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Angelina and the Global Village team

By Ruben Soberano
Habitat for Humanity – Mozambique

I would like to share a story about the construction of a new life. Angelina Cossa does not know her own age because she never went to school. Her closest family members, who also never went to school, think she might be around 75 years old.

Angelina’s story is a sad yet moving tale. She lives in the community of Ilha Josina, Manhiça District, Maputo Province, where Habitat for Humanity Mozambique (HFHM) has an affiliate. At a young age, Angelina lost her parents and went to live with her aunt and uncle. She could not go to school because in these communities a woman serves only for taking care of the house and planting on the family farm, a situation that has begun to change significantly but still exists in many places in Mozambique.

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Angelina’s shack

When she was old enough, Angelina got married and went to live with her husband in another village near Ilha Josina. The principal activity of her family was agriculture. The family lived in Xinavane, an area where sugar was grown. She also had a son who was born with mental illness.

When her husband died she continued to live alone in her home. Soon she became very ill and had to move in with her relatives. When her sickness worsened, her relatives, instead of taking her to the local health clinic, built her a shack and moved her out of their house and into the shack. And so Angelina lived alone without the ability to get up or go to the bathroom, and with her only help coming from a neighbor who would take her to the bathroom and check up on her daily. Ilha Josina is a damp and rainy place full of mosquitoes and mud. Her house was a risky and dismal place to live. But, thanks be to God, He did not want Angelina to suffer anymore in those conditions.

One beautiful day in March, when the HFHM project officer, Soberano, was at Ilha Josina to visit a family, in the middle of an intense rainstorm, he noticed the shack and asked the administrator of the affiliate what it was. The Administrator answered that inside lived an old lady. Intrigued, Soberano approached to see the structure and found inside an old widow, wet, lying in the rain, shivering with cold in the middle of an old blanket. Although he could do nothing at that moment, he documented her situation and took a picture to bring back to the office. The next day he commented on the story at the weekly devotions and staff meeting. The director said “Let’s wait and see what is possible when the Global Village team arrives.”

And so began the change in Angelina’s life with the arrival of a Global Village team from the United States.

Soberano left Ilha Josina at 10am for Maputo to say goodbye to his colleague Yvonne who was leaving for England and to receive the Global Village team led by Lynn Twitchell. Arriving in Maputo, the group was already there preparing for the 150 km trip to Ilha Josina. The area around Ilha Josina has no hotels or camps; the team stayed at a house that had been used for storage purposes. But the smell of fresh paint and cement in the rooms couldn’t stop the volunteers from looking forward to working. In fact, they seemed filled with a strong sense of purpose and happiness to be in Ilha Josina.

The next day the volunteers visited the site and some of the HFHM families. The team stared in surprise when they passed Angelina’s “home.” Angelina at that moment seemed to have been feeling better. The group stopped by her place for a moment and then continued with the trip.

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The Global Village team working on Angelina’s new home

The next day, the group began to work. Everyone worked very hard with equal commitment regardless of age, gender or background. At lunch time every day the team leader, Lynn, would always do a quick overview of the work they had completed to date. One day as they discussed the work and the community, Lynn suggested that the group should build a house for Angelina and that in order to do so the group would have to contribute to the buying of materials. Everyone was interested and wanted to get to work on Angelina’s house the very next day. After twenty minutes, a project was drawn up for a single caniço room (reed house).

The following day, the team began the process of transforming Angelina’s life. This gesture from the team was worth far more than all the money in the world. Although it seemed small its significance was immeasurable. A person without a proper roof or floor could now sleep in a house with a floor and a roof that protected her from rain, animals and any other possible danger. It was a complete change for her and that she felt could only have come by the grace of God.

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Angelina walking towards her new home that was completed by the GV team.

Today, Angelina lives in a simple, safe home. Her health is improving daily and in many ways it is like she has been reborn. The interior of her house has a mattress and a mosquito net, a new blanket and clothing left by the volunteers.

The Global Village team came not only to better Angelina and other families lives, but it also gave a sense of hope to an affiliate that had been in a state of cynicism. People in the village learned that they could aid others with small gestures that represented huge changes in the lives of people in the community. They learned that men and women could work with their own hands to end misery. These experiences have a great impact on communities because they wake communities up and make them aware of the fact that we all deserve basic human rights and with some simple organization we can indeed combat poverty.

Before the Global Village team arrived, the affiliate had difficulty selecting families that wanted to live on newly acquired land. Afterwards, seven families made deposits for themselves and seven others are saving to be able to apply. All this because of a Global Village team.