It had been one year since I’d met Jaos and Luisa. That was July, 2008, and I found them sitting together in the dust outside of their straw home in Nhamatonda, Mozambique. They hadn’t eaten in at least two days, and had been hungry for months. That day was the first time I’d ever encountered such hunger. Their mother had died a year earlier. Their father couldn’t use the upper left side of his body due to an accident.
A local Hands at Work group of volunteers had “adopted” the family, meaning they would take responsibility for their care and wellbeing. This was good news. But the faces of those two children haunted me. A photo of them was lodged in my memory.
When I saw them again in May, 2009, I had just arrived at a feeding site in Nhamatonda where those local volunteers cook a meal everyday for dozens of very hungry children. A group of children were playing in the dirt beneath a tree. Jaos and Luisa were standing next to them, not playing with the others. They were staring at me. I hurried over to see them, hug them. But they were cold, looking at me as if to ask where the heck I’d been while they suffered the last 10 months.
We spent the day together, and I filled in the details of what had been happening. They were indeed enrolled in school for the first time in their lives, though they didn’t have the mandatory uniforms. Their father was still unable to work in the fields and left them alone for long stretches as he walked to other towns to look for work. But the volunteers were visiting them regularly in their little straw home. And they were getting at least one good meal a day.
While I was there, we got them school uniforms and even made a plan to help the father start farming a small field near home. I took new photos of Jaos and Luisa, including a short video of Luisa’s beautiful laugh. I have new memories of them now, but I know it’s no fairy tale ending. Those hungry faces might never really go away.
Hands at Work strives to care for the poorest of the poor and that means working in the poorest of the poorest areas in Africa, which have little access to resources. Our network of local volunteers serve and give in whatever way they can, but more is needed. If you haven’t already pledged to sponsor the care of a child, consider it. Join us in the fight to reach the most vulnerable.