Learning to Give Back


When my father wanted to share a bit of his wealth he used to select old people. Usually he paid a festive meal for an entire institution and bought clothes or blankets.


Here people die so young that I am not sure if asylums exist. It’s understandable why I picked children to share with. They are so much easier to love that I even feel guilty for selecting them. They end up giving you much more than you could eventually offer.


We heard of a local institution devoted to street kids just to discover, in the end of two painful searching days, hot like a walk inside a volcano, something that all international donors must be well aware of: many existing social establishments are mere frauds. I really would like to have the patience to describe you what our small party went through and how disappointed we all felt. Discovering the existence of people in this world trying to make a living out of the misery, abandon and poverty of others, in this particular time of the year, was the only sad note we had.


Andy refused to go back home with all the food and more than 100 presents I had so carefully wrapped. That’s when I remembered one of the places visited during this two days quest. Church institutions are one of the few we can really trust. So I went back to a place previously visited, from where I had left with the promise of coming back with toys and lunch for the children.


The nuns teach and shelter 250 children on the outskirts of Marracuene village, nearly 100 of them in a permanent basis. That means a third is alone in this world.


I was already captivated by the pack, particularly by courageous little Joana. (Picture? Yes. And she assumes an apprehensive but decided pose.) That’s why the promise of returning, though I wasn’t expecting I would so soon. But in a very windy, dusty and frantic 24th of December afternoon we met the nuns and children again. I don’t have to say how they welcomed the gifts, especially when told that the donation included shoes and shorts for sport activities.


I think Andy enjoyed sharing this experience with me. He and I simultaneously understood that giving back is also something we can learn and teach.