Domingos Arota Jala
Living with the scars of war and polio
Being born into material poverty is indeed a grave misfortune – a misfortune that, alas, many people around the world share. But Domingos Jala Arota, born on September 11, 1980 in Luabo, District of Chinde, Zambesi Province, Mozambique, was not just born poor – he lived most of his early life struggling in a country rife with civil war, and battling against the physical limitations of suffering from polio – a disease he contracted during his infancy.Domingos was only four months old when he fell ill, suffering from intense headaches and immobility on his right leg. And since his parents had limited knowledge of modern medicine, they had a few consultations mostly involving traditional treatments, which yielded nothing in the end. Where they were living and effects of war also made proper medical care limited. It was only years later, a little too late, that Domingos himself found out that he had polio.With the intensity of the ongoing civil war, his parents had no choice but to stop all treatment. In 1985, when Domingos was just five years old, his village was occupied, so the family found refuge in the Chinde District where he stayed for five years. The war brought with it serious consequences, one of which was Domingos’ late entry into school.Finally, in 1990, at the age of ten, he managed to leave the village and go to Beira to follow his elder brother who had been demobilized from military life. However, his brother, along with other demobilized colleagues, set up a gang and began stealing cattle in Manica – a new “lifestyle” which eventually led to Domingos’ brother’s death.In 1995, Domingos, hopeless and with no one to help him, without a job and no schooling, fled to ASEM for help. He was accepted at the Center together with another group of kids.
Domingos was integrated and got all the necessary support: education, psychological support and, most importantly, a home where he felt loved.
By 1997, he was reintegrated into his family in Luabo. However, in 1998, he came back to Beira looking for a job since the conditions in his village were extremely difficult, and the prospects of him making a proper living were slim. He also wanted to continue with his secondary schooling, which was non-existent back home.
To study, one had to walk 20 kilometers back and forth every day, which was a long distance, and was not at all possible due to his handicap. Considering the circumstances, ASEM, of course, received him despite his age. Back in ASEM, Domingos was again given a place to live and the support he needed to complete his secondary studies.
Domingos also began working at the Macurungo Center. Since then, he has held various positions at ASEM – from being an educator to being responsible for the Center, to being the secretary of the school and responsible for the school administration. Today, Domingos continues to play an active part as one of ASEM’s staff members.
He has also since moved on with his life and is happy to have been instrumental in helping other kids get the opportunities he had once received at ASEM.
Today, Domingos has his own family and is the proud father of four children, all undergoing schooling. He is happy to be able to give a life of dignity to his children and his family – a life that he had only dreamed of once as he struggled to live with the ravages of the longstanding civil war, and his lifelong disability.