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Day 2 – A Day in Santa Luísa de Marillac

Every day in Mozambique is a special day. And if we think that each day cannot surpass the previous one, we are often mistaken. 

Each arrival is greeted with dances, joy, and much gratitude. So much gratitude that it overwhelms me with emotion and touches me how little we sometimes feel we do. In their warrior dances, the little ones express their physical form, pretend to be angry faces, and gain a new taste for school. 

The school starts somewhat silently with the children already in class by the time we arrive, except for the group that came to greet us. We wonder if there are fewer children, but the answer quickly reverses. Despite having had a reduction in classes, with the 7th Grade moving to the neighbouring Secondary School, the number of children keeps increasing. There are 750 children served by a mere 10 teachers. I do the mental math, but I try to avoid the result. There are teachers doing 2 shifts to meet so much need. How to teach 70 7-year-old children who sit in a classroom for the first time? 

The silence of the school invites us to go out and visit families. We don’t always have the necessary time to do this on our visits to Manjangue, so I quickly accept the invitation. Visiting families always has its mystical side, as we walk through paths that we think only exist in photographs, despite the 20 years on the field. Little children by the houses, laundry hanging, girls preparing “chima”. We visit houses that we had the happiness to build and evaluate the conditions. How to evaluate the conditions of a house so different from those we live in? The family is happy, the house is clean, and you can even see electricity being pulled for some appliances. There’s no time to lose, and we continue along the paths. 

On the way back to Santa Luísa, the hubbub begins. The pots bubble with chima and chicken, the food for the day. At first, they seem to be few, but soon the children start to appear. Class by class, they run to the line with the hurry to have their meal. Without thinking much, but thinking, we look to see for which ones this will be the only meal of the day. The school fills with colour, and the noises intensify. While we draw inspiration from the children’s buzz, we talk about dreams, difficulties, change. We want to have meals 5 days a week again, so we don’t have to tell the children once a week that they will have to go home with empty stomachs. We want more teachers so that we can teach the children with quality. We want desks so that they don’t pile up in the classrooms. We want to take the 4- and 5-year-old children who wander the streets and give them preschool. We stop and look coldly. How to prioritize when everything is so important? 

It’s time to visit our HIV day centre. In vibrant pink shirts, we are greeted with another song of gratitude. The colours and songs hide the destiny that has been traced for these HIV-infected children. At the centre, there’s a space where they can have a different life, solid meals, medication, and support to develop activities and study. At the centre, these children are different in a positive way, for the love and attention they receive there. We cut a celebratory cake and share lunch. We almost forget why we are there. In an atmosphere of anticipation, we visit the new arts room. What we find exceeds expectations, with the new Sister Aida who has just arrived giving a whole new life to the Center’s activities and also including the Sponsored Children. In this space, creativity reigns, and products are created that we know will be sent from Mozambique to Portugal or London. We leave with the promise that we will raise funds with them and thus enable the sustainability of this activity. We want to stay and join the artisans, but the day must go on. 

Work is not done alone, so the day continues with the fantastic team of Santa Luísa de Marilac, dedicated to the children of A Little Gesture. Mano Leonildo, the new coordinator and continuous learner of new knowledge. Mano Orcidio, who knows every child, history, and family. Mano Gerónimo, always ready to cheer the children and create a good party with them, alongside a good conversation. Mano José, who embraced the new challenge of revitalizing the day centre. We exchange experiences, share difficulties. Together we are stronger. 

The day ends with our invincible Partners, the Filhas da Caridade of Santa Luísa de Marilac. Sister Gilda, the group’s leader. Sister Felizarda, who now embraces the School’s Directorate and coordinates the feeding and sponsorship programs of A Little Gesture. Sister Aida, who has just arrived at the Day Center but brings with her from Nampula a great desire to create and motivate the children. Sister Dalva, who despite not being in an A Little Gesture project, is a big fan of the work we do in the communities. We share laughter, serious conversations, and moments of music. I find myself in the drums; I missed it. The night has fallen. It’s time to leave. 

They say it’s hard to dream in Manjangue. For us, we look around, and each difficulty is a dream. It’s just a matter of changing how we look at it. 

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