Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hope for Mozambique

Leaving Mozambique, I feel satisfied with the relationships which I formed with my work colleges and neighbors and what they taught me about health and the Mozambican culture. I even feel satisfied with what I did to help train health educators and to promote healthy living in my community. However, I feel as if I carry a burden as well; a responsibility to my Mozambican colleagues and the Mozambican youth, to continue to advocate for the world's poorest communities.

This is more than just a burden - it is a calling for everyone to help the poor. In Psalm 82:3 God's people are instructed to "give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute." So please pray for the Mozambican people and have faith because there is hope in their future. I have seen it in the eyes of the children and in the words of the youth; in the perseverance of the sick and in the strength of the widows; in the faith of the church and in the abundant kindness of an impoverished people.

"Pray without ceasing..."

Coming Home

A month ago, I boarded the plane in Maputo bound for Chicago. My service with the Peace Corps was complete and it was time to pack up my things, say my good-byes and head home.

It is difficult to summarize my various experiences, but let me try and walk you through some of the most significant moments in my life of the past two years:

September 30 - Our plane lands in Maputo
October 2 - I move in with Maria and her four children in Namaacha
October 4 - Training begins
November 19 - I swim an hour and a half across the lagoon at Beline beach
December 3 - I am sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer
December 10 - Arrival in Ndindiza and work with OCSIDA begins
December 31 - Ancha and I kill a chicken for New Years and fill 11 containers with rain water
January 27 - I travel overnight 22 hours through flooded trails to get back to Ndindiza
February 2 - I rescue Bambi, the abandoned baby goat I found in my latrine
April 20 - Jason comes to visit for two weeks
June 26 - Our theater group performs HIV-related skits for Mozambique's Independence Day
September 14 - I move to Mocuba and begin work with Osivela wa Yesu
December 1 - World AIDS day events in the town's center
December 14 - I go home to the US to visit for two weeks and Jason and I get engaged
April 7 - We organize our girl's group to have a fashion show on Woman's Day
April 26 - We combine forces to have a Malaria-day fair in our compound (600+ attendees)
May 15 - Construction begins on our first well for the drinking water project
June 1 - First day of a three-day youth conference that I coordinated at Osivela wa Yesu
July 21 - Our Girls' Day festivities, school-bag making and dancing, go into the night
August 30 - Jason comes to visit for two weeks and we go to Mozambique Island and the beach
November 8 - The drinking water well project is completed
November 9 - Our health mural project is completed
November 16 - I get my "R" and officially complete my Peace Corps service
November 17 - I board the plan in Maputo bound for Chicago

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Picture Essay

It is amazing that there are only five months left in my service. Although I am anxious to come home I also feel that five months is little time to do everything I want to do here in Mozambique. I have grown attached to so many people here and know that it will be hard to leave. In the past several months I have been involved in different projects and programs within my organization and within the community. Because there is a lot to talk about and I am a bit lazy I will describe the last several months using a photo essay. Pictures speak louder than words, right?

April 7th Mozambican Women’s Day

On Mozambican Women's Day, Osivela wa Yesu was invited to join in the official festivities of the city doing a fashion show of the clothes tailored by the sewing ladies at the center. The models were the girls which participate in the REDES girl's program.
Quina Vitor, wearing a beautiful skirt and blouse sewn out of capulana material from the World Cup

Me, Quina, Betina, Odeti, and other girls performing in the fashion show

Sassy Estela showing off a fancy skirt and blouse outfit created out of traditional bright colored capulana

Joeli, David, and all the girls enjoying the pre-show music and dancing

April 26th World Malaria Day

This year, we decided to have a fair on this important day. We had dancing, singing, theater performances, health education sessions, and tables informing about moringa, mosquito life cycle, and natural insect repellents. The day was a sucess with about 600 community members in attendence.

3-year-old class at the preschool for orphans and vulnerable children recieving mosquito nets
REDES girl's group finishing their malaria-themed songs and dance at the fair

Younger REDES group performing at the fair.

Young girl's choir singing about how to prevent malaria in the community.

Josefa, teaching about how to sew torn mosquito nets.

Preparing for the busy day

Ulisses and Margarida, teaching the community about malaria prevention

Grandmothers recieve mosquito nets and moringa cuttings for their orphaned grandchildren

Theater performance about the importance of going to the hospital instead of the traditional medicine doctors

May 2nd Beginning of the well project

This project has required much preparation, planning, and organization by the community, Osivela wa Yesu staff, and Margarida (the project coordinador)

Organizing and preparing for the community project

The intensive task of digging a drinking water well

Gathering water from the first finished well

Young boy looking on as another well is begun

May12th Gardening with REDES Group

The girl's group, although focused on preventing HIV and teen pregnancy, also works to capacitate the girls in the areas of farming, nutrition and cooking artisitc creativity, goal setting, budgeting and sewing skills.

Girls helping to create a vegtable permagarden at Osivela wa Yesu

Water control, extra tilling, and perenial plants surrounding the garden beds are key to a sucessful garden

June 1st Childrens Day

The preschool kids enjoyed an entire week of activites leading up to a satifying meal of chicken and rice on children's day.

Preschool coloring contest for children's day

Sugar cookie decorating

Such adorable children decked out in their new outfits

June 8-10 JUNTOS Youth Workshop

This workshop was a tiring but fun weekend for youth to get together to learn and share about topics such as gender equality, sexual health, and leadership. We also played several games, team-building activities, and enjoyed songs, dances, and theater performances.

Margarida and fellow JUNTOS leaders teaching about the effect of HIV in your body

JUNTOS youth group recieving their certificates of participation in the workshop

Friday, March 16, 2012

Celebrate Good Times

Celebrating Estella's (Margarida's adopted daughter) 6th birthday

Margarida (one of my co-workers), her family, and Felix

Quina and Naomia having fun at their own birthday party

Quina and Naomia's birthday party

Longing for a Better Tomorrow

It’s the beginning of the peanut harvest and things are looking good for the crop. The heavy rains, which wiped out much of the pumpkin harvest and at least doubled the number of mosquitoes in the past few weeks, have given me an entirely different experience from where I was this time last year.

March was not a good month in Ndindiza last year. I hadn’t rained since the first week in January and the land was dry. The harvest was over two weeks after it had begun. I was told by the locals that it was a curse – the medicine men were fighting and therefore the rains did not come that year. “But,” the village leader told me, “Next year will be different. We are resolving the conflict and next year it will rain.”
 And did it ever.
Mocuba, in general, gets a lot more rain than Ndindiza. I used to get so excited when it rained in my old village. I would put out buckets if it was drizzling to see if I could get a couple of liters of rain water to drink. In Mocuba, the water pours out of the sky by the bucketfuls. And this year, with the cyclone and tropical storms, there has been much more rain than usual.
So, listening to the rain last night, I pondered mysterious nature of rain water and how dependent we are on this seemingly trivial substance. It is great that it rains because it helps produce good harvest and fills the wells with water; however there are problems associated to the heavy rains.
One problem is the destruction of houses – particularly to the grass roofs. Another is the saturation of the farmlands does harm some of the plants which grow low to the ground. Finally, and most problematic, is the fact that mosquitoes flourish after heavy rains. The amount of malaria in Mozambique right now is extremely high. The hospital in Mocuba has run out of the medication which is used to treat the life threatening disease and there is no back-up plan.
Because there is no real competition in the marketing of anti-malarial drugs, the cost of medication to treat malaria in a private pharmacy is not affordable to most Mozambicans. The plant, Artemisia, which is a large component of the medication, is hardly grown in Mozambique. It is a difficult plant to grow because it requires extremely fertile soil and constant watering. Even at the orphanage, we have not been able to sustain our Artemisia garden; however we are not giving up.
Malaria and HIV are top two causes of death in Mozambique. Artemisia is a very potent plant that can be used to treat both diseases because it is instrumental in boosting the immune system. Moringa, the “vitamin tree,” is also important for strengthening the body and preventing/treating anemia (both iron-deficiency and pernicious anemia).
Of course relying solely on medicinal plants to treat disease is not sufficient, but neither is relying on run-out-the-clock health-care workers or free medications which are often out of supply.
What really needs to be done is eradication of malaria, through massive yearly campaigns to spray houses, constantly filling up areas where stagnant water gathers, and possibly even helping people voluntarily relocate from areas of massive mosquito infestations. This would require some outside funding, but mostly community organization and volunteerism on the part of Mozambicans.
The same goes for controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Mozambique. Until major behavior change occurs in way that Mozambicans maintain their romantic relationships, the disease will continue to spread.
This week alone three funeral processions passed the orphanage. All three people were victims of AIDS. All three were teachers.
What kind of future does that leave for Mozambique?
Please continue to pray for the people of Mozambique. Pray that the youth see what is happening, take it to heart, and make good life decisions. Pray that the people will realize that they have the power and the responsibility to change what is happening.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mocuba Cyclone Destruction

Here are some pictures of water and wind damage from the cyclone that just hit Mozambique. Please keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers as they begin to repair or rebuild their homes. Also, pray for safety as walls continue to fall down. Two girls were sent to the hospital with injuries yesturday after the wall in their school colapsed.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 new home

 The road to Osivela Wa Yesu

 Quina and brother Felix

 Youth theater group getting ready for their first performance

 Children at the preschool graduation and party

Practicing a play about teen marriages

My house on the right followed by the chicken coup and the medicinal plants garden