I just landed in Mozambique to spend 5 intense days on the ground with A Little Gesture. It has been almost 4 years. Too long really.
The 10 hour flight was just what I needed after the intense week and a short sleep night filled with wedding celebrations for a good friend. As I tried to get my eyes accustomed to the light I saw Maputo approaching. The familiar landscape together with all the good construction, and the sunrise as we hit the tarmac. The arrival was smoother than usual, in an airport I last saw in construction works. Maputo is growing and getting ever more people. I watch the roads and I see dirt but not as shocking, I see people on the sides of the road but not as overwhelming. Maybe I am used to it by now. Interestingly, it all felt very familiar.
The road to Maputo was filled with memories as well as new findings, such as less holes on the road and less feeling of crazy driver everywhere. The chapeiros (mini bus drivers) still like to do their crazy stops and get speed at any chance, but the road felt less crowded. We worked on the road going through names and lists, making sure we were ready to make the most of every minute. We have 4.5 days. There is no time to lose.
It is weird to feel like I have been here yesterday. To feel like I am comfortable here like I have always been. The changes in the city of Xai-Xai do not bother me. The fact that Big Sis will know more than me in so many subjects does not bother me to. I see progress. I see the world moving on in my absence. I absorb. I evaluate where I am needed, where I can intervene, where I am most needed, where I myself can make a difference. Isn’t that what this also allows me? To ensure I keep my focus where I can truly change lives?
The highlight: Education
I went back to Escolinha do Andre, the place where I lived 15 years ago just before I chose to create A Little Gesture. All so familiar and at this point so distant. We interrupted our partnership with the Dominican Sisters and are pretty much running the program on our own with the help of a local Manager, whilst the school is still under the Sister’s supervision. And then the children. The faces I recognise and those that are new.
I chose to interview all the eldest ones that have taken part in our technical courses and ask them to tell the other kids about it. How much can you make on the street selling phone credit? 10 meticais (14p). How much can you make for a small electrical installation once you have taken your course? 1500 meticais (22£). The difference makes the little ones listen. The power of education we claim. We can help you. But only you can help yourself.
And then Elisio starts to speak. He speaks about his dream, how since he was a little boy he would borrow paintbrushes and paint from neighbors to paint small objects. How he did 4 technical courses (Painting, Carpentry, Public Relations and Computers) on his thirst of knowledge and need to have an alternative but. But his passion was really in painting and it was visible as he spoke to the kids happy that his clothes were covered in paint, proud to have painted more than 4 houses, hopeful that soon he could make a living exclusively out of painting. He is the group leader, he tells off the ones that go astray, he sets the bar high for those that need a role model. I was impressed by him. He brought tears to my eyes and his honesty gave me hope as well. Let’s find more like him.