Last week, SARA CEO Ethan Huffaker and I held a call with Rita Dimene of Bem Estar and Margarida, an 18-year-old woman who has been getting assistance from Rita for the past year and a half. During this call, Margarida shared her story – a familiar story that plagues many students across Africa.
At the beginning of the call, Ethan asked Margarida to introduce herself to me. (I am not fluent in Portuguese yet.) She directly stated, “Hi, I’m Margarida, I am 18-years-old, and I have a son.” She was kind, open, and ready to share her story.
Rita informed us about Margarida earlier this month and flagged her as a young woman who had an experience very common to her home country of Mozambique. We knew this would be a great opportunity for SARA to introduce our donor to some of the people we are working with.
Margarida was living with her mother when she was attacked in 2019 at the age of 16. Her mother had suffered a stroke earlier that year which left her unable to walk. Margarida's father had passed away in 2016. Getting an education was the best way for Margarida to obtain a job that would allow her to take care of not only herself but also provide for her family.
Margarida was struggling to get to class in the daytime and opted for the evening classes which were free (no tuition). This also allowed her to work during the day. She left for class every night at 6 pm and started the journey home at 10:45 pm. It was on this journey home one ill-fated night that has marked Margarida for the past two years.
On this night in 2019, Margarida and a classmate headed home after class. Margarida’s classmate lived closer to the school, so her home was the first stop. As Margarida continued home, a man came up from behind her. She was attacked and raped. When the rapist was done pleasing himself, he left Margarida to gather her things and continue the journey home alone.
As she described the experience to Ethan and me, she was again direct and to the point. Margarida stated that the fear from that night has lingered with her and prevents her from putting herself in dangerous situations again even though they may be advantageous to her future career goals – one of them being to attend nursing school.
The 2 years following the attack have brought many surprises and heartaches while thrusting this 16-year-old into adulthood. Margarida discovered that she was pregnant by the attacker and contracted HIV during the rape. It was during this time when Margarida met Rita. Since then, Margarida has been living in a temporary home that Bem Estar has provided. With food from the local government that lasts 3-4 days, Margarida is able to feed herself and her baby under a roof.
Although SARA's mission is specific to child trafficking, we are not naive to the various situations that make children (and adults alike) vulnerable to predators. SARA works with local organizations like Bem Estar to provide shelter and care to those who would otherwise be at risk. This includes women with children. Although we are not physically in Matoala, Mozambique during this pandemic, we partner with those who have the eyes and heart to find those in need and provide them with a safe haven.
We are always looking for like-minded individuals to add to our creative team. If you are looking for an internship or volunteer experience or if you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or you can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you in the fight against the mistreatment of humans around the world.
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