This Household will not make the News Headlines.

At a glance, you may be thinking ‘just another poverty-stricken family in Africa – quick, pull out the wallet and donate some dollars!’

On a closer look, this little household is thriving. It’s a happy family, all gathered on the communal reed mat while Andolina prepares the daily meal. Babies are sprawled out, slumbering in the mid-morning heat and children chatter noisily, noticeably excited about having their picture taken. The father is out, busy working in his rice shamba and the pot is boiling away ready for a handful of fresh beans to be tossed in.

Maybe we should be envious of this lifestyle, simple as it is.

– Andolina is in what seems to be a secure 11 year marriage.
– She has 3 mango trees, bananas, papaya and a hedge of tomatoes surrounding her house.
– She need not travel far to work, her rice shamba is on her doorstep.
– Her children have the security of mum nearby, all day long.
– She is an only wife.
– They can afford 2 meals a day and live on an incredibly healthy diet of fresh vegetables, low-fat protein, rice and maize. They probably won’t be experiencing heart disease or cancer in their old age.
– They have a few fancy items like a table, 2 chairs, a dish stacking rack, mosquito nets, a rechargeable torch and a stack of cement bricks for a future house.
– They get to eat duck once a year.
– The children all go to school.
– The Well is only 50 metres away.

What was I expecting to find when visiting Andolina? The good old fashioned African drama we are all so accustomed to?

Today I was pleasantly surprised to find a family, living in poverty and very happy just the way things are.

27 replies »

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  2. I appreciate your positive observation of Andolina’s life! Having just recently come back from East Africa, I realized how much stuff I really didn’t need to be happy and healthy.

  3. I like this. I’m an African and I live in the city, but this is how most of my family in the village live. And for a long time, I the city kid, kinda look down on them. They don’t get why they need anything more than what they have. They don’t get why we place so much importance on all these other things. We just live differently. The way I used to look at people who buy 300 pairs of designer shoes in Europe and America, that’s how they used to look at me.

    • Thank-you Afiniki, it was a special experience for me meeting this family. I think we often assume that if someone does not have much in the way of possessions, they need rescuing. And you are right in saying, ‘we just live differently.’

      Desmond Tutu once wrote,’ Instead of seperation and division, all distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need of one another.’

  4. Such serene, calm, dignified pride. They may not make the news headlines, but they certainly struck a chord with me. Thanks for reporting so generously on what would otherwise slip away completely unreported.

  5. Your photos are really excellent and your post makes a point which the Sustainability Movement has been echoing for some time. Do you have a language in common with the family? What do they say about their lives when you talk with them? What do they think about the lifestyles of people in ‘The West’?

    • Good question. Their first language is Sena, second language Portuguese. And as for me, I speak fairly basic portuguese, enough to get by. I think I’d have to organise an interpretator to ask these types of questions. Maybe a future post? I’m sure their take on the West will be fascinating.

  6. Thank for your nice post which better speaks the reality and truth of the encounter. While yes we in the “west” may define a family as being in poverty the reality is that many families are very capable of providing for their family and have food, shelter, love and happiness. Your wonderful post tells of this in both photo and verse. My last posted photo has a picture with my son with children of Africa that are barefoot though eating from some bowls in front of what looks like a dilapidated house. However, having been at this house many times and knowing well the grandfather of the house the children are well taken care of. Though in other situations in Africa and many other parts of the world including the U.S.A. children do go thirsty and hungry and without love. Thank-you again, Jean-Bernard.

    • Thank-you for your comments Jean-Bernard. Maybe I should have titled this post ‘Dont judge a book by its cover.’ As you mention, we tend to overlook the fact that millions of Africans are providing the basics for their families – food, shelter and love. Looks can be deceiving. We often associate their living conditions with poverty and therefore ‘unhappiness.’ But you are also right in saying that there are many people who do desperately need help and their only chance of survival is if someone stops and listens…and most importantly, acts.

  7. brilliant post! I do wonder whether life in a city like New York is actually less fulfilling than the one you’ve described here. In the end, we all strive for strong relationships… and good food 🙂

  8. Great post. And an important reminder of what is truly important. Here in the West we place so much value on material things (myself included). But is it really important? Could we do with less? Could we be just as happy, in fact, better off, without?

    The answer is a resounding “yes.” But it would take some readjusting. I would love to visit that household.

    • Thank-you Jessica. I guess it’s also a case of what you dont know, you dont care for. Having lived our lives, I think we’d seriously struggle living like they do and would probably die of some tropical disease within a few days! I reckon that yes, we can do with less but at the same time we’re not wrong in having more. I think its human nature to want to ‘improve’ our situation, but where we go wrong is that we fail to recognise what true happiness really is. Happiness is most often measured by the number of Gucci shoes we’ve got stacked up in our cupboards and not so much the ‘hour we spent cuddled up to mum on the family reed mat!’