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Angola – Berta, Luanda's Mother Margherita: "I want to consume myself in giving myself to others"

29 January 2020

(ANS - Luanda) - A few days from Don Bosco's feast day, remembering one of the key figures in his life, Mamma Margherita, is inevitable. Just as there are many Salesian missionaries who are the living image of the founder of the Salesians in the 21st century, there are also many "Mothers Margherita" who multiply the work of missionaries with disadvantaged people in more than 130 countries around the world. One of these is Berta André, an Angolan woman who has lived all her life in one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the country's capital, Luanda.

There she was able to raise five children and give them university education, adopt three more, and raise and educate at home more than 100 abandoned children who were collected on the streets or sent by their mothers to Luanda during the war years.

Her life has not been easy. Her husband drank and left home, leaving her with five young children: Ecson, Stanislao, Brigida, Luzia and Georgio. Then, when the Salesians started looking after street children and needed a mother for all of them, Berta quit her job.

In the late 1990s, she moved to a small house with her five children to take care of eight street children; a week later they were already 12 and a year later they were 25. “My older children helped me a lot and they were all brothers and sisters among them. I'd get up in the morning to prepare breakfast, get water for the bathroom, take them to school, take care of them when they were sick, everything was a sacrifice."

Berta has been and still is much more than a mother for all of them, as well as a symbol for the whole neighborhood, because she takes time to visit the sick and be a guide in the community, as a teacher, catechist, nurse, bricklayer ... " I already feel some pain, but I want to consume myself in giving myself to others."

"The missionaries told me that the Lord chose me. They helped me to discover that we must give ourselves to others, like Don Bosco. On one occasion I thought about throwing in the towel, but the Lord and Mary Help of Christians have always helped me," she assures.

Berta knows the life of Mamma Margherita, for this reason, she says: "The same things have happened to me, sometimes the boys stole from me, too, but when you work with your heart everything is easier," and, she adds, "everything is God's work. We have managed to help many children by preparing them to return to their families and to society, restoring their dignity to them. I don't know how to thank God and Don Bosco for this."

Berta's greatest pride is the over 100 children who have passed through her house and whom she has always treated as her children: "The children I have had have been exemplary."

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