Our family sold all we had and moved to Africa to pursue a vision not to just help the people, not to give them what they need, but to transform their lives. We are doing this through the work of our company, The Sunshine Nut Company, which is built upon the principles of The Sunshine Approach, a business model that is radical about giving back and transforming lives. As with most ventures in our lives, we never really know at the start exactly what it will look like later on. We envisioned what we would do and how it would look, but circumstances led us down a different path- one that is even better than what we had imagined. We have seen lives changed for the better with our employees, with the children at the orphanages around us that we support, in the villages where we buy our cashews, and in the lives of the people we have gotten to know in the communities around us.
We happened upon the lives of Cecilia, Madelena, and Antonio thanks to one of our employees. Their father died in a tragic car accident, their mother committed suicide, their stepfather felt no obligation to them and left, and their landlord abandoned them to the street. In February of 2014 we were introduced to three very sad little faces with sad little hearts to match. This was when we moved into action. Thanks to the donations of friends in America, we were able to purchase a home for them. With funds from our company and donations from friends and ministries, we renovated the home and filled it with all they would require to live, including a woman to care for them. They moved in at the end of November 2014.
We were able to provide them with the physical surroundings they needed to thrive, and our recently formed charity provides them with their monthly needs. We even gave them an “auntie” to care for them. But we knew it would take time, love, and consistent effort to heal their hearts.
Thirteen year old Cecilia adjusted quickly. She is a fighter. She is determined to make the most of her life. She jumped right into the cleaning of the house and in helping with the preparation of food and the care of her two younger siblings. Antonio appeared to be too young to have suffered much from what happened. He has been easy going, loving, and happy from the start. Madelena, however, was a completely different story.
Madelena was a very troubled girl, and rightfully so. She had experienced an amount of pain, loss and abandonment through which very few people will ever have to suffer. She was distant. Her eyes were dark and troubled. She rarely made eye contact and to hear her speak was an even more rare event. When she did speak, it was so quiet that you could barely hear her. When we took photographs of the family, we could not get a smile out of her, no matter how hard we tried. Even at Christmas when they were showered with goodies and presents, she gave no hint of joy.
She also went through a difficult time period with her caretaker as well- acting out her frustration by speaking disrespectfully to her, disobeying her, and even throwing rocks at her. Yet we all continued to love her and believe in her. In time, she began to improve. The first sign of progress I saw was when I arrived at the house one day and she did not have to be called to come and greet me. She came of her own accord, meeting me at the car and taking my hand as we walked to the house. I was walking on air! My subsequent arrivals at the house were met by Madelena greeting me with a vocal, “Hola Mama Terri. Como esta?” I did not even have to bend over and put my ear to her mouth to hear it.
Our patient efforts received the ultimate reward on June 1st, Children’s Day here in Mozambique. I took over presents for the children and food for a celebration meal that night. Madelena was beaming. Her caretaker and I were so thrilled to see her smiling for the camera. We took picture after picture of her- rejoicing with each one. This day was a milestone for all of us. I couldn’t wait to get home and send off one of the photos to Papa Don, who was away on business at the time. I knew he would be as happy as I was. It is moments like these that reward us more than any paycheck ever could. A forever difference has been made in the life of a child. With love, her heart is being healed one day at a time.