KAYA Project: where the homeless feel at home

Projecto KAYA: onde os sem-tecto sentem-se em casa

This week we got to know the KAYA project, whose focus is to provide varied social assistance to people in need, in a cozy space in the city of Maputo. For now, the initiative stands out by providing free meals daily. The intention goes beyond this, as we envision a bright future where those deprived of basic humanitarian conditions can train themselves for the world.

We arrive at KAYA, ? which means "house" in some local languages, mainly in southern Mozambique ? through the streets of downtown Maputo. We are welcomed by Ruy Santos and three other collaborators, two men and a woman. They smile at us and kindly invite us to sit down, while they keep their focus on organizing the space to receive the project's main asset, the people.


We sit down. The chairs - the same ones where the beneficiaries are snuggled - are plastic, white like the tables, like the walls and like the ceiling of the large dining room. This one-color excess, or dominance of white, is really deliberate ?to inspire peace, comfort, and hygiene?

The time is not yet right for the meals to arrive at the tables, decorated with multicolored capulanas. So we take the time to chat with Ruy Santos, the patron of the initiative.

These are things that we only see in other countries. Never in my life could I have imagined that this could happen here in Mozambique. I am very happy?

He explains that ?KAYA ? Space for All ? is a response to the need to continue ?Sopa Solidária ? ? a free meal distribution project that came about in 2014, but suspended in 2019 due to movement restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sopa Solidária, a food bank focused on feeding children and the elderly, had at its core the purpose of responding to emergency needs and extreme need.

?our greatest experience was in the post-cyclone Idai period in the central zone, where we fed 13,000 people in camps set up by the National Institute for Disaster Management? recalls.

The negative impact of the pandemic revolutionized the initiative of providing meals to the needy. ?and, because we wanted to continue, we bet on having a space and that's where we implemented KAYA?, he reveals.

The space found was lent by the Maputo Port Development Society (MPDC). It was abandoned. In the winds of yesteryear it had been a brothel. Now it exhibits a simple and modest refinement and little by little gains more brightness.

The KAYA project, a upgrade of ?Sopa Solidária?, opened its doors three weeks ago and has already registered more than 600 people, serving more than 12 thousand meals, Ruy tells. The initiative, reveals the mentor, was conceived to serve as a multifaceted social integration space.

During the day it will function as a technical-vocational training space. We will have programming and robotics, a library, sewing courses and a psychosocial assistance office. We will also make available a shower room for people to perform all kinds of personal hygiene, including washing and drying clothes," he reveals.

For women who benefit, for example, from training in hairdressing services, they will be able to work in a space that already exists there - yet to be equipped - and earn their dividends. We want the people trained here to become progressively independent?

At the end of the day, we want KAYA to be a space where the country's institutions can develop their social responsibility projects".

There's more. Despite being small, the size of KAYA seems immeasurable, because it can still serve as a gallery for exhibition of works. And in this aspect, ?the idea is that there is synergy with the neighboring gallery of Portos de Maputo [MPDC]? to democratize access to arts and culture for the social group targeted by the project.

As the conversation with Ruy unfolds, we momentarily pay attention to the expressions of joy in the people who come here, possibly to have the only decent meal of the day.

This was the case of a 12 year old boy, who last year gave up studying in the eighth grade and crossed the border from Gaza to Maputo, in search of better conditions. He lives with his aunt in the neighborhood of Malhangalene, in Maputo city, and on his own initiative decided to sell boiled eggs.

It is a daily journey of uncertainty. Although he sells food to other people, he himself never knows when he will be able to fix his stomach in the more than 12 hours he whirls downtown with his bucket of eggs. He always depends on a few sales for money to eat at least one cookie. However, he is sure of the relief that comes to him every day, precisely at 6 pm when Ruy Santos starts to register people.

Among those we see taking their meals and mumbling words with laughter are children, young people, old people, and women who ?work? by day, others by night, by the imperatives of their own ?profession?

They refuse to reveal their feelings to us for the initiative, but we talk to a man who does not hesitate to show his satisfaction.

These are things that we only see in other countries. Never in my life could I have imagined that this could happen here in Mozambique. I am very happy," says Leonel Juma, a young man who, like the boy, left Gaza (Xai-xai) for Maputo in search of better living conditions.

In the morning I get almost nothing to eat, but when it is already night time I know I will have something warm to eat. In fact, what makes us come here is that idea of sacred food from home," she says, while eating the bread that accompanies the dish of the day, vegetable soup.

For more than a year in the capital, Juma was taken in by the streets ?because renting a house is expensive?, and the little money he manages to raise by washing cars or fixing parking lots, he sends to support his two daughters and wife in Gaza.

The negative impact of the pandemic revolutionized the initiative to provide meals to the needy

People looking for meals come here from various neighborhoods in the capital. And Ruy explains the importance of the daily registration process. In the process, one writes down the name, age and neighborhood they come from.

This will allow us to take an X-ray of the areas of greatest need in the city. In the past, volunteer activists sought out people to offer the services of the "Solidarity Soup Kitchen". But the registry that came with KAYA ?now allows us to know in which neighborhoods it makes sense to create, in a more structured way, another ?KAYA? space and prevent people, especially children and the elderly, from going far away to downtown?

Ruy Santos said that at the KAYA space you are served full meals, as if you were in a restaurant. It's not because we are serving a more needy fringe of society that we leave welfare aside. We try to give maximum comfort to these people?

Furthermore, ?we want KAYA to be, at the end of the day, a space where institutions in the country can develop their social responsibility projects. On the other hand, they can complement our training and infrastructural needs?

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