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The Young Africa Girls hostel

– by Diarmuid Pepper

In the Young Africa camp in Beira where we are based, a hostel for young ladies is directly opposite us. In this hostel, where the young girls live and learn, there is a tremendous sense of camaraderie; fate may have placed them here, but now they find themselves together, their paths forever intertwined, their future very much in their hands… there is strength in numbers.
Several nights a week, given those in the hostel are not too tired after work or school, we enter what is now their home and engage in art projects.  Such trivial encounters may not stimulate people at home, but the young ladies in the hostel here eagerly dive into each project.

This week, each of us were given paper that was fashioned into a jigsaw piece; at the end, all the jigsaw pieces where joined together to make a circle.  We were given a blank canvas with which to do whatever we pleased. The young lady facing opposite me was named Eufrasia. She began her jigsaw piece by filling it with drawings of mountains. She speaks Portuguese but with the help of my phrase book I managed to ask her if this was a drawing of where she lived before coming to the hostel. She said ‘no’, and then set about telling me what it was a drawing of.

I was totally lost and had no idea what she was saying, and she quickly realised this. She took my phrase book and pointed to the word ‘gostar’, which translated into English as ‘like’. I felt as though I now knew what she was drawing, so I in turn pointed her towards another word in my phrase book.   She started nodding frantically and giddily shouted ‘yes yes’. I had pointed to the word ‘sonho’, which means ‘dream.’ She was drawing her ‘sonho casa’, her dream house.

In her painting, a strong and vibrant sun shone down on her dream home. Three mountains dominated the painting, and a tranquil flow of blue ran from the top of the mountain to the lake at the foot of the mountain. The land to the left of the lake was a hypnotic blend of various shades of green and brown. To the right of the lake, a lone tree stood tall and defiant – and tucked away discreetly in the bottom right hand corner of her painting, beside the tree, was her house; the tree was marginally bigger than her dream home.   No huge or lavish mansions, this is her dream; simply to escape the city, to escape the ceaseless man-made noise of the night, to escape the feeling of déjà vu that accompanies the never ending procession of market stalls.

The house doesn’t matter, merely a young girl, yet she knows that nothing lasts, that all houses look the same when you are asleep. She doesn’t care about the place in which she sleeps in her dreams, so long as she can be close to nature, close to the mountains which are conspicuously lacking here in Beira.  Her dream is modest, but she is just a girl, in one of the poorest countries on the earth. But while her dream would have been confined to the realms of fantasy a mere two or three years ago, she can now live in hope that her dream will come through. A few years ago, she was aimlessly feeling her way down a dark path; now, as a result of the Young Africa camp here in Beira, the future is a whole lot brighter, and she can see her destination.

Because of the work done and money raised on behalf of SERVE, a self sufficient Young Africa camp has been set up in Beira. It’s a place where Eufrasia has found herself living, a place that is now forever a part of who she is… a place that allows a young lady like Eufrasia to have the courage to go about bringing her dreams into reality.

To read more about the programs run by Young Africa and how the Girls hostel programme fits in, check on their website:

http://www.youngafrica.org/index.php/what-we-do/programs

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