Silvestre is 30 years old. He does not have a father since he is 13 and he does not have a mother since he is 24.
When ALG met him, at the age of 25, he did not have a very bright future ahead. At the time, he was working at the Santa Luísa de Marillac School, helping Sister Lidia with the Sponsorships. He would collect information on the children, visit their homes, chase the ones missing school, report back to us. He made the Sponsorship program look so simple.
One day, Sister Lidia told us what he really wanted was to go into University and he had very good grades to get in. The Uni was close by, so he could continue his work with the children while studying. The amount was high (>£1000 per year) and this was a new field for us. We had not supported higher education before. However, we knew that was the next step for the students that would last in school and wanted to continued studying. More than a burden, it was a sign of opportunity.
ALG took up the challenge (with another 2 Students) and I personally sponsored Silvestre through university. It was rewarding to see his progress and effort throughout the years, his eagerness to learn, his commitment to his studies and to the children. He built a family and was a father in the meantime but his commitment was not diminished. On the contrary, he was even more eager to get an education to be able to provide for his family.
It was not a surprise when he came to us with the idea of social enterprise. He was the leader of a young community group in his village and he had the knowledge of all the difficulties we faced when building houses for the families, as well as the poor quality they had, from his experience visiting the children, and how vulnerable the housing was when facing floods, as recently as 2013. He then decided it was in his hands to do his bit for the community and gather a group of young people to produce bricks.
But it so much more than bricks. Silvestre is getting his group to produce bricks that will be affordable in the region and allow people to build their houses in sturdier bricks rather than wood sticks. That will be a significant improvement to the village, easily extendable to the surrounding areas. Moreover, he wants to offer to build houses for the elderly, who can not anymore build themselves houses, to give them proper shelter, for free. Our only question when he sent us the proposal, was how he was going to live off it…. But with few adjustments, the proposal was a solid business proposition and one that we could not ignore.
After all, development needs to evolve to make the communities be independent from aid. This is the right thing to do after we gave people education and food support. And so I am personally proud to endorse this project. In a way, because he is like me, wanting to change the world piece by piece. And because he makes ALG work even better.