As part of their W.A.S.H. (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Project, World Vision works in impoverished areas globally to provide potable water and adequate sanitation to decrease illnesses, improve health, and lessen the burden on women and children by reducing the distance to water collection points. World Vision works to drill new wells and repair existing wells, provide water storage, build community filtration systems, among many other projects all with the goal of providing adequate sanitation and safe water to those in need.
Fellowes recognizes the importance of this work, and has chosen World Vision and the W.A.S.H. Project in Mozambique, Africa to be a focus of our GIVE Program.
Follow the journey of John Fellowes and several Fellowes employees as they travel to Africa to help the villages. Give Africa
Yesterday was a first full day in Mozambique starting in Maputo, its capital, and ending about 200 miles north in Xai-Xai which will be our base camp for the next three days. In Maputo, we met at the World Vision headquarters for Mozambique, first joining them for their morning devotions. We entered the room as their discussion was in progress. There were about 10 Africans in the room reading and discussing Matthew 21:12-17. The discussion was in Portuguese but we were able to track a little of the conversation in pieces through our interpreter. After about 5-6 minutes the team mentioned that they had some devotional questions that they wanted to address and that they would like their guests to answer the question first (! Think quick :)!) Blas and I were able to piece a response together and then we had a nice short discussion between our two groups. We ended the time with a prayer from both sides. While we could not fully connect with this team verbally (except for Blas who is clearly fluent in Portuguese), it was neat to experience greetings and smiles that transcend a verbal dialog.
We then met with the National Director of WVMoz, Graham Strong. When I asked Graham where he was from he responded with, “Well, that’s complicated…I hold a Canadian passport.” Graham then went on to describe his background as a MK (Missionary Kid) growing up in Africa with Canadian missionary parents. He later engaged in NGO (Non-Government Organization) work in many different areas of the globe, but mostly in Asia and Africa. Graham has been running the Mozambique area for about 3 years. He had a warm personality and clearly the vision and strategy in MZ for the next 5-7 years. He shared this with us which was interesting. The thing that stuck out to me was how WV is collaborating with the local government to help them realize their national objectives through their capabilities and support. WV has learned over time that it is ineffective to try to pursue their agenda and strategy, if it is not aligned with the national government. Clearly, there is a very strong connection between the “State Departments” and WVMoz senior leadership. Graham talked specifically about how they are currently working closely with the Ministry of Education to bring the structure of the school system to a more effective approach. Currently there are so many children and not enough teachers that there are three, two hour sessions of school per day where children are rotated in and out of the school.
Another key focus of World Vision is to break the cycle of youth marriage, which pulls ‘women’ out of school at an early age and saddles them with the responsibility of being a mother…while they are still a child themselves. Generational traditions have ceremonially made girls of 11 years old “ready for marriage”, most are married by 15. This tradition is not only perpetuated through tradition, but it is also lucrative for families as each marriage brings income to the parents of the daughter. Breaking this custom will clearly be difficult, but it appears to be one way to help a contributors to cyclical poverty, which limits the abilities for new families to start their marriage and life on the “the right foot”. Overall, we spent about 45 minutes with Graham. We learned a lot about Mozambique, its needs, and how WV is continuing to work for progress through love and support in local communities.
We then traveled about 3.5 hours to a local community where we visited the Chongoene ADP (Active Development Project). It was a very remote village and the roads that brought us there turned from pavement, to dirt, to wide open fields over the course of an hour. As we drove to the village I was struck by the children (7-8 years old) who were along this desolate road alone…they waved to us with an enthusiasm and smile that penetrated to your heart right away. The response of a reciprocal wave and smile was met with indescribable exuberance and sometimes dancing. When we arrived at the “village” we were squarely in the middle of an enormous flood plain (5 miles in all directions) and there were only 3-4 huts visible. The local men and women (4-5) who were working the fields approached us and we started to learn about their community. We learned that there were about 400 huts throughout the flood plain that made up the community; we estimated that there were at least 2000 people. The community has been together for generations, but struggled with no access to clean water and challenging circumstances as flood and drought plagued their area. We then walked over to a river, which is their current source of water. It was not a long walk for these families; however the most remote huts have to walk about an hour in each direction for water. We learned that women primarily do this work and need to “fetch water” 3 times a day. The water is carried on their heads and holds about 40 lbs of water. This means that the women in these communities are carrying 40 lbs. of water, 6 hours a day. Further, we witnessed that the water is not clean, nor safe to retrieve.
You can see a picture which shows the “chocolate milk” colored water which can lead to cholera, diarrhea, and other diseases for the community. We also learned that the river which the water is taken from is infested with crocodiles; the community has lost 4 women to crocodiles. When we asked about how the retrieval of dirty water plagues their everyday life it was overwhelming. It is also important, however, to call out the strength that I saw, particularly in the women’s eyes and demeanor….these women were tough and also upbeat, exchanging smiles frequently. When watching the women stand we could actually see that their spines were bowed backwards from the weight of the water over time, one woman’s back challenges were the most pronounced. Her back could only be described as forming a backwards “c”. We learned a lot as we stood by the river and talked; the group turned from 3-5 people to 20 by the end of the discussion. We watched one woman retrieve water. I found myself extremely nervous for her safety and praying as she cast the bucket into dirty water and quickly ran up the bank hoping to return unscathed from her retrieval.
I am running out of time and need to bring this to a close, but I lastly need to comment that this woman later invited us into her home (actually rather we invited ourselves, but she agreed :)). There are pictures of this hut where she and her husband and their 6 children live. It is a 10×20 ft hut with mud floors. Her husband and she sleep on straw mats and the 6 children sleep in a make-shift loft no more than 10 x 5 ft. It was humbling to see how this family lives, cooks, and survives. That said, they always had a genuine smile for us which was heartfelt. They are content people living a life with many challenges, experiencing heart break in many shapes and sizes. The people we met are beautiful people who embody and do justice to “the human spirit” in the best possible way. I have a lot of admiration and respect for these people. There is so much that is lacking in this community, but so much “present” at the same time.