A future to believe in

 By Helen Broadbridge

In the remote hills of Benguela, Angola, lies the village of Kanenguerere. A small cluster of wooden huts with brushwood roofs stand alone amongst the sprawling rocky slopes. Dogs lie panting in the dust, seeking shelter from the heat. To the right a new white building glints in the midday sun. Children in crisp shirts run in crazy loops, shrill with excitement. This is their new school, the start of a brighter future…

A different future for the children of Kanenguerere

Aurora is 14 years old. Bubbling with energy one moment, calm and thoughtful the next, she has lived in Kanenguerere for five years. Her family came here so that she and her younger siblings could go to school. But the village hides a terrible danger. The fields around Aurora’s home are strewn with landmines, the legacy of Angola’s 27-year Civil War which ended nearly two decades ago.

Fourteen year-old Aurora stands under a tree in Kanenguerere Village while helping to watch some of the younger children. She moved here to go to school but was frightened of the landmines near her home (Scout Tufankjian)
I remember my father saying there were mines in the fields. I was frightened and very worried because it was where we went to get the dry kindling to make our fire. Now we have to walk 2km to go and find wood. I have seen landmines near the bridge. I told my little brothers that we must not go there anymore because we could die

But then one morning in August 2017, a group of women arrived and began setting up camp. They were HALO Angola’s 100 Women in Demining, part of a unique project supported by Eni, to train and employ local women to remove Angola’s landmines. In a country where employment opportunities for women are rare, the project seeks to empower women to take control of their future.

Teresa Wandi Cesar works across the rocky mountain side, searching for landmines. Over 180 mines have been found here, all with the potential to kill or injure the local families (Scout Tufankjian)
When the women first arrived, I didn’t know why they were here. Then we were told that they had come to remove the landmines. I was surprised, I didn’t believe that women would be doing this difficult job, climbing the mountains. Then I saw them doing the work and I started to believe that they could do this and make our land safe

The children of Kanenguerere are living with the horrific consequences of a war that ended long before they were even born. Every landmine has the potential to kill or maim and children, with their small, vulnerable bodies, suffer the most severe injuries. Over 180 mines have been found so far, just centimetres beneath the dusty red soil where barefooted boys and girls might run and play.
As the landmines are gradually destroyed it is time to look to the future. Aurora, full of smiles, steps inside the white building on the hill with its cool concrete walls. This is her new classroom, built thanks to funding from Eni. For the first time she has a proper desk to sit at, fresh books and pens.

For the first time the children have proper desks to sit at in their new school. Numbers have nearly doubled since the classroom was built (Megan Dwyer)
I like to study, it is for my future. When we have tests I always get good grades—my favourite subject is Portuguese language. I would like to be a teacher when I am older. Having a new school here will motivate us, fewer children were starting to come to class but now we have our own school they are saying they want to come and learn
With Eni’s support, Aurora and the other children in the village now have a safe place to learn and play (Megan Dwyer)

Since the land was cleared and the school constructed, pupil numbers have nearly doubled. Making the land safe has given Aurora and her friends the chance that every child deserves, to reach their potential and have a future they can believe in.

I am so happy that they came here to clear the landmines, if they hadn’t come then we might not have our new school. All the children are happy, and I am especially happy and grateful to the company Eni for building the school

Learn more about the work of The HALO Trust:

READ MORE: Empowering women in Angola by Helen Broadbridge

about the author
Helen Broadbridge
With a background in writing and design, Helen is Digital Communications Manager for The HALO Trust and is based in the UK. She visited the 100 Women Project in Angola earlier this year with renowned photographer Scout Tufankjian, living with the women in the field to document their lives and the impact of their work.