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Notes from the Field: Mozambique
Aug 23, 2012

A small team from ChildFund Ireland is currently in Mozambique on a two week visit.  Jean McGrath who is Programme and Grants Officer is involved in planning and monitoring, working primarily with the ChildFund team, partner association and the communities in Gondola district where ChildFund is implementing a four year programme to help parents care for and protect their young children.  Melissa Bonotto is accompanying Jean but she is there to learn more about the lives and circumstances of the people ChildFund is working with and to share that information with people in Ireland through our recently initiated development education programme.

Melissa is a Brazilian and Italian citizen who grew up in Brazil. As well as being a primary teacher, she is a public relations officer, has a master’s degree in Development Studies and has worked with underprivileged children and with community projects in the urban and rural areas in Brazil. Melissa is going to share stories and thoughts while in Mozambique.

“I got the opportunity to do an internship in ChildFund Ireland and work in the public engagement campaign. I could not believe I have the chance to put my hands on this project and bring this experience back to share with others. I’m traveling with my colleague Jean.

“From all that I have seen, I personally and truly believe that giving education to children is the only way to empower them for life! It feels great seeing ChildFund work in the field.

“I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with you.  Above all, to try to share images and stories that are not stereotyping Africa.”

This report* is being added to day by day so if you want to start at the beginning, please go to the first item at the bottom of the page – First Impressions – 23rd August.

*Please note that the opinions are those of the author and may not reflect ChildFund’s policies or practices.

The Launch of CCCP  – 29 August

Tuesday 28th August was a day of celebrations in the district of Gondola, Manica Province, Mozambique when the “CCCP – Communities Caring for Children Programme” was officially launched.  Representatives of the District Authorities, members of ChildFund’s partner, KureraWana Association and community leaders participated in the launch together with ChildFund. The official ceremony was opened by the President of the Municipal Council and the representative of the Provincial Government. ChildFund Mozambique’s Programme Director Alfredo Chimusso then gave a presentation about the CCCP.  He highlighted the focus on early childhood development and spoke about the critical situation in Mozambique for this age group: “of the 4.5 million children age 0 to 5 only 4% go to early childhood centres”.

The presentation was followed by a rich debate. The president of the Municipality Council, Mr. Eduardo Giuro, highlighted that ECD is an important area and cannot be carried only by NGOs and communities. Mr. Francisco, Communications and Transport Director of Manica Provice, also spoke about the importance of government acting together with local communities. Sra Teresa, representing the Ministry of Education referred to the importance of including the different aspects of ECD and commented that strategies and policies have been developed to guide ECD work nationally. The representative of district level expressed the hope that “the programme may grow and expand to other places in the district”.

Mr. Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund’s Africa Region Director, raised the question about how communities will be identified to receive an ECD centre and Jean McGrath, ChildFund Ireland Programme and Grants Officer expressed gratitude to Irish Aid for their partnership and their continued support over the years. Mozambique is one of Irish Aid’s priority countries with key focus areas of health, education, and HIV&AIDS. She finished saying that “this is not our programme, but this programme belongs to all the stakeholders here today and the communities in which the programme aims to serve. It is only by having all stakeholders actively working together, can we create a long-term, community-based sustainable programme that will continue long after this specific programme is completed.  It is therefore with you that the recipe for success lies.” Finally, many interesting contributions related to the selection and training of facilitators for the centres, the amount of time the children will spend in the ECD centre and the sustainability of the centres.

The formalities continued with the participants moving to Mazicuera village in order to lay the first stone at the construction site of the new ECD centre and to witness the songs and traditional ceremony which were held to bless the programme. The Department of Civil Registration presented some birth certificates exemplifying one of the activities planned in the programme.

From Mazicuera the group moved to Mussesua Primary School where three new classrooms, funded by ChildFund Korea, were officially handed over to the President of the Municipality Council and the school was inaugurated. Hundreds of children and members of local community sang loudly greeting the visitors and celebrating the new structure.

ChildFund Ireland is working to empower community groups – 27 August

The development field is aware of the importance of building capacity and empowering local communities. It is clear that through empowered communities, aid can be used wisely and can multiply its effects, benefiting communities as a whole. ChildFund Ireland is working as a partner of ChildFund Mozambique in the district of Gondola launching a new programme: “CCCP – Communities Caring for Children Programme.” Although the launch takes place this Tuesday, programme planning and some activities have been happening since February.

ChildFund supports the local KureraWana Association and partners with them on a range of activities in the community. The CCCP Coordinator, Alberto Domingos, says that when they start to talk about the “VS&L” groups, “the community became so excited that they could not wait”. They started implementing the VS&L activities earlier than planned to attend to the communities’ interests

“VS&L” means “Village Savings and Loans” and these groups aim at supporting families and individuals to facilitate economic growth and at empowering them and their communities. The VS&L groups will also be encouraged to invest some of their savings into early childhood development, which is the main focus of the CCCP.

The group follows a specific methodology and have a minimum of 15 people and a maximum of 25. The group comprises a president; a secretary; two money counters (cashiers); a money-box guard; three separate key guards; along with other members. They have weekly meetings. They can save every week but can only borrow money in the last meeting of the month. The group has a statute which states clearly all the rules and penalties. All of them contribute weekly to the Social Fund, which money can be donated to a member in case of sickness or other similar issues.

Visiting Gondola district in Mozambique we had the opportunity to attend to meetings of “VS&L” groups. It was a financial management lecture! It is great to see members of the group getting into the idea of saving together and visualising a brighter future. They start the meeting singing about the importance of saving and the possibility of having access to credit. The president of one of the groups, Aida, age 23, welcomed everyone and started the meeting. Each member says loudly one of the statute rules in order to make sure everyone is aware of the group procedures.

Each member first contributes, one by one, 5 meticais (local currency) for the Social Fund. They have established an amount of money for one share and each person is identified by a number. While the secretary keeps a record written down about each member, they say out loudly their number and the number of shares they want to save. It goes from one to five shares and those ones who save 5 shares received an enthusiastic clap from the group. In this group, a share represents 20 meticais (roughly less than one American dollar).

The money counters count loudly each contribution. At the end of the month they can borrow up to three times the amount they have saved. They have until 3 months to pay back the loan and they pay 10% interest. According to Jean, ChildFund Ireland programme and grants officer, “these groups have being targeted for business management training during the programme, so that their loans are managed appropriately and used for viable businesses.”

Visiting an early childhood community centre – 26 August

Machava (age 32) has been working with children for 10 years. He started under a tree close to his house. ChildFund Mozambique built a resource centre close by in 2009 and he had the chance to use it for his daily facilitation meeting with pupils. Machava is a community leader in his village. He also teaches adult education and is a student himself. He had to stop his studies during the Mozambican civil war but he is delighted to tell us that he managed to go back to school. He is going to the final year in secondary school next year.

As part of the “CCCP – Communities Caring for Children Programme” being implemented by ChildFund Ireland and ChildFund Mozambique, this resource centre has been adapted to become an early childhood development centre. Flush toilets and basins with running water have been installed at children’s level and the centre has been made more child-friendly. Zaza, a local talented artist is responsible for the colourful and animated pictures on the walls indicating that there are children around. A small playground and training for the facilitators are also planned.

Machava remembers the time he didn’t have any of this. “Children used to sit on the ground. We didn’t have a blackboard or chalk. Also, they were exposed to bad people. Now they are safe and secure in the centre.” 85 children are currently enrolled: 50 girls and 35 boys from three to six years old. He teaches subjects such as Portuguese and maths but he confirms that children´s favourite activities are dancing and singing.

Children stay in the resource centre from 10:30 to 12:30. Parents who can afford it make a monthly contribution of 10 meticais (less than 35c) but he does not ask orphans to pay. Those who are enrolled in ChildFund’s sponsorship programme received a school bag containing a notebook, 2 pencils and a sharpener.

When we went to the centre, we brought some toys, games, books and activities to share with the children. We had the chance to tell a story and listened to stories told by the children. Maria, a child enrolled in the sponsorship programme told a story about “a boy who was friend with a monkey. One day the boy said he wanted to steal something but the monkey said he should not do it because it was not nice!”  We watch them singing and dancing enthusiastically and animatedly. We confirmed that was absolutely true what Machava said: they love it! Children were fascinated with bubbles, Irish stickers and pop-up books.

In addition to this centre, another 4 ECD centres are planned in Gondola before 2015, funded by ChildFund and Irish Aid.

A visit to a potential partner – 25 August

ChildFund Ireland is currently partnering with ChildFund Mozambique in Gondola district, Manica province. ChildFund Ireland and ChildFund Mozambique have also previously worked together in Zavala district. At the moment, ChildFund Mozambique is planning to expand its area of work and is thinking about the possibility of a new programme in Maputo. In order to have a better understanding of what the work will involve in the capital, we went to visit a potential partner association.

“Dona Olinda” has a powerful personal story and is an extraordinarily empowered woman. She is from Gaza in Mozambique and grew up facing extreme poverty. Her parents had 10 children and it was enormously difficult for them to provide the basic needs for their children. Olinda liked to study and realized that only through education would she be able to achieve something in her life. When it became clear she would have to leave school because her parents couldn’t pay the costs any longer, one of her teachers offered to help her. Her parents accepted this help because they want the best for her.  She went on to attend a secondary school run by a religious order and later qualified as a nurse. When working in the public hospital, the Ministry of Health in Mozambique recognized her talent and offered her a chance to study abroad. She went to London and specialized in public health and paediatrics.

When she went back to Mozambique, she felt strongly that she needed to do something to help the most vulnerable children. She contacted her old school friends and they created “Reencontro” (re union). This association has been working for 10 years and assists 7,000 children in Maputo and Gaza, including orphans and vulnerable children. They provide home based health care and education, advice to families and offer a range of workshops for children after school. They have nurses and community activists. The activists are the “eyes, ears and legs of the association”, visiting every house in the selected suburbs and identifying the family’s needs.  The nurses follow up with specific cases and also refer people to the appropriate services (hospitals, treatments, etc).   The association has a management team, a board and sub-committees that together run the organization.

In regions where people are living below the poverty line, with high rates of HIV&AIDS, unemployment, illiteracy and malnutrition you can imagine how fundamental their work is. We visited one of the families that they assist and even though it is hard to describe the complex reality, we hope this account will give you an idea of what they experience every day.

The family, a couple and 3 children, is affected by HIV&AIDS. Both parents are very ill. The oldest child, Amelia, is 13 years old and is in first class in school. Habibo, a 5 year old boy, is not in school yet. We didn’t meet Patricio who was attending the “machamba” while his mother came to talk with us.   The machamba is a small piece of land where they can cultivate vegetables. They usually use other people’s land that hasn’t been used or they work on somebody else’s “machamba”. This subsistence agriculture provides some food for the family.

The first thing the father said when we met was: “I am sick. I need help to give the best for my children. I’m happy with any help”. He explained that he was critically ill and had been bedridden for a long time when a community activist from “Reencontro” first visited the house. They quickly provided some nursing care and got help from another NGO, Doctors Without Borders.  He recognises the significant difference in his family since they first met the association. His wife has also been critically ill and the nurses and community activists were able to link her to services so she could access adequate treatment and as Felismina, one of the association founding members, said “we thought she wouldn’t survive. But we helped her come back to life and now she can even do some work in the machamba”.

Amelia invited us to visit her house which is less than 10 square metres in total. It has one small double bed. They have no access to electricity, clean water or sanitation. Schools are far way and don’t have any vacancies. The little girl, whose nickname is “Bea” offered kindly us all that she has: her welcome and her smile.  Taking photographs in the house seemed like an intrusion. Absolute poverty can be very difficult to face.

Instead our photo captured the whole family in the shade of a tree that gave all of us some respite and served as our host during our visit.  There are also photos of Habibo and Bea playing with an incredible car that they made.  You have to have hope. Instead of showing photos of that little girl’s desperate living conditions, we can promote support for organizations such as “Reencontro” and ChildFund and the changes they are making in these people’s lives.  We can also advocate for the development community and governments to do the best they can to eradicate poverty around the world.

Interviews with some ChildFund Mozambique staff – 24 August

Arsenio, a Mozambican from Maputo who works with the sponsor relations team, told me about the huge influence that globalization brought to Mozambique, especially Maputo. I complained that has been difficulty to find a typical dish such as Xima or Matapa and he explained that the city is anxious to treat tourists well… so restaurants prefer to offer international food to make tourists happy!   He suggested that Brazil has an impressive influence in Mozambique; initially it can be seen in the television and then in the music. They all watch Brazilian channels and dance to Brazilian hits. After Brazilian music, American music is influential.

Both Arsenio and David Raul, the Sponsor Relations Manager, highlight that we have to understand the phases that the country has been through: before independence, during war and after war. The war left consequences and limited so many things in the country. They believe the country is facing a period of transition and they can see some changes for better.

Maria, the receptionist and secretary says that “one of the things that make me be proud of be a Mozambican is to live in a democratic country, have freedom to express what we think. I was born in the war and grew up during this period. I hope for a Mozambique developed and living in peace”

Alberto, the finance manager, has been working for ChildFund Mozambique for 6 years. He says that the work that ChildFund does is very impressive. ChildFund has long experience working with deprived children and it is fundamental for Mozambique which has such high rates of poverty.

Maria and Alberto affirmed that what they like mostly in the country are the people. They say that Mozambicans are friendly and lovely. Maria also suggests that the country has beautiful places to visit and that the traditional food is delicious. They invite Irish people to come and visit Mozambique. Maria guarantees that you won’t be disappointed!

Davi Raul thanks very much the 120 Irish Sponsors in Mozambique. He follows up the changes in children´s life that the sponsorship has been making. He is delighted as a Mozambican citizen that the children in his own country are having some support.

One thing that upsets Maria is the fact that the government is not really doing enough for its own people. The government designs programs for foreign investors but offers very little for the ones that need the most. She thinks Europeans are very generous because they have been helping Africans for so long.

Well, I still haven’t found matapa to try. A lovely old staff in the hotel, Sr. Domingos, has invited me to go to his house to try it. He said he would ask his wife to prepare it for me… the good thing about eating matapa is spending time with friends because it takes long to prepare and cook. That is just to say that Maria is very right in saying that Mozambicans are friendly!

First Impressions from Maputo – 23 August 2012

We had a long flight to get in Maputo, Mozambique. Dublin to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Johnnesburg and then to Maputo.

We didn’t need to get out of the airport to realize the lovely sunny Sunday! We also didn’t have to answer any question in the immigration… It didn’t seem to be important “why we are here?” “what did we come to do?” No… the only question we need to answer was: “which currency are you paying your visa?”!!!

As soon we got out of the airport the heat welcomed us! We have been hearing from everyone that is winter in Mozambique now and that is why the temperature is only around 25 degrees. The guy who brought us to the hotel said that “God was good (not sure if he said fair or clever) in creating the world as it is. At least, we (Africans) have the hot weather. Imagine if we had the cold… people would die straight away.” He also said that life is hard in Mozambique but they get used to it!

I have to say that the feeling of being in a Portuguese speaker country – my mother language – is very good! Being able to communicate with everyone makes things much easier when you are abroad.

Like Brazil, Mozambique was colonized by Portugal.  Brazil was ruled by Portugal for three centuries and Mozambique for nearly five centuries. Mozambique won independence only in 1975. After that, the country faced an intense civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. Also, it has a tropical climate that can produce heavy flooding along the rivers what had affected the country few times. As we can see at the quick facts in ChildFund Ireland website,  Mozambique ranks among the world’s 20 poorest countries, ranking 175 out of 179 countries on the 2010 Human Development Index. In Mozambique, about half of the adult population lives in poverty and 58% of children living below the poverty line.

Facing all of that, I came to Maputo knowing that I would face challenge situations. The thing is that inequality in Mozambique is also very visible and it seems it is growing. My impression visiting Maputo for the first time is that it is a beautiful and developed capital. It seems that the contrast between nice areas of the capital and urban suburbs and rural areas is huge. Maputo shows a beautiful architecture, developed buildings, long avenues and a developed approach. Along the coast we can see beautiful mansions that you wouldn’t think about poverty.

The cost of living seems to be very expensive here… I have paid 130,00 meticais (the local currency) for an orange juice (around $4,80 or €3,70)  what we would easily pay in Dublin, one of the most expensive capitals in Europe.  My next step is to try to understand how people face this social and economic inequality over here.  How ordinary people live: how much money they make roughly and how is the cost of living.

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