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Day 3 – Return and Goodbye to S. Vicente de Paulo

On this third day of the journey, we returned to the School of S. Vicente de Paulo. In the morning, the school is already bustling. Children can be heard reciting in classes; there’s no time to waste on this path of learning and sharing.

The After-School Support is still in progress, eagerly awaiting the welcome arrival of Teacher Vânia, who will assume duties from the end of April. Until then, young Almiro, a volunteer animator at the school and a child sponsored by UPG, tries to share his knowledge and organize the children. His specialty is cultural, social, and sports animation, but he goes to great lengths to ensure the children are not left without support.

The arrival in the Pre-School classrooms always brings with it a colour that is hard to ignore. They sing their welcomes in a carefree voice and dance somewhat shyly for these visitors that seem special, even if they don’t know why. The absence of Teacher Amélia, who suffered a serious road accident, is felt. The 3 classes are now supported by only 2 teachers, and it becomes difficult to keep up with the children in the same way. With joy, we see that there are 3 volunteer assistants in the classrooms, who, together with a larger group of sponsored youngsters, form a volunteer rota in the pre-school classrooms. Thus, the requirement of having assistants is fulfilled while 10th and 11th-grade students gain work experience. Those who participate are given extra points if they ever apply for UPG scholarships or vocational courses. We return later for a balloon distribution, always amazed by the joy that a small piece of plastic can bring to any child anywhere in the world.

In a more serious note and away from the children, the day also gave way to reflection. Firstly, we discussed as a team the best ways for social intervention with young people, especially those at risk in secondary school, where school dropouts may be more prominent, or girls, subject to additional complexities in adolescence. We discussed topics for lectures, interventions in families, and activities. Ideas abound.

The next step in our intervention is one of the newest and growing areas, the ALG graduates. It is with joy that we see more and more students completing the 12th grade and thus their journey with ALG. However, completing the 12th grade can be a bittersweet moment for many. They may not want to continue studying but have no way to support themselves and they may not have received a scholarship. They stay at home without school, without a food basket, and without a job. We discussed as a team how to ensure that ALG Graduates (former Sponsored Children) do not feel abandoned and know that ALG has an open door. It is difficult to prolong the dependency on help knowing that many still have not fully developed their wings, but we know that each one will have to try to find them, with our support whenever possible. Once again, ideas abound; may we have the strength (and the funds) to do it.

Saying goodbye is difficult. I leave with a comforted mind knowing there is a strong team in S. Vicente, who cares about the children and their mission. But the heart weighs with so many expectations, so many plans that want to be made, and not knowing if we can respond to all of them. Tears fall, and it’s time to leave, so that only smiles and memories of good times remain. See you soon, S. Vicente.

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