Photo Credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo
"I was born in Mozambique and I have lived in Portugal for many years now. I first came on holiday in 2000 and did not want to go back to Mozambique. My parents ended up accepting my choice, so I stayed here with my grandparents. I lived without a residence permit for 11 years because there was no agreement regarding my custody and I only became documented in 2011. Despite that I always lived a normal life, but I could not travel so I spent 13 years without seeing my parents. Being undocumented also limited my life compared to my friends. I always felt that this conditioned my childhood — I always wanted to travel but could not.
Nowadays, I feel divided because I have been in Portugal for a long time but I would like to work in Mozambique one day. I have had many opportunities here and maybe this is why I would like to create opportunities for others in Mozambique. I dream of being a diplomat or an education minister. I still have not finished my Bachelor’s degree in social work yet, but I am already thinking about my Masters. It is not easy to choose.
Today I recognize how lucky I am to be living in Lisbon, because it is hard to have difficult days here. Every day is beautiful in the city of light. Yet, my childhood was difficult. When I arrived in Portugal I had an accent and the other children would laugh at me. Many of my friends came from the ghetto and thought I must have come from there too because I was African. They would automatically label me, but because I would not go along with what they did, they used to say that I was posh or white. It was difficult for me to forge my identity because I did not fit into society's boxes. Nowadays there are more outlets for me to express myself and I feel that people do not need to categorize others as much.
I took jazz classes growing and I fell in love with music and singing. Since then I have been singing jazz and soul in bars. I love soul music, but the audience for it is still small in Portugal. I like to try different things, so at the moment I am working on a musical. Besides music, I enjoy volunteering and travelling. Although people find it weird that I volunteer – maybe because I'm African – this experience has been very helpful in my life. It was after volunteering in Indonesia that I understood that I wanted to study social work. My most recent experience was in Greece; I volunteered two months in a refugee camp in Athens. It is wonderful to be able to get to know other realities through people. The Ubuntu philosophy also taught me that I am because you are, and it is the only way that we can totally accept everyone.
For the moment I want to stay in Lisbon and make the most of the opportunities that come along. Lisbon is increasingly more diverse and that is wonderful."