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Dimix Mission – a bridge between Lisbon and São Tomé

“I wasn’t looking for anything,” says Sónia Pessoa. And found everything. The Dimix Mission was born in a trip to São Tomé e Príncipe, in 2015, to carry out an old dream: having a birthday in the heat. She was surrendered to the sympathy of the people and she found Dinix, one of the many children that live on the island. Sónia immediately knew that she wanted to do something useful, but didn’t know what. “Faced with so much poverty, I was ashamed to go back again just as a tourists,” says.

Two years later, the Dimix Mission celebrates its first anniversary with activities with the 50 children of Arcar, the institution with which she works. Above all, Sónia Pessoa realized the dream of having Christmas with “her” boys and celebrate with them the newly acquired seal of Non-Governmental Organization for Development. It was a necessary step (and fundamental one) to make even more and better.

Dinix, The Little Prince

This first year of existence of the Dimix Mission has been a constant set of plans and expectations. Everything is happening, but rarely as and when expected, in a process of trial and error. In the background, this is the essence of the project, beginning with the name. Dimix was how the memory of Sónia kept the name of a boy who met on the beach during the first trip. In reality, it was Dinix and during the following days he became a kind of guide. In the few conversations we have had, he spoke to her of the habits and life of children of São Tomé. “I was very curious to meet his school and maybe this seed stood and bore fruit, at the time that I’ve been doing research on how to help those children,” he explains.

Already in Lisbon, Sónia found in her searches Mrs. Balbina and Arcar São Tomé – Association for the Reintegration of Abandoned Children or at Risk. She fell in love by the way she spoke of the children in their care and everything began with conversations via e-mail and chat to realize what he was missing in day-to-day: books, school supplies, and clothing. Thus was born the idea of Backpacking Friend.

The first was a small backpack carried to São Tomé by a hostess of TAP, a friend of a friend. Today, the initiative is monthly and passes through the sending of multiple and bulky boxes filled with these goods donated by the network of friends of the Mission.

For this to be possible, the Dimix Account has the precious help of three carriers: one that takes the goods from Lisbon to Fátima (Transport Antunes Figueiras S. A.) another from Fátima to Maia (transport and Rabbit Mariano S.A) and finally the third which makes them arrive by sea from Maia to São Tomé (Neivagest, the first company who joined the mission). Hand in hand, friend to friend, as everything we have done so far.

When she returned to São Tomé in 2016, Sónia had two objectives: to meet Mrs. Balbina and Arcar in person, and rediscover Dinix to thank him for the inspiration by offering him a copy The Little Pince, a book that is implicity in Dimix Mission. “It has to do with an idea of a happy childhood, but it was also a work which accompanied a few years of my life. Since this is a book special for me, one of the moments that I was more anxious about in the second trip was to give him a copy with an inscription”, she says.

This reunion was brief, but was only possible from mouth to mouth and friend to friend, with the people of São Tomé, to get the message out to the father of Dinix, already living in another island. A bit without realizing what was happening, but happy with the memories and the warmth, Dinix had a desire – to come to Lisbon. Given the impossibility of achieving this, Sónia has done what was within reach: she put Mrs. Balbina into action so that the child could return to school. Nowadays, it is one of the many students in internal regime at Arcar (there are many others in a day-night school).

Offering dreams

The main objective of the Dimix Mission was always the promotion of additional educational activities. Basically put into practice an old idea of Sónia Pessoa: to join the many talented friends who have and lead them to do what they like with children at risk of social exclusion. Show them examples of areas such as the visual arts, sport, science, theater, among others, so that they can expand their personal and professional horizons. In the case of São Tomé, more than wanting to leave the island, the idea is to inspire them to develop new professions locally, thus helping the growth of the country.

The first workshops should have happened in June of this year, but once again it was necessary to adjust the plans. The funds were raised in October with the auction of the Dimix Mission It was the first of several initiatives that they seek to promote in Lisbon to finance the activities to be implemented in São Tomé and to remedy some of the basic needs of Arcar. 35 artists have donated works that were sold with the support of the Tara Gallery. The money from the auction was used to buy the travel of the first team of Dimix to go to São Tomé: Joana Tomás and Ana Teresa Magalhães. The journey of Sónia Pessoa, who is also part of this team, was already conceived as a personal goal since the beginning of 2017. She didn’t want to be a “burden” the mission. It was a birthday present in advance paid from their own pockets and fruit of their professional activity as make-up artist.

Joana is supporting the workshops, but above all, is documenting the trip. With the new seal of Non-Governmental Organization for Development, doors are being opened to establish partnerships. To achieve them it is necessary to show that the Dimix Mission has serious goals being achieved on the ground. Ana Teresa Magalhães, who often works with children in activities at Culturgest and Andaime, will develop various workshops within the respect for the environment and the arts and craft. As for Sónia, in addition to the daily work with children, she will make two activities: a knitting class (using the talent that puts on Ursotigre) and another of calligraphy. “I know that it is only calligraphy, but the dream is to give them the idea that reading and writing can be fun. They can write letters to friends, postcards. Writing does not have to be boring. It can be a form of expression,” explains Sónia.

In the end, there is a camp in which children will share and put into practice what they have learned in the activities. In standby, waiting for the results of a Fundraising, is a paint shop and urban rehabilitation allied to technology and to photography monitored by Tiago Salgado. If it isn’t done now, it will not be forgotten though. It is only a further readjustment.

The idea here is that the workshops of the Dimix Mission are present in Arcar two weeks per year – one in June, contemplating the Children’s Day (that is effusively celebrated in São Tomé) and another at Christmas. Many of the children  remain in Arcar at this time and there is a huge desire to provide them with a Christmas that makes them forget that they are far from the family; a Christmas that gives them the chance to exchange stories with friends who have managed to go home.

In the medium and long term, one of the goals of the Dimix Mission is also working with the parents of these children. In a society like the one of São Tomé and Príncipe it is impossible to fulfill the mission of helping the youngest without including the eldest. If there is one thing that Sónia Pessoa does not lack is ideas and the willingness to put them into practice. The possibilities are almost as endless as a smile in her face when talking about the Dimix Mission.

By the end of December you may read the diaries of the Dimix Mission here.

More information about the project here.

Collaborator of the Umbigo since 2000 and… The relationship has survived several absences and delays. She graduated in Fashion Design, but the images only make her sense if they are sewn with words. She does production so as not to rustle the facet of control freak, dance as a form of breathing and watch horror movies to never lose sight of their demons. Whenever you ask for a biography, say a few profanities and then remember this poem of Al Berto, without ever being sure if you really put it into practice or if it is an eternal purpose of life: "But I like the night and the laughter of ashes, I like the desert, and the chance of life, I like the mistakes, the luck and the unexpected encounters. Almost always on the sacred side of my heart, or where fear has the precariousness of another body"

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