Faces of Hope: Fulgencia in Mozambique

Education Emergency Response Mozambique Faces of Hope
WFP/Guido Dingemans
Fulgencia Alexandre Chongo.

Meet Fulgencia, a 5th grader at the Chinhancane Primary School in Mozambique. I met her one morning this spring as she made her way to school. In the picture above, she holds her school notebooks—lessons in Portuguese, math, and natural sciences—along with a bright green bowl.

Follow Fulgencia on her journey from home to school—where she eats her first meal of the day. Along the way, learn how a devastating drought last year threatened families like hers— and how school meals from the World Food Programme (WFP) helped hundreds of students like Fulgencia return to the classroom after hunger and poverty pulled them out.

Most mornings, Fulgencia does chores while her relatives tend their small plots of farmland. She fetches water, washes plates and kitchen utensils, and tidies the house. She also mills corn into flour with her younger sister. Her aunt and uncle take care of her because her father passed away and her mother went to South Africa to search for work — the drought meant the family had no food to harvest or sell.

Hours before Fulgencia does her chores, a group of volunteer cooks arrive between 6:30 and 7 in the morning to start preparing lunches for the school’s more than 360 students. With food from the World Food Programme, made possible by the support of people like you, they measure the ingredients to prepare a large vat of chickpeas and seven smaller pots of ‘shima’—a thick cornmeal porridge served with fortified beans and vegetables. WFP provides the cornmeal, beans, oil and salt, all fortified to prevent nutritional deficiencies. “I became a cook because it’s like cooking for my own children,” says Gloria Milhone Ngovene, who has worked at the school for eight years. “It’s like taking care of my own children at home. There’s no difference.”

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WFP/Guido Dingemans

In Mozambique, more than 50 percent of children in elementary school do not graduate. As the drought worsened across the country, tens of thousands of children stopped coming to school. Teachers like Linda Paulo Mondlane, who taught Fulgencia when she was in the 3rd grade, started wondering why the students were no longer attending class. “They couldn’t come because they were hungry,” says Linda, whose class attendance dropped by almost half. “It truly was a moment of crisis. There was nothing to eat. Not in the farm. Nowhere. Everything was dry. The green had disappeared. All of it was sand-colored, brownish.”

At the height of the drought, Fulgencia told me she ate only once or twice a week. Her aunt recalled sometimes spending almost a week without food. Thanks to WFP and people like you, Fulgencia can rely on lunch in the classroom. Each meal costs just 25 cents.

Continue reading Fulgencia’s story and sign up below to receive updates about how you can be a part of the lifesaving and life-changing work of the World Food Programme. 

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Before students like Fulgencia receive their school meals, they line up to wash their hands with soap and water. One of the most widespread and hidden causes of child malnutrition is poor hygiene and resulting illnesses and infections, which prevent the body from properly absorbing nutrients. Because Fulgencia is one of the older students at school, her cohort is one of the last ones to line up for a school lunch—all set in motion by the sound of a loud, clanging bell.

In January 2017, after years of limited to no rainfall, the rains returned to the community of Chinhancane. Members of the community enjoyed the fruits of their green harvest, including corn, cassava, onions, cabbages, tomatoes, and other vegetables. They often brought some items from this harvest to school to enrich the school lunches with even more nutritious food.

Fulgencia’s aunt says Fulgencia is hard-working and likes to go to school. “I feel good because I knew Fulgencia would eat at school,” she says. “And when she comes home, she would be OK and play without problems. The food is helping because they have the food everyday and Fulgencia feels healthy. Because of that she learns freely without the troubles of hunger.”

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WFP/Guido Dingemans

When Fulgencia eats her school lunch, she feels strong. Well-fed. Satisfied. She loves math and learning Portuguese. Though it has been a few years since she taught Fulgencia, Linda remembers her as quiet and bright. “She is a little bit timid,” Linda says. “She doesn’t talk a lot. She is often silent. But when she is asked to respond to something, she answers. She is strong, she doesn’t miss stuff at school, and she doesn’t miss class. She picks up things easily, she knows how to learn, and she was built to learn. She will become a strong woman. Her future is bright if she applies herself.”

WFP’s emergency school meals programs started in August 2016 after a humanitarian emergency was declared to help children and families impacted by the drought. Since then, close to 100,000 students have received school meals in 365 schools across the country, including Chinhancane. The result? More than half of the children forced by drought-induced hunger and poverty to drop out of elementary school returned to the classroom. At Chinhancane Primary School, enrollment increased 20 percent. “It was very emotional when my students came back,” Linda recalled when children in the community learned about the promise of a nutritious, reliable meal in the classroom. “The introduction of this program was incredible. It was a moment of happiness.”

“I like what the professors teach me,” Fulgencia says. “My hope is to do the same: to teach other children what I am learning now. That’s why I want to be a teacher when I grow up.” Chinhancane has big dreams for its students, now that they are back in school. “Education is important for these kids because it is with this foundation that they will become presidents, teachers, doctors, many things —only with education will they be able to do this,” Linda says.


Every day 60 million school children go hungry. Your support helps WFP provide nutritious school meals to children in need. By removing hunger as a barrier to education, these meals help students concentrate and succeed in the classroom.

Watch the video below to see me in front of Fulgencia’s school talking about the power of school meals to fuel a child’s dreams.

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