The people of Sal Island

Sometimes the nicest people in the world don’t appear to have anything and sometimes the often deserving people don’t ask for anything for nothing. These people are willing to work day and night for a pittance and then come home to a shell in which all they have is family; in fact their family is their home. No luxuries, no fresh water, very little food, rags of clothes and no education. Yet, these people are still happy and kind and are driven to help others. Although we could all learn something from these people, in this day and age there is no reason for these conditions to exist. This is certainly the case in Cabo Verde, where the journey of Counting Hope starts!

We are aiming to give the people of Cabo verde the tools and knowledge that they need to become empowered and self-sufficient.

Map of Cabo VerdeCabo Verde is a group of 10 islands situated 570 km off the west coast of Africa, and of course Sal Island is one of those islands. The islands where uninhabited until the 15th century when they were discovered and colonised by Portuguese explorers. Before we continue, just to clear up some confusion – you’ve probably seen Sal Island listed in a holiday brochure as Cape Verde. That’s correct, however it’s an English term. In Portuguese, their official language, the archipelago translates as Cabo Verde and in 2013 the government decided that Cabo Verde should be used for official purposes. Counting Hope wants to respect Cabo Verde and also enable the people of Sal Island to be successful without the need to learn another language. On that note, we’d like to translate this website into Portuguese so if you can help us please do get in touch!

A little history

When the Portuguese colonised Cabo Verde back in the 15th century it was in the perfect place to be a trade centre for African salves, and so that’s what it became. It’s ports where very active and the islands grew prosperous, however as slavery died out and ultimately came to an end Cabo Verde suffered from an economic decline and many Cape Verdean men fled to work on American whaling ships in order to escape poverty and hunger. Slowly Cabo Verde also found a new purpose as an important stopover for shipping routes and commercial centre, however many of the ports are now disused and in a state of disrepair, particularly on Sal Island.

Cabo Verde also has a history of long drought periods, with one lasting as long as 16 years, which have caused significant hardship and driven the majority of the population away, and as a result Cape Verde’s expatriate population is greater than it domestic one.

In 1975, Cabo Verde peacefully achieved independence and since then has remained one of Africa’s most stable democratic government with presidents being elected for a five-year term by popular vote. Efforts have been made by the people of Sal, and other islands, since gaining independence to trigger economic growth and become successful as a nation but unfortunately little has been achieved.

What’s going on now?

Cabo Verde is currently service orientated and its source of income is almost entirely tourism and foreign exchange due to there being no natural resources to speak of. Most things are imported.

There are multiple charities and co-operatives that have been set up by the people of Sal Island to try to improve the situation, most of which focus on education. They clearly have been the right intentions but they have been unable to make an impact because they don’t have to knowledge or resources to do so.

Although Cabo Verde has the second best education system in Africa, education is only free and compulsory between the ages of six and 14. Even then materials, school materials, books and even teachers are hard to come by. Furthermore, a large proportion of the older generation cannot read or write.

About 75% of food is imported and there is a shortage of fresh water.