Alexandre Pires Moreira Rocha

National Programme Development Advisor SOS Children's Villages of Cape Verde

You(th) can!

Take this opportunity and chance to succeed in life

The story I will tell happened sometime during the school holidays in late 2008. It is 9 years ago now and I still remember this story as if were yesterday.

… It was a normal Monday and I was on my way to Praia – the capital city of my country Cape Verde, when suddenly my phone rang. It was my National Director, Mr. Dionísio Pereira! By that time, I was working as a youth leader in the SOS Children’s Village Assomada, the first village in Cape Verde, approximately 36 km from Praia. I also held the position of national ICT coordinator and it was in that role that I was going to Praia to do the normal checks and backups on the equipment …

Continuing … when I look at the phone Mr. Pereira was calling…
I answered the call and, after all the greetings, he told me that we were facing a huge challenge to finish the construction of a recently built fence in the social centre Mindelo on São Vicente Island. The National Association had 10,000 euros to build the fence and the proposals so far received were all above 40,000 euros. He then asked me if it would be possible for me to take the young people (boys and girls) living in the youth facility and children’s village to São Vicente to build the fence?

Yes, we can
After a few seconds (of reflection) to consider the potential (in)ability, strengthening and opportunity for the young people, I accepted the challenge: I answered “Yes, we can!” A sentence that, a few months later became famous because of being used by Barak Obama in his inaugural speech.

When I reached the national office in Praia we sat and discussed all the details. As a kind of reward, we agreed that the group going to Mindelo would stay one week more (after the work) to enjoy their holidays and that the maintenance officer and gardener would join the team to help.

After everything was clear and decided I went back to the village. In reality to my village, because I grew up there and made my first friends, learnt to read and write the first numbers and letters there…

We started selecting participants
Once back in the village, I quickly called all the young people from 17 years of age and above for an urgent meeting. With everybody in the meeting room I started telling them why I had called them for a meeting and, because it was a huge group, we quickly decided to establish the selection criteria. Amongst others these were: age, good performance in school, respect for internal rules and habit of collaborating with activities and events.
We then started selecting the participants until we reached the number 20. The group was then completed with me (as leader) and the two co-workers.

Starting the exciting journey
After one week of preparation, with lots of anxiety, the group left Santiago Island bound for São Vicente. The voyage took one night and half a day. We left Santiago around 6pm and reached São Vicente around 1pm, after spending an hour on São Nicolau Island where we stopped to put some passengers ashore. All the travel was done by ferryboat.

Once in São Vicente the team started the construction and, after 2 weeks of joy, games, discovery and a degree of uncertainty, the work was completed and - by the way completed very well! It was so good that the fence remains strong and intact up to today after 9 years.

What happens when young people have a goal to complete?
Even today I cannot forget the happiness of the group working together. Boys and girls in groups cooking, painting, digging, using soldering-irons, planting and so on…

The moral/lesson of this story is to show that it is always possible and that everything depends on us!
I chose this story because I have very often heard in villages, in meetings, even in speeches, inside and outside my country, that the children and young people living in SOS families are overprotected. But in my opinion it is not about overprotection but about underestimation. I am pretty sure that in the minds of many of us we think that they can’t, so we have to it for them! 

It is all about the opportunity and chance. Please let us give them the opportunity and chance to succeed in life. (You)th can! I hope this story can rouse us to realise that the young people can! You (co-workers, care-givers, family and sponsors) can give them the opportunity and chance to succeed in life!


Alexandre Pires Moreira Rocha

is National Programme Development Advisor at SOS Children’s Villages of Cape Verde in Achado São Filipe.

He has been working for SOS Children’s Villages since 2001 and, since he grew up in an SOS Children's Village himself, he experiences working at SOS as being like a “fish in the water”. For him there is no better place to be. He is aware of the complexity and the rapid changes connected to his work. He counts on three principles when working with his team: dedication, team spirit and fun.

Alexandre considers himself a rich man with three families: his own, the SOS family and his biological family. In his leisure time he listens to music, goes to the beach and visits friends. He would love to travel all over the world to get to know other realities and meet new people.

His home country Cape Verde is a politically stable country. Its archipelago made up of ten small islands attracts tourists and foreign investors. The Cape Verde population is estimated to be 512,000. The number of Cape Verdeans living outside the country is more than the total population living in the country.