Guinea-Bissau

A land that seems lost in time. A land of contrasts. Of laughter and crying. Of dances and cries. Of sincere smiles and distressed looks. A paradise on earth, a well of sorrow!

Every day of the year a panting heat. And only by the end of the day, at twilight, does the body get some relieve. But, then we are attacked by the mosquitoes. The repellent does not seem to be sufficient and as time goes by, we get used to them and them to us – the mosquitoes! Heat is one of the main particularities of Guinea Bissau. It takes 3 days to our body get fully habituated. The time flies and we can’t move, or have the physical or psychological strength to do so. As the Guinean people say we need the cane brandy to “put out the fire”, that is, to help us bear what we’ll need to face.

What we see, kill us inside. But, this where our life begins to make sense! It is at this moment, when the reciprocity of feelings is established between us and them, that my life begins to have a meaning! Realizing that if each one of us, grant a minimum gesture, it can help another making everything simpler and, in the end, everyone would be happier – that is the common goal for everyone!

It is the exchange, of what is within the reach of each one of us that would bring harmony in the world! We travel there to give what is within our reach to help lives that only need a chance. To make us feel comfortable, they receive us with everything they have. Here ideas, visions, knowledge are exchanged. They teach us to need less. We teach them to value what little they have.

Here, in Guinea the streets are arid, the green is scarce, garbage is a full composition of the landscape, the smells are intense and water is not easy to acquire. But, the smiles are so cheerful, the colours of the women’s fabrics are so strong. We can feel the energy of the music that is inside each gene. We pick up the mangos and cashew from the trees to satisfy our hunger and thirst. All of it, makes me have such a mixture of sensations inside me! It’s beautiful, but so sad. When comparing poverty to the unnecessary wealth in another part of the world, we feel sad, sad of the imbalance that exists.

But, for the sake of this imbalance, ÚNICA has appeared, with a full intention of balancing harmony!

ÚNICA Mixing Cultures – is a NGO created three years ago. Based in Sintra and Bissau, ÚNICA dedicates to the dialogue between diverse cultures with the purpose of contributing to the development of each one through activities associated to Music, Education, Training and to the promotion of harmony and equality. It aims to promote the dialogue of cultures towards modern countries and countries in development. It can be seen, as a bilateral exchange that stimulates bridges and relations between people or institutions on both sides, allowing cultural enrichment and community sensitivity on the side of developed countries, while simultaneously channelling resources and knowledge to the developing countries. The foundation of ÚNICA is settled by the relationship between Portugal and Guinea-Bissau, that we tend to use as an example for other projects among other countries, as it already happens with volunteering in Peru.

NO NA VIVI is a project that began in 2014 with the implementation of an emergency service that provides paracetamol in emergency cases for high fevers in children under 5 years old. Although a rarity, malaria can be fatal in children of this age. This service remains in operation and the parents of the children registered in one of the ten kindergarten may contact ÚNICA to benefit from this service. Between December 2015 and January 2016, ÚNICA has delivered first aid boxes to these kindergartens and met with its directors to identify potential lines for the development of its institutions.

The materials that ÚNICA delivers in these kindergartens are raise in Portugal in partnership with ÉTER – Cultural Production, which promotes a campaign of fundraising for high schools, to the general public and other institutions.

In 2016 appeared ‘Madrinha Única’ that aims to ensure the educational achievement for children who don’t have the possibility. Already, because of volunteer’s donations, 77 children have a guaranty of school annuity.  ÚNICA commits herself to reciprocate with news of these children, their journey and achievement in kindergartens.

ÚNICA promotes classes and workshops to the kindergarten teachers, of dramatic expression, theatrical games, meditation, first aid basic, sound and light technicians and implements a series of activities of reading and playing, contributing to learning and global development of children and to the important work of all educators.

In support to the NGO, appears the musical project UNO – United Music for a United World. This is the message of UNO created from a mixing of musical genres. African voice and rhythms are united with European electronic sounds. An afro-electronic meeting calls for the union in the world. One of the lyrics, ‘ONE’, sings the “we are one” message in eleven different languages.

In addition, there is also ÚNICA – Mixing Colours, a brand of clothes and products that come from the mixture of Guinean materials and Portuguese ideas, promoting the union between the two countries. When buying one of the products, a percentage reverts in favour of the NGO, thus promoting the increase of smiles in Guinea Bissau.

ÚNICA – Mixing Cultures is a part of the Transformation of the World.

The UN proposes 17 sustainable development goals by 2030, including eradicating poverty, hunger and promoting quality health, gender equality, renewable and affordable energy, among others. A ÚNICA participates directly in the fourth purpose: quality education!

Yes, it is not from one day to the next that one improves or solves what is wrong but rather with gestures and daily attitudes, with messages that we can pass and a conscious education. We may not be here to see these improvements for which we have struggled, but there are others who will see and they are a part of us. At first glance, Guinea Bissau seems to have no hope at all, but it is in every child’s eye that upon receiving a book and carrying a plastic chair to school every day, that, after all, hope did not die. The future is in the admirable will of every education and every child in teaching and learning.

It is when wills go beyond obstacles, that our life begins to make sense. It is in the hands of each one of us to potentiate a greater balance in the world!

 

Note: No na Vivi it’s an expression of celebration and hope in Guinean creole.

 

This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original text.

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