The Smile of Hope Story
The Smile of Hope started with Leila Gomes. Leila is 24 years old and lives in Bolton with her family. Leila won the Miss Mozambique beauty contest in 2011 and the prize was a trip to Mozambique.
Knowing that the people she would encounter there were in a great need, she started fundraising around the town and Greater Manchester, including different churches, pharmacies and schools as well as her local college. She managed to collect school materials, pens, rubbers, books and toiletries. The pharmacies also gave her medicines and condoms. All of these things were donated to help the people she would encounter in Mozambique.
When she arrived in Mozambique she found that most of the children went to school without food. She wanted to help them so she bought fruit for the children. For many of the children it would be the ONLY food they had that day. It was clear to see how a little help could make a big difference to these children.
She was so touched by her experience in Mozambique that when she came back to Bolton she was inspired to pursue her dream of helping those in need. She knew she needed help from others and with their support, especially that of her mother, Maria, The Smile of Hope organisation was born.
[Leila was accompanied on the trip by her mother Maria. You can see footage of Leila and Maria’s trip to Mozambique by following this link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vtcFHPqY6c ]
The Story Continues
“When we got back from Mozambique my mum and I started organising fundraising events based around cultural dance sessions, we contacted local community centres and schools about delivering our sessions and we had a great response. We held many different promotional events to raise awareness of the problems and poverty faced by children in Mozambique, children just like those you see in the video. This was our main aim and was the reason why we launched the project. We even went down to our local supermarket in Farnworth and performed outside the main entrance. Performing these promotional events was really useful for us as we managed to attract new members to our group and promoted our project to the general public which is what the group is about.
From this we started providing cultural dance sessions in St Ethelbert’s Primary School, Washacre Primary School, The Willows Centre in Deane, and Bolton College. We had a great response and this is when we knew we could start fund raising more effectively, getting more of the community involved. “
The Smile of Hope Today
The Smile of Hope has grown from that first trip to Mozambique and now delivers cultural dance sessions to primary and secondary schools, and college and community groups in the Greater Manchester borough. The dance sessions include many different styles of dance including African Zumba, Marrabenta, Brazilian, Xigubo, Bhangra and many more. We have also started delivering African art and craft sessions and creative play sessions to schools. Young people that are involved with the sessions develop their co-ordination and motor skills whilst having fun which is a major part of our ethos.
All the work we do is voluntary and any money we raise from our sessions goes towards equipment and supplies for the schools and children in Mozambique.
As we all know financial hardship is affecting many people in our local communities and hardship often leads to isolation and despair. By bringing people together we can support each other, have companionship and have fun without money-worries. Through volunteering with us or getting their children involved in our sessions people can gain confidence and make friends. Our activities also provide a fantastic opportunity for communities to share their different cultures and traditions through a mutual love for dance, art and creativity.
So at the same time as raising funds for children in Mozambique and raising awareness of the adversity they face, we can help people here in our local communities, especially our young people. This is the essence of The Smile of Hope.
Plans for the future
We want to keep building on our success and in the future we would like to expand the group so we can provide more of our cultural dance sessions, art and crafts activities and introduce drama sessions to our programme. We also want to continue our fundraising so we can reach as many disadvantaged communities as we can in Mozambique. If you would like to come and help us as a volunteer, or if you would like to join in our sessions please contact us. We would love to hear from you.