In any community, children are the future. However, in Cape Verde where such a large percentage of the population is youth (54% is under 24 years old), focusing on the youth is even more critical to the future of the country. Sadly, as in much of the world, it is the young men in Cape Verde who seem to be most at risk. Cape Verde For Life helps boys who hail from low income families yet are brimming with potential meet their families’ basic needs while guiding the family towards self-sufficiency so that the boys can focus on their education and future. The program consists of the following methods of support:
- Health – we provide clean drinking water, healthy food bags (natural dietary supplements, natural sweeteners, grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, non-toxic cleaning agents, etc.), medical and dental assistance. Health counseling is done through home visits where families’ needs are assessed and individual health plans created. We take a holistic approach to wellness and stress using home grown products.
- Employment – we give each boy an opportunity to earn a respectable salary by delivering bread via bicycle before school each day (the equivalent to a newspaper delivery model)
- Educational support – we act as advocates and communicate regularly with the boys’ teachers and provide tutoring when necessary as well as pro bono English lessons
- Extracurricular activities – we provide healthy incentives by paying for supplies and membership fees for activities such as athletics and arts
- Mentoring – we pair each boy with two male mentors – one in Cape Verde and one in the U.S.
- Parental Employment/Career Building – We provide the boys’ mothers with tuition for professional studies and career training and/or small business start up supplies so that they can begin to adequately provide for their families
Erivam is a somewhat shy 11-year-old with an enterprising spirit. He often circulates his Achadinha neighborhood offering to do odd jobs for tips. According to one woman, Erivam routinely takes out her garbage, but also keeps an eye on her and has boldly told her boyfriend he better take good care of her or else! Erivam lives with his mother, who makes very little by selling random items in the street, and two older sisters. His father lives in the United States and does not keep in touch with him. Erivam does well in school, though like a typical pre-teen boy, he sometimes gets in trouble for socializing with classmates when he should be paying attention. His favorite classes are science, Portuguese and French. He is excited about learning a new language – English. For fun, Erivam enjoys playing video games and football (soccer).
Giovanny is what people in Cape Verde refer to as a “good boy.” This 10-year-old is respectful, kind and stays in the house with his family instead of running the streets. He is also extremely bright and hard working. Giovanny has repeatedly finished second in class at school and with numerous academic awards to show for it. Giovanny loves drawing and wants to be an architect one day. His father spends most of his time on another island looking for work. His mother, Elga does all she can for Giovanny. However, she is overwhelmed by the demands of her two younger children, a newborn named Melya and a 5-year-old named Ana Lucia who suffers from health issues, and with incessant job searching. Elga has only been able to find very infrequent work cleaning homes, but dreams of attending Praia’s Hotel School to learn a trade in the growing field of tourism so that she can better care for her children who are her world.
In the streets, Jose goes by his English sounding name Victor, but his family and friends call him Zezito (Little Ze). Zezito just turned 14 but with his baby face and diminutive stature, he looks much younger. He is always the first to lend a helping hand and has a gentle way about him and a caring, protective nature. Zezito lives on a street infested with drug dealers and petty thieves. Some of the boys from his own crowd, all of whom he grew up with, are starting to veer down the wrong path. However, Zezito resists the temptation to get involved in fights and conning…at least for now. He is clearly very bright as evidenced by his flawless memory, thoughtful questions showing his intellectual curiosity and witty sense of humor. Nevertheless, he has been held back in school a couple of times and this upcoming school year is probably his last chance at doing well and being promoted to high school. Zezito dreams of becoming a pilot, but he will need to complete his education if this dream is to become a reality.
Preparation in the States
In the U.S. shopping for groceries and school supplies
Visiting the boys’ schools to meet teachers and check on their academic status
Surprise visit to Giovanny and Zezito’s school
Shopping for extracurricular equipment
Football (soccer) shoe shopping for Erivam (“Chi”) with good friend to the program, Ann Brown
Basketball sneaker shopping for Zezito
Football (soccer) cleats shopping for Giovanny
First English lesson
First day of English classes. Lesson 3: parts of the body. Had to throw in a little art!
Another Saturday English class
RTP Africa Documenting Cape Verde For Life – two days of shooting down, a couple more to go. Wonderful journalists, amazing boys… Working with these young men has been such a rewarding experience and it is only the beginning.
Day 1 of RTP África’s documentation of Cape Verde For Life
Day 2… Documenting our second English lesson
As you can see, by day 2, our boys were taking over their cameras! 🙂
A peak into Zezito’s future – Zezito’s dream is to become a pilot. We paired him with a mentor who is a pilot, and with RTP Africa, gave him a morning in the life. The message: with hard work and persistence, dreams do come true.
Another English Class – The boys’ enthusiasm for learning makes it all worth while. And they are picking up the language at such a rapid pace. So proud!
The boys watching a Christmas cartoon with English and subtitles
Building their vocabulary
Healthy snacks are a must!
Giovanny meeting (thanks to technology) his CV American mentor, Luq Asramon, for the first time – Giovanny smiled his shy smile throughout most of the convo. They are the perfect pair since Luq is a fine artist and Giovanny LOVES art and design.
Surprise Christmas pizza party (and English Class, of course!)
Zezito showing some of the work he did on his own – made me so proud!
Zezito’s angry face
Can’t quite recall the face Giovanny was going for, ha!
Joli’s best shot at an angry face – had to join in on the fun
LOVE the friendships they have formed!
Another Saturday of learning…
Absolutely adore the bond they have already formed!
Learning to actively learn – it is a lifelong pursuit
More charades — Chi acting out the adjective “crazy”
But also of celebration – Giovanny turned 11 years old!
Learning Through Fun – in between dips in the ocean and old school games in the sand, we focused on introductory conversation and the verb “to be.”
This week’s priorities: visits to the boys’ schools to meet with teachers and a little quality time with Zezito. The realization: there is much needed and much to do, but we are determined to get it done.
Two of our boys began weekly math tutoring sessions to get them through their school years with success.
Thanks to the determination of a very special lady named Porschea Bethea and her cool company Sporting News, Cape Verde For Life was able to surprise our Giovanny and his EPIF soccer teammates with new gear!
Our boys are continuing with and enjoying their soccer lessons and learning more and more English every week. Doing well in school. Bright futures ahead for sure!
The last day of English classes before a summer break from both school and Cape Verde For Life. Looking forward to our second CVFL season!!! Watching the and giggling at ourselves on television – RTP’s show Nha Terra that featured our program, Cape Verde For Life.
Zezito thanking his mentor
Textbook shopping for our boys
Our new interns
Our interns teaching our boys English
Giovanny’s elementary school graduation
RTP Africa’s show Nha Terra, Nha Kretcheu documenting For Life Inc Founder Madame-Athena Chang healthy food shopping for one of our families
For Life Inc founder Madame-Athena Chang visiting with one of our families – a sweet reunion!