seems nicely put together and well functioning.
Tomorrow, we head to Chokwe!"

Mana Joana is Trustee in A Little Gesture UK.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A beautiful letter from João to his sponsor.

João is one of UPG Portugal Scholarship holders and he wrote this heartfelt letter to his sponsor:

"My dear Sponsor,
I’m writing to thank you for the support you are providing me and the Langa family in helping me to conclude my studies. I would also would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity of continuing my studies at University to take the Audit and Accounting Degree. 
Dear Sponsor if I can smile today is because of your kind gesture in helping my family. These words are not enough to reveal my actual feelings and to show you how thankful I am. Thank you once again Father.
I would also like to wish you and your family a Holy Easter. I wish you all the best."

João is an historic UPG Portugal sponsored child from André Pre-School and he’s another successful story of the Sponsoring Programme. After attending two accounting training courses, João entered the Guaza Muthini Management and Entrepreneurship Superior Institute to take his Audit and Accounting Degree.
In 2015, João helped ALG temporarily in our partnership with Flôr da Infância Pre-school, assisting our dear Grandma Etelvina in her administrative and management activities.

João is going to choose an after work schedule to take his degree to be able to work part-time and support part of his education expenses.