Abandoned by his mother at the age of four, Fungai lived with his father until his father’s death from AIDS in 2001. Fungai was 13. Because of the stigma of AIDS, Fungai was left to fend for himself. “Two minutes after my father died, a handful of my community acquaintances brushed their dusted feet, washed their faces and hands, and signaled me farewell. I have not seen them again.” Fungai dropped out of school because of lack of school fees and educational materials. He sought work as a domestic, earning less than $10 a month. As a result of the harsh work and living conditions, he left and became a vagabond roaming the streets, eventually ending up at the Messengeiro de Deus Open Centre, a partner to Africare’s COPE project,* which works to help orphaned and vulnerable children.
Five years after his father’s death, with the support of Africare and the Centre, Fungai began to turn his dream of fulfilling his father’s dying wish into a reality. Fungai’s father was a sculptor, and through exposure to his work Fungai, too, had become a sculptor. To ensure that his son would carry on the family tradition, Fungai’s father told his son on his deathbed,
These sculpture tools belong to you. Use them to earn not only your living, but fame.
The tools were old and only partly functional, and the special stones required for Fungai’s unique sculptures were located 80 miles from the Centre. But Fungai was determined. Africare helped him buy a complete set of new tools and polishing materials, in addition to transportation to collect the special stones.
His own work has improved and the demand for his sculptures has grown both locally and internationally. Like most 18-year-olds, he is concerned about his own future, but unlike most 18-year-olds, he is also concerned about the future of other orphans residing at the Centre. So he is offering training for other orphans at the Centre, where they learn not only life skills such as sculpting, but also instruction about how to protect themselves from HIV & AIDS. Africare/Mozambique is proud of Fungai and will continue to support him in fulfilling his father’s dying wish.
*COPE (Community-based Orphan Care Protection and Empowerment) clubs have been established for orphaned and vulnerable children who meet weekly to participate in sports, to sing and dance, and to learn about HIV & AIDS prevention. These clubs are just one part of the multi-faceted, integrated programs that comprise the COPE Project.