GUINEA-BISSAU – August 26 2021 A long journey ahead Text and photo by Elca Cardoso Pereira 17-year-old Bufetar dreams of earning a scholarship to study medicine. He wants to become a doctor to bring a positive change to his community. At 17, Bufetar* knows that he has a long journey ahead of him to achieve success—his dream is to earn a scholarship to study medicine in Portugal. He wants to become a doctor, as he excels in biology and chemistry and because he wants to make a change that is needed in his community. “I’m not happy with the health system in Guinea-Bissau. Many young people die from a lack of oxygen while being hospitalized, young doctors are not properly trained and clinics are not as equipped as they should be. I wish fresh graduates could have more effective training and employment opportunities. Many graduates are sitting at home not doing anything and simply end up becoming burdens to their families,” he says. “There are no jobs for us. I know a few people that have graduated from high school or university, and they are at home with no jobs. There are few opportunities for us and yet there is so much that needs to be done. I believe many of the young people here have what it takes to help. We need the opportunity to improve ourselves and grow academically and professionally in order to do something fruitful with our lives.” A majority of Bufetar’s older friends who have already graduated are still unemployed today. Many try to make a living through precarious jobs working as occasional bricklayers or carpenters. Normally, Bufetar tries to balance his studies by working as a secretary for one of the credit savings groups. However, now that his school has been on strike for two months, he decided to start his own business. Thanks to his savings, he managed to travel to Bissau for the first time, where a friend lent him a motor pump he can use to wash cars, bikes or motorcycles. This extra money goes into his savings and allows him to help his mother, Segunda. Segunda frequents the literacy classes and the credit savings group set up by the SOS Children's Villages family strengthening program in Canchungo. She had never been to school before or had an active role leading the household. Her husband has grown old and become visually impaired; he can’t do much for the family of eleven. “This program has taught me how to spell, how to write my name and how to earn and save money. I feel more empowered and confident. I know that I can serve as an example for my daughters. I encourage them to study, to work and become independent so that they can provide for their children and not rely on their husbands for a living," Segunda says. Segunda encourages Bufetar to work hard and not give up on his dream of becoming a doctor. She commends his determination. "Field workers are always talking to him. They maintain a close relationship and always give him advice on his future. He looks up to them and stays focused." *Name changed to protect the child’s privacy.