First Impressions: Beira
For the past few months, a feeling of excitement engulfed me about my current trip to Mozambique; in recent weeks, that feeling somewhat subsided, and in its place, feelings of apprehension and obligation gradually took over. Apprehension over how I would react to the realities of poverty I have only up until now witnessed from the comfort of my living room, and feelings of obligation, to put the kind and generous donations of many at home to good use here in Mozambique.
I felt I would struggle to comprehend the alien environment I was about to enter into, and I was right; I had not expected the Mozambican people to be such an industrious, hard-working and optimistic people. Almost 30 hours had passed from take off in Dublin to touch down in Beira. Nightfall descends amazingly early in Mozambique, so come our arrival in Beira by 9pm, the region was engulfed in darkness. Despite the deathly darkness, the streets were filled with people manning stalls and putting the finishing touches on brilliantly crafted hand made goods to be sold the next day. Many women lined the streets, accompanied by their young children; despite the immense poverty that surrounded them the children still laughed, and flashed their mothers a smile that seemed to say ‘I will never lose faith in you and what you can make possible.’ My first impression formed in the darkness the night before was confirmed in the light of day the following morning. On a few occasions I have heard people, including one or two who had previously been in Africa, say that Africans are ‘lazy’. Of course I knew that such statements were horribly dubious, given that Africa is such a vast continent with many differing cultures and ways of life. From spending time here, I now realise that such stereotypes are not merely dubious, they are ignorant and simply wrong. It is hard to put into words my awe and admiration of the hard working women, young and old, I have seen so far, a mere two days into my stay in Mozambique; from the young lady harvesting vegetables under the sweltering heat of the unforgiving sun, to the mother who carries a heavy bucket of grains in each hand with an additional one balanced precariously on her head for good measure, who hopes that her hard work and sacrifice will one day enable her daughter to dream big dreams. We have been given little hands-on work to do so far, because the people at the Young Africa camp where we are based are much too busy celebrating the wonderful achievements of the students at the compound. On our first full day in Mozambique, we were fortunate enough to witness the graduation ceremony for students of the camp. Young local children, for whom the camp is always open, also joined in with the celebrations. These young children, barefoot and wearing clothes torn at the seams, looked on as the marching band made it’s way around the camp; men and women who were about to enter adulthood, immaculately dressed and clutching graduation diplomas which will act as their passport to a brighter future, proudly followed the marching band. The young children seen it all, and in doing so caught a glimpse of the future which is available to them as a result of the work done by Serve and their partners here in Mozambique. Indeed, they seen themselves; 10 or so years older, smiling, and looking forward to a future which now holds infinitely more possibilities.