Isaias was one of the first patients and among the first activists of the DREAM programme: his face and story are familiar to many in Mozambique and beyond. Today, together with his wife, Helena, Isaias is very happy and not a little moved. The couple has just moved into a new house and is waiting for the arrival of the first two children of their new family.
Today, Sunday, 27 January, a residential home is being opened by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Matola: the home will welcome children with AIDS, who were orphaned or abandoned by their families. The first to arrive is Tania, aged 10. Her mother died two years ago and that was when Tania’s long trek from relative to relative started.
First her aunt made her look after her cousins, who were younger than her, then a grandmother who lives in a rural area, two hours away from Maputo. Being so far away made it difficult for Tania to reach the DREAM centre in Machava, however it is really important for her to get treatment, and to take her medicines regularly. On her arrival, she is somewhat scared; then she looks around curiously. Her room is spacious and colourful, with toys: perhaps she can revert to being a child here. After a while, she is playing in the large garden, under the watchful eyes of Papa Isaias and Mamma Helena.
After a bit, seven-year-old Ernestinho arrives. He has been living in an institute for the past three years. He was one of the first little patients of DREAM. We got to know him in 2002 when he lived with Uncle Ernesto, who died of AIDS a few days before antiretroviral therapy became available in Mozambique. Ernestinho stayed on with his aunt Virginia until a fire destroyed their home, and the boy was entrusted to other relatives. But no one really looked after him, so Ernestinho was left in an institute, where DREAM activists continued to follow him up.
Ernestinho talks little and always in a low voice, he clings to Helena by the hand; she has been visiting him regularly in recent months. He likes his new home, he whispers, but above all, he seems happy enough just to be cuddled.
Today, many friends have come to party in the new house: those coming from Italy, Dr Noorjehaa, Ana Maria, Percina, Cacilda, long-standing friends of Isaias. Together, they make a tour of the house, paying their compliments to the parents, sampling some sweets and promising to come again for more visits. The house is big, the garden beautiful and shady: it will be a welcoming home for the children of DREAM and, for certain, a house always full of friends.