"Before, I didn't have a house to live in. Now, I finally have a warm place. I am very grateful to these young people who put aside their work to come here and help me build a house. Thank you very much for the love you have brought," said Victoria João, the beneficiary, with gratitude and excitement as she saw the construction of her new home.
Fifty-six-year-old Victoria João, who lives alone, was abandoned by her family. Due to chronic illness and the loss of her fingers and toes, she could not engage in farm work. For the past three years, she has been living in a rudimentary thatched house, facing extreme hardship. When Tzu Chi volunteers in Mozambique learned of her situation, they took the initiative to launch a fundraising campaign, to collect funds for building materials. Within a short span of eleven days, they constructed a new home for her.
Unexpected Encounter with Victoria João
With heartfelt love and assistance to local impoverished residents, Tzu Chi volunteers in Mozambique not only provide food aid but also offer the wisdom of Jing Si Aphorisms. They distribute books, Jing Si Aphorisms, and organize Jing Si Aphorisms theatrical performances and recitation competitions. On June 13th, volunteers from Nhamatanda, Sofala Province, were continuing their regular sharing of Jing Si Aphorisms in the community when they unexpectedly came across Victoria João; she was alone and helpless.
Originally from Tete Province, Victoria João had been cast out of her family after her husband's passing; her relatives regarded her as a witch. She had no choice but to move to Nhamatanda and live alone in a rudimentary thatched house. The small space in the thatched house had little room left after storing a few belongings; it was barely enough for her to curl up and fit her body and feet to lie down.
Even more distressing, Victoria João suffers from a chronic illness and has lost her fingers and toes. This makes it impossible for her, as a farmer, to support herself through farming; she endures each day in extreme difficulty and hardship.
The young local volunteers felt deep sympathy and sorrow for the impoverished and ailing Grandmother João. As a result, they came up with a solution and collectively decided to build a new home for her.
Fundraise with Love and Compassion
The new house was built through everyone's collective effort. It is a traditional earthen house, twelve meters long and thirteen meters wide. After deciding to build a new house, the volunteers drew up a list of construction materials and divided the tasks of collecting dry grass, various sizes of wood, as well as equipment such as wire, nails, cotton rope, hammers, and saws.
However, the volunteers themselves were not wealthy, so where would the funds to build the house come from? This question lingered in their minds.
On the morning of June 17th, 125 volunteers gathered at the Tzu Chi office in Nhamatanda not only to listen to Dharma teachings by Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi but also to fundraise with love and compassion for Grandmother João's new house. "With more people come greater blessings!" First, volunteer Ana Maria Mandlate shared Jing Si Aphorisms with everyone. She continued to encourage the volunteers present, reminding them of Master Cheng Yen's teachings on working together to help neighbors. She urged them to share love with more people and to spread Master Cheng Yen's love.
Then, with heartfelt sincerity, Ana Maria Mandlate invoked the spirit of the Bamboo Bank Era and appealed to everyone: "Grandmother João lives alone, she is getting older, and she is disabled, unable to build her own house. If each of us contributes fifty cents, we can pool our collective strength to help her."
Even small contributions can make a significant impact. Despite not having much money, the volunteers eagerly stepped forward and donated their love and funds to the bamboo bank. With the collective love and blessings of everyone, they raised a total of 410 Mozambican meticais (approximately US$ 6.41) that day. The entire amount raised was used to obtain the necessary materials to build the house.
Construct with Love
The volunteers contributed not only their money but also their physical efforts. Before construction began, they collected materials such as small pieces of wood, dry grass, support beams, and bamboo strips. Once the construction started, they wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to the project. On the first day, the volunteers used long knives to dig holes in the ground and erected thick wooden beams as the main structure. With the main beams in place, they proceeded to nail on the smaller wooden pieces. Through the collaborative efforts of many volunteers, the house quickly took shape.
Once the main beams and smaller wooden pieces were nailed together, and secured with wire and cotton rope, the next task was to work on the roof and fill the walls with soil. The construction work progressed day by day, with everyone assigned specific tasks. The male volunteers used bamboo to construct the roof and partitions, while the female volunteers were responsible for fetching water, mixing soil, and applying it to the walls.
On June 20th, after several days of diligent effort by the volunteers, Grandmother João's new house was nearly complete. Thirty-eight-year-old Luísa Alberto Mavune, a representative of the neighborhood where Grandmother João lived, also lent a helping hand and joined the volunteers in the construction work. She expressed her happiness, saying that, through Master Cheng Yen's teachings, she had transformed her mindset and her perspective on life.
When Grandmother João saw her new house taking shape, she was overjoyed. She exclaimed: "I never expected to have such an opportunity in my lifetime because even my own family no longer cares about me. I am extremely grateful for the kindness and concern shown by everyone."
"It's finished!" On June 23rd, everyone cheered and danced with joy. From the initial idea to the collective effort of building the new house, it had only taken eleven working days. To ensure completion before the housewarming ceremony, everyone hurriedly made wooden doors with zinc plates, which were then installed in Grandmother João's new home.
During the house handover and housewarming ceremony, the volunteers brought ribbons and the Tzu Chi flag, beautifully packaging Grandmother João's house like a gift. For the completion ceremony, they also invited the secretary of the neighborhood and the local residents to cut the ribbon and officially open the new house. The event created a lively atmosphere with the participation of the neighborhood secretary and residents.
To celebrate the completion of the new house, the volunteers joyfully presented various gifts, including blankets, rice, cookware, mats, and second-hand clothing collected through donations. Ana Maria Mandlate led everyone in prayer, expressing gratitude for the day and the power of Master Cheng Yen's teachings, which purified everyone's hearts. She pledged to spread love to those in need with unwavering dedication.
Local volunteer Issaca Adamo shared Jing Si Aphorisms with everyone: "The most beautiful in the sky are the stars, and the most beautiful on earth is warmth." At twenty-four years old, he was the one who proposed building the new house for Grandmother João.
Adamo joined Tzu Chi after the Idai cyclone in 2019 and has actively participated in Tzu Chi activities. He recalled that when he and the volunteers visited Grandmother João, witnessing her living in such challenging conditions reminded him of his eighty-two-year-old grandmother whom he lived with. He deeply sympathized with Grandmother João and started a discussion with the volunteers to put Master Cheng Yen's teachings into practice by building a new home for her.
Bringing New Hope in Most Challenging Times
As the joyous housewarming took place, the rain started to pour outside, providing the perfect test for the newly constructed roof's waterproofing. Grandmother João was overjoyed with her new house, expressing her deep gratitude for the help from Tzu Chi. She remarked: "I am extremely grateful for Tzu Chi's assistance. After being separated from my family and experiencing unimaginable difficulties, I never thought that one day I would receive so much love and help in this way."
Grandmother João felt as if she had been reborn because Tzu Chi had given her new hope, enabling her to fearlessly live in the world. She emphasized the significance of this assistance, acknowledging that, without the power of the volunteers, she would not have been able to change her life. She expressed her gratitude for their guidance and the illumination of her path during the most difficult time of her life. She wished to share the help she received with more people in need. She stated that she would keep Jing Si Aphorisms and Master Cheng Yen's teachings in her heart and continue to share her own experiences in the community.
The local volunteers, upon discovering someone in need, immediately mobilized and started a fundraising campaign. Through the collective effort of everyone during the construction of the house, they miraculously resolved the grandmother's living difficulties within a short period, reigniting her hope for life.
A Jing Si Aphorism says: "With more people come greater blessings!"
Join Tzu Chi. Let us pool our effort together to make this world a better place.
Story by SILVIO FILIMONE and LEE MING-YUN / Mozambique, July 7, 2023.