Let's make the world a better place to live in by looking with the heart!
Maja Sansović is a part time student of Cultural Management and the founder of the “Looking with the heart” (“Gledati srcem”) Association. She lives in Zagreb and at first glance doesn’t seem to differ from other people of her age. But, when you find out that every year she packs her suitcases and moves to Africa for a few months, it becomes clearer that her life story is a bit different. She founded the association which gathers people who look with the heart at those in need both in Croatia and Africa.
How and when did your story about the Association “Looking with the heart” begin?
I founded the association in 2010, although I had previous experience with volunteering in elementary and high school, when I volunteered in different associations, children’s homes, etc. All people who look with the heart – my family, friends and acquaintances have joined the association and work as volunteers. I don’t think of myself as the president of the association, but more as part of the team that tries to make someone’s day (or an hour or a moment) better, and help those who are in greater need than we are. The biggest reward for me is to bring a smile to someone’s face and tell them they are not alone and to receive a smile, a hug or a song accompanied by dance steps in return!
Unfortunately, our association is very busy nowadays. I say “unfortunately”, because if the economy were strong, we would probably only organize creative workshops with children. But instead, we have to take care of hungry people in Croatia and Africa.
What does your working week look like? How often do you travel?
I don’t regard it as a job, but as my life. Whether I travel to Tanzania or not ultimately depends on each project, its activities and realisation. I usually spend several months a year in Africa.
What does an average day in Magogo village look like? How do the people live?
In Magogo every day starts early in the morning with the holy mass and the organization of work in the mission. Afterwards I have my daily tasks regarding the kindergarten, school, food and water supply and I meet with the mothers of the Masai tribe to teach them about diseases such as malaria, typhus, AIDS, etc. Malaria can’t be cured with tree-bark teas, but with the medicine we provide in the mission or in the hospitals. Our school is a kindergarten and an elementary school at the same time. It opens at 8 AM and closes at 1 PM. The Africans have Swahili time, which means that 6 AM is 1AM, 7 AM is 2 AM, and so on. Children get up very early in the morning, since most of them have to walk several miles to school or kindergarten. Children and locals live without electricity or tap water in houses which are made of mud. Poverty, illnesses and misery are visible at every step. Children are not aware of material possessions and many of them have never seen a candy in their lives. When they get one, they think it’s the most valuable gift in the whole world.
Words can’t describe it. Our African teachers teach in the kindergarten and school according to the school programme prescribed by the Tanzanian Ministry. Besides learning Swahili and English, children also learn how to socialize. In Africa you do everything you know, and you learn very fast those things that you don’t know. You have to be creative and make a toy from nothing, organize time for fun and play or make a cake using just one egg or a meal for the children using just a bit of flour and sugar. I learned how to sew school uniforms, harvest rice, ride a tractor, take a blood sample… Each day is filled with activities and lasts for up to 24 hours. Taking care of children and working with them on a daily basis is a wonderful life experience.
How does the association help children? How can other people get involved and try to help?
With the help from all the people from Croatia who are looking with the heart, the association managed to build a school for 150 children of the Masai tribe in Magogo, Tanzania. We also built a house for the teachers who live and work there, as well as sanitary facilities. The school also provides one meal to children, and for most of them, it’s their only meal in a day. So, besides education, they also receive one meal. At the moment, we are drilling a 125 m deep borehole for a water-well. The people looked in amazement, thanked us, cried and laughed when we reached the water. But, the project hasn’t been completed and we still have a lot to do. We have to put up a pump, build a small house and a water-tower with a 5 to 10 thousand-litre tank. Can you imagine that their wish in the 21st century is to have access to fresh water? We want to grant them that wish! The priests in our mission help and serve the people in Africa every day – they provide food and medicines, build houses, cultivate fields and teach children. Even the smallest amount of financial aid can help – for example, a cure for malaria costs 5 kunas, and 700,000 people die in Africa every year because they cannot afford it! A pair of shoes costs 10 kunas, and most of our children have to walk barefoot on a hot African sand because they can’t buy them. Everyone who wants to donate and help our little African friends to make their lives better can find all the information on our web page www.gledati-srcem.hr.
Are Croatian people ready to help in these humanitarian actions?
Croatia and its people are looking with their hearts! Many people believed in us and in our project, and without them it wouldn’t have been possible to build and equip our school, cover scholarship expenses, buy school uniforms and clothes for our children… Croatian people helped us a lot in doing good deeds in Africa, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. Or, as Magogo children would put it: ASSANTE SANA Croatia (which means Thanks a lot, Croatia in Swahili)! “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” (a quote by Mother Teresa).
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
They say: “Man proposes, but God disposes”… My current plan is to graduate from university and return to Mother Africa. I will continue my humanitarian work despite the recession, world crisis, illnesses and risks, no matter where I end up. There is no better feeling than seeing a happy child, and these children are joyful and with smiles on their faces. Let’s make the world a better place to live in by looking with the heart!