By Joao Fernando
Hi, my name is Joao Fernando, I am 17 years old, and in my matric year.
When I was a child I needed to be cared for by my parents, and above that I needed their love, but I did not have the opportunity to meet them. My parents threw me away, abandoned me, leaving me in a pile of trash when I was 3 years old.
Because I was put inside a plastic bag that was very well tied, I remember very well the lady that found me, who told me everything that had happened. She used the exact words “My son your parents left you by the rubbish bin. I was passing by and I heard you crying; people were ignoring you because of the infection you had.”
This lady took me to the hospital to see if someone from my family would come to get me, but nothing worked out. One lady showed up claiming to be my mother, but she was not, she only wanted to kidnap me. But the kind lady who found me refused to give me away to this lady, and instead took me to her house and kept me there for some time before deciding to take me to the police station, and leaving me in their care. The police knew of a safe home for children who had been accused of witchcraft, or had been abused by their parents.
Lar Kuzola was its name, the first home for children that I went to. I stayed in the home until I was 14 years old. When I was old enough to understand I was in an orphanage, I asked one of the other children, “Why are we here?” and the other child told me with perfect clarity, “we are here because our parents did not know how to value us, or give us the love, care and attention we needed”. I say that I am a disadvantaged child.
When I was 14 years old I was transferred to a different children’s home, called Centro de Acolhimento de Crianças Arnaldo Janssen, who was better known as Padre Horacio.
The children in this home called those caring for them father and mother. So one day when I heard one of the children calling the caregiver “mother”, I got scared and asked him, “is this lady actually your mother?” As my mother had always done bad things to me this scared me and I ran away from this children’s home.
I started living in the streets and taking drugs. I was very ignorant, and I felt all alone, as I still feel to this day.
After some time, I was taken back to the home for children, but the same day I wanted to run away again. The other young people there were advising me to stay, as they said they are learning good things in the home. With time I started to feel happy there, and forget everything I has been through. The other young people liked to sing, and play games, and they asked me what I liked to do. I told them I liked to help the children to keep clean. So from then on I started to learn that I was actually talented, because deep inside I understand what a mother should do for her children. And for this reason I would like to meet my mother. I have now learned that, two wrongs don’t make a right, and that you cannot win someone´s heart with violence.
My dream now is to have a father and mother.
Joao Fernando is like many other orphaned, displaced and vulnerable children living in Angola. A country where about 60% of the population in under the age of 18, and due to high levels of poverty children are at risk of abuse and mistreatment.