Of "sweet" in the streets of Luanda, except for the smiles of children, there is nothing at all. Mud in the rainy season, dust in the dry season, garbage all year round. None of these girls is "bemvinda" (welcome): hospitality has seen fit to take up residence in another part of town, in the central districts of the capital, between the mirrored windows of the skyscrapers and the embassies of foreign countries. "Hope" there is, however, and plenty of it, and it is heartwarming.
The stories of these young girls, so experienced and consumed by life before they reach legal age, all follow the same ruthless plot lines: fathers who abandon the family or die, violent stepfathers who throw them out of the house or force them to flee, mothers who do not manage to face or deal with the hardship of life because they lack economic means and cultural tools. The street thus becomes the natural place to hide and lick one's wounds.
There in the streets you look for those like you, the sisters of misfortune and the boys who live among the rubbish of Luanda, because they are the only ones who can give you protection. You are grateful to them, you fall in love with them, you experience a vague sense of family. And then get pregnant, you've never seen a hospital or a clinic closely, you don't know what a prenatal visit is, you only see your body being transformed and you don't know what to do.
At night, on the streets of Luanda, a team of Salesians drive around with a van in search of the meninos and meninas da rua. On board there is a nurse and an educator, who spend their time curing wounds and talking to them. Sometimes someone has to be taken to the hospital; someone else is persuaded to go to the Salesian center, where he will find a shower and a hot dish. But this applies to boys; for girls there is currently no center and that is why the Salesians are equipping one out, where these girls can have a chance of redemption and be looked after, even with their children.
External signs can be treated, medicated, but for humiliations the work is much longer and more complex.
To offer hope to these little girls one must really put one's heart into it, be mothers and fathers to make up for their denied childhood.