Change is just a smile away

My name is Luísa Gaspar. I am sixteen years old. I come from Aveiro, Portugal. A month ago, I left home and boarded the flight to Luanda for an experience I was never to forget again. I was coming to meet my father and I was coming to volunteer with children through the Fundação Arte e Cultura.

Ever since I was a little girl I have dreamt of coming to Africa and work with children. But I didn’t realise the dream will come true so soon. My father is currently working in Luanda with the same group as the foundation. It was an opportunity of a life time for me to spend my summer vacations here and was so eager to start my volunteering journey in Angola.

Luanda is very different from what I had expected. It is a very special place but a lot still needs to be done in terms of social development. The fact that I had the chance to contribute to that, even though it may be very little in the bigger picture, was with no doubt the best experience in my entire life yet.

From drawing, dancing and playing traditional music with amazing children on the streets as well as within the foundation to sitting next to sick children in the hospital and listening to their stories — every day was emotional and a beautiful exchange of smiles and creation of new friendships.
Volunteering with children in Luanda, Angola
Despite the short stay, volunteering in Luanda, showed me there is beauty even in the most difficult times and places. And more than beauty, the exceptional thing I witnessed with the foundation was kindness and humanity. All the devotion and hard work these people have is inspiring. With each day as I volunteered with a children, I understood that sometimes helping people and changing the world is just a hopeful smile away.

Volunteering with children in Luanda
Luisa and Luisa – my namesake 🙂
One of the moments that touched me the most happened in the Parque da Independência, where I had the chance to simply be with incredible children and teenagers who are living in the streets, with no basic conditions. Because of the difficult background they live in, they have become addicted to substances like gasoline — some of them as young as 9 years old. Every Tuesday and Thursday, there are voluntary music lessons for these children in the park and I was helping during these sessions. What I loved was the way music and art was helping them; at least a couple of hours; to stay away from those terrible paths. And it was in those moments, right then, when I realised that sometimes, it’s not only the medicine that cures and helps us, but also the art. Painting and music speak a universal language that allows us to connect with people from all over the world. I’ll never forget these moments.

Now it finally is time to go back home but I am not going alone, I am taking with me all the love and blessings of the wonderful people I had the chance to meet. And I am not going back whole…I am leaving pieces of my heart to the smiles of every person I met.
I couldn’t have asked for more…

Volunteering with children in Luanda, Angola
A part of me will stay behind with the wonderful children I met

Thank you Naama, thank you Ana, thank you Xavi, thank you to all the people of the Fundação Arte e Cultura, for everything!

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