I’ve known Alilo since he was 9 years old, he was my neighbor in Manica for many years and I made friends with him and his brother Paizinho. These two kids had lots of suffering in their lives… Before they were teenagers they grew up without a mother and when their father abandoned them, they were left to fend for themselves. When my friend Stefan visited, we discovered that these kids were living from green mangoes, eating them before other people wanted to. They lived in a house without electricity or water. When Cheryl visited from the states, we discovered that Alilo could not write,despite making it to grade 3. Paizinho dropped out of school… there are many stories of their hardships and efforts to help them, but that is not the focus of my post.
Their dad reappeared and their lives got better. Alilo and Paizinho continued their schooling and Alilo played in the junior GDM football teams. Then in 2012, their dad disappeared again. Things were back to being very bad. Hungry and lonely bad.
If ever a kid had reason to feel sorry for himself, it could be Alilo or Paizinho. They could blame the Portuguese for colonialism, South Africa for endorsing a civil war, their mother and father for abandoning them, the government for corruption, etc, etc,etc.
So when I arrived in Manica on my most recent visit, I saw Alilo floating around the clubhouse- doing gardening, picking up trash, carrying things and other small tasks. I asked the directors what it was about and they told me that when things got really tough, Alilo came to GDM and said this was his only potential chance to survive, so he just started working. He did not beg, he just started to work. Courage. Hope. Faith. Are these words really just abstractions, BS?
GDM after seeing how ‘serious’ Alilo was, decided to start to pay him $60 per month. Enough for him to buy food for the house and continue schooling.
What is killing our continent is blaming, complaining and making excuses instead of getting involved and sacrificing. Its about attitude. Alilo made the shift, the mental shift that is the backbone of true sustainable development. Skills and knowledge is important, but attitude and character is far more important.
Making the mental shift towards agency and responsibility wont make all problems disappear. It is, however the prerequisite for changing our lives.
Sure, those who deserve blaming should be held responsible, but that is a different issue than taking pride and responsibility for your own life.
Thanx Alilo, your humble example inspired me and gives me hope; it cancels so many negative stories and statements.