Daniel Manhiça was merely 5 when he and his brothers Lucas (then 3) and Carlos (then 1) lost their father in 2000 to AIDS in southern Mozambique’s rural Gaza province near the city of Xai-Xai.
An era of tragedy was just beginning in the brothers’ young lives.
In 2006, their mother, Celeste, also died of AIDS. Their grandmother, Amelia, came to take care of them, but she passed away in 2007 after contracting malaria. For nearly four years, the boys lived alone in a leaky, circular reed home with a weather-worn thatch roof and dirt floor. They survived on food supplies from their great uncle’s family.
One day, while Daniel and Lucas were at school and Carlos was fetching water, their small home caught fire and burned down. The blaze consumed everything: clothes, shoes, pots, plates, containers, sleeping mats. They were left with nothing.
Theirs is a story of immense loss, intense grief and, finally, hope fulfilled.
When Habitat for Humanity Mozambique heard of their plight, it immediately responded. Through Habitat’s Orphans and Vulnerable Groups program, the boys, now 16, 14 and 12, were selected to receive a two-room Habitat home with concrete floor, plastered walls, wooden doors, windows, anda shiny metal roof to keep out the rain.
The boys said that when their reed house was destroyed, they felt completely lost and had no idea what would become of them.
“They would just stare in the distance and look isolated,” said Ester Uamusse, 49, the boys’ great aunt. She and her family of eight live near the Manhiça brothers’ new Habitat house. She prepares food for them each day.
“With the new house, you see a difference and change in their minds. On their faces you can see how the house has opened their minds. I see them now, and they are happy.”
Though they live alone and are mostly unsupervised, the three boys follow a strict daily regimen of chores, school and playtime. Daniel and Lucas sweep the house and yard. Daniel cleans their clothes. Lucas arranges the bedroom. All three remove overgrown brush from the areas around the house. They tend goats.
The two oldest boys attend school in the mornings. Carlos’ schooling takes place in the afternoons. During a recent visit, he announces it is time for him to prepare for school. He washes, changes to clean clothes, brushes his teeth, gathers his schoolbooks, eats a small lunch brought by a cousin and, with a wave goodbye, begins to walk down a dirt path toward the school.
When the boys play, they play hard. They laugh while playing soccer, doing their best to keep the ball away from one another. They use palm tree stalks to glide down the hillside behind their home, making car-racing noises as they slide.
And they sing: “We are marching / Marching to Zion …”
Before Habitat came to build the house, Daniel said he was unsure that it would really happen.
“I was so happy to hear they would come, but at the same time I was waiting to see if it was true,” he said.
Then one day, he saw a truck moving in the distance, loaded with building materials. At first, he didn’t let himself believe the truck might be coming to his potential home site.Then the truck pulled up to their clearing, and workers began unloading material. Daniel called to Carlos. He called to Lucas. They gathered together. They shouted. They smiled. They hugged. They laughed.
During the build, Daniel fetched water, helped carry blocks and stones and learned how to mix cement. “I was feeling very happy,” he said.Lucas learned how to plaster.
Today they dream of a good future. Daniel wants to become a policeman (“because I will run after the thieves and catch them and put them in jail”). Lucas wants to be a teacher (“I want to teach other people mathematics”). And Carlos? He wants to build houses (“because when I saw the truck, that’s when I had hope”).
There is also unmistakable proof that Daniel and his brothers now have a decent place to call home. Written in block letters on the outside of the wooden front door are two words: “Habitat” and “Daniel.
Bob Longino, creative director, Habitat for Humanity International
What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but to do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:
• Visit our U.S. Dollar donation page  to support projects in Europe and Central Asia.
• Visit our Euro donation page  to support projects in Europe and Central Asia.
• Go to country profile  pages to learn about other programs in this region.
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