Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Esperança Venâcio Nhamirre

Esperança Venâcio Nhamirre

26/05/1979 – 14/11/2009

Esperança was born in Chirroula, a small town north of Vilanculos, to parents Venâcio and Julieta.While her father had other children she was her mother’s only child. She moved to Vilanculos to attend school and met her husband Alfredo. Together they had 6 children; Fiona, Edson, Erca, Sharmilla and Olencia who are twins, and Chris who was only born in October 2008.

Esperança worked at A Escola de Boa Esperança for 6 years, she was an extremely dedicated mother and loved working with children. She had the most genuine and caring personality, an innocent smile and infectious laugh that lit up her whole face. Sadly, she fell ill in September and despite all efforts to get her better she passed away peacefully at her parents home on Saturday 14th November 2009.

She will be sorely missed by the whole of the Mahaque and Chirroula community, but will stay in our hearts forever and be remembered as the joyous and caring mother she was.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Success with the Edson's English Group

We're so proud to post about how well the students from the Cafe Edson's English lessons are doing with their studies. We continue to work with the students divided between a lower level and upper level, which has opened up so many interesting and fun teaching methods. The lower level has been focusing on small group work thanks to our high volunteer numbers here on the ground. The results have been remarkable and the volunteers have done a brilliant job of planning fun and stimulating lessons for the group.

Our upper level group has also been doing fantastically. They reached a major milestone a couple of months ago when nearly the entire class passed an exam that officially moved them on to the Intermediate TEFL coursebook. This is such an achievement for the group and we are constantly astounded by their dedication and wit. Just the other day when discussing a story about earthquakes, we paused to clarify that the class was all familiar with the term "earthquake". Not only did the class scoff at our underestimation of their vocabulary, but Helton went even further to clarify that an earthquake is (and I quote....) "the tectonic movement of the earth's plates under our feet". WOW!

Just to show you how well the class is doing, we wanted to share a free-writing piece that came in from student Samuel. Samuel is a secondary school student and has been attending our lessons for about a year. While a bit shy in person, his written work excels and upon reading it we were all touched and astounded by his skill. The writing assignment was in response to a short story called "Pass It On", presented by volunteers Kate, Elizabeth, Rob, Larissa, and Kate. The story spoke of spontaneous good deeds and the way in which generosity always finds a way to be passed on to others. The students were asked to write about a time that they "passed it on". You can read Samuel's story below.

Open Your Heart: Story of how I helped someone find his way in life again

Loving yourself or your neighbor does not mean loving certain people only. It means you should open your heart and a place where those who need help are looked after to people from all walks of life. Four years ago, there was a knock on my door, and when I answered a young man stood there, his head and face covered in blood. I led him inside and cleaned his wounds. After I had given him something to eat he told me that he lived at Maxixe and that when things went wrong with the business, they would take it out on him. On many occasions after that he would come to me with fresh stab wounds that I would tend to because he had no family here in Vilanculos.

After four years of nagging, and four years of being brutally assaulted, I think he had finally had enough of being someone’s punching bag. He came to me one morning and give me his sister’s address in Beira. I wrote to her and two weeks later his aunt phoned me. She told me that her nephew had disappeared five years before and that his family had thought was dead. We made some arrangements for his family to fetch him. When his three aunts arrived a few days later to take him home, it only then struck me that I would never see him again. I felt sad because he had become part of our family.

But I also know that once he arrived home and saw his familiar surroundings that it would click that he really was home after six years and it wasn’t all a dream. I am so proud that I could be part of the Pintos Family reunion and that my heart was open to a friend in need.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Keeping Vilanculos clean and the community involved

Taking in the view that gets us inspired to clean trash!

This past Saturday, September 19th was International Clean Beach day. To do our part, our 12 enthusiastic volunteers planned a really special beach clean up morning that we conducted with the Language Club group.

We met under the big tree as always and volunteer Evan gave a great motivational intro about the morning’s program and why it’s important for us to keep Vilanculos’ beaches clean. The community here relies so much on the sea both for sustenance and tourism, so the message was definitely well received by everyone. We handed out home-made noisemakers and paraded through the community down to the beach at Baobab, picking up lots of new friends along the way!

Once we arrived to the beach our numbers had skyrocketed from about 30 children to over 100! We split up into red, green and blue teams with the volunteers and older students from Language Club acting as very motivational team captains. Each team was given trash bags and the team with the most full bags at the finish line (camp) won.

Volunteer Elizabeth from America getting one of her teammates a blue armband

Within an hour, the teams had managed to fill 25 huge trash bags! The whole morning was such a raging success and we celebrated at the end with a massive song and dance circle. We are definitely going to plan more mornings like this in the future all around Vilanculos since it was so well received. Well done to all involved and the volunteers who put in so much effort to make the morning such a success!

Volunteers, team captains, Eduardo and Ricardo at the finish line

Our hard-working teammates and a few of the many

full trash bags collected by the end of the morning

The AI Moz family continues to grow

As our project portfolio continues to grow with the addition of the HIV Education workshops, it was clear to us that we would need to bring on some extra support for translation. We were so lucky to find this support in the form of Ricardo Tembe, who has joined us as a translator in addition to everyone’s favorite fellow, Eduardo. They work together to support the volunteers’ involvement at preschool and while Eddie continues to work with the Edson’s English groups and building project, Ricardo focuses on the HIV workshops.

Ricardo’s brilliant English and ease with people is far from the only thing he’s got going for him. His face is very well known around Vilanculos as a recorded artist of traditional Mozambican music. He has even had music videos recorded in Maputo! Ricardo’s passion for music has lent itself so well to facilitating the HIV workshops, the goal of which is to get people to respond to the taboo subject of HIV/AIDS through creative and unusual media.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, for the month after Ricardo started working with us we drove around town consistently blaring his CD from our car. People were often surprised to look up and see the man himself, Ricardo Tembe, sitting atop a strange white safari-truck blasting Mozambican Marimba music. While the novelty of getting to work with such a great creative spirit such as Ricardo has certainly not worn off, we have managed to get a better grip on ourselves about it (as well as the volume knob).

Ricardo has also really enjoyed getting to know the children at the preschool, especially his little favorite, Creusia!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Our Green Thumb

The king of the crop: the preschool guard Lourenco lounges amongst his bounty

With the winter in Mozambique coming to an end it’s time to write about the amazing harvest of the preschool farm. For many months upwards of 40 volunteers contributed to the clearing, hoeing, raking, planting, and weeding of the farm at the preschool. We’re so proud to let you all know how bountifully all the hard work has paid off. For the last two months we have been able to include veggies ranging amongst lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and carrots in the kids’ lunch.

We were nervous at first about the kids’ reaction to the introduction of flecks of green and red in the previously monochrome rice. To our surprise and delight the kids dove into their bowls of rice with more vigor than ever! A cheeky few (Nelson and Paulo amongst them) made their objection to the rice revolution known by diligently picking out anything that lacked resemblance to a kernel of rice. Thankfully though, it seems they’ve warmed to the new menu and in recent weeks we’ve even served mixed salads along with the rice.

So, a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who put in lots of time and sweat in the unforgiving Mozambican sun to make this farm happen! The farm also wouldn’t have been possible without the support lent by the teachers and the parents of the preschool children. We were so encouraged by the parents’ willingness to come in for a couple of hours a week to work on the farm and it definitely strengthened the sense of shared responsibility between the parents and ourselves for the well being of the preschool and the students.

We can’t wait to see what next year’s crop will look like!

Welcome Poppy

July brought many new and exciting things to us here in Vilanculos… One of these was the first few beads of sweat on our brow as winter’s comfortable chill lifted and made way for the swelter of Mozambican summer. The other, and much more welcome one was Poppy Clarke, our new Project Manager!

Esther and Chris will be leaving the project at the end of September and Poppy has been here in Mozambique for the last 6 weeks training and completing the handover of things. Poppy was a volunteer from March to May of this year and we knew as soon as we met her that her vision for the projects and tireless energy would provide great leadership for all of the projects here in Vilanculos.

Poppy and Chico in his black tie finest

Poppy showed great initiative as a volunteer in pioneering many individual projects, such as teaching the housekeeping ladies how to read and write as part of Language Club. Poppy loved having the freedom to work on individual projects as well as delving into the diverse array of scheduled projects. It was this dual sense of constant fulfillment and limitless opportunities for new project work that grabbed her about the project here in Mozambique. As a manager, she hopes to facilitate similar experiences and the ensuing sense of accomplishment and joy that she experienced as a volunteer.

So, welcome to Mozambique Poppy! We can’t wait to see how the projects move from strength to strength under your guidance as well as the new and creative endeavors that you are sure to undertake towards the support of this amazing and vibrant community.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

HIV Project up and running at the speed of light!

A bit of a delayed post... but so newsworthy I still had to get it up!

The first two weeks of June saw the official opening of the HIV Education project here in Vilanculos. The project runs alongside the Teaching English project and volunteers from both projects attend the preschool together in the mornings. In the afternoons they split up into their specialization of HIV Education or Teaching English at Cafe Edson's.

The HIV Education is structured as a two-week workshop consisting of 4 two-hour sessions. The workshops aims to not only to provide information about the biology of HIV/AIDS and how to protect yourself, but also to really encourage the group members to speak openly about the controversy and taboo around the subject. The activities are meant to really get the group members out of their shells and ranges amongst educational (but fun!) DVD's, interactive theater, art creation and interpretation, and educational games.

We kicked off the first session with the staff members of our volunteer camp, about 15 people in total. Our volunteers at the time were Laurie, Joe, Charissa, and Ineke. As the guinea-pig leaders of the new project, they did such a brilliant job in pulling everything together and presenting it in an accessible, fun, and informative manner. We were nervous that our audience wouldn't be too enthused or perhaps a bit intimidated by the interactive theater and art creation, but we couldn't have been farther off base!

I think all of our lingering nerves and trepidation were assuaged when Samuel, one of our volunteer cooks, arrived at the second session with a special request. He asked if we could save some time at the end of the session because he had been inspired to write a song about HIV/AIDS since the first meeting of our group. At the end of the session, Samuel began to sing with the rest of us keeping rhythm. Despite the lyrics in Xitsua (the local dialect of our area) the power and emotion in the air was palpable and it was clear to all of us that we were part of something so special and moving that it couldn't be put into words of any language. Jorge, our gardener, kept a rhythmic baseline chorus of "use a condom, use a condom, use a condom" which brought wide smiles to all of our faces when it was audible below Samuel's Xitsua verses.

Another highlight of the session included a homework assignment requiring the group members to bring in an artifact or object that had some relation to the theme of HIV/AIDS. We weren't sure if the group members would feel comfortable sharing such potentially personal information and it wasn't obligatory. Our fears were once again swept away by the outpouring of emotion that each staff member presented in relation to their "object". One particularly moving presentation revolved around a letter that one of the staff members, Joao, had received from his girlfriend. He told us the story of how they met about three years ago. After being together for a little while, he breached the topic of going to the hospital together to get HIV tests. Apparently his girlfriend had a real problem with this whether out of fear or perhaps a misguided feeling of betrayal because Joao didn’t trust her fidelity. It lead to a break-up. After nearly a year, Joao received a letter from her that he read to the whole group. In the letter she apologized for not having understood the importance of testing but that she now knows the Joao was suggesting the correct course of action. In the letter she included the slip of paper that the hospital gives out with the written result of your HIV test. She asked Joao if having seen that paper, he would be willing to take her back. Joao was proud to announce that they’ve been together happily and faithfully since then.

In the picture below, you can see Samuel, Joao, and Orlando sitting with our sex education dolls “Juan” and “Sylvia”. Juan and Sylvia are made in central Mozambique by a women’s empowerment through employment program called the TIOS Center. The dolls are very, very (!) anatomically correct and also include allusions to HIV transmission methods other than sex (i.e. a tattoo and an open wound). Juan and Sylvia have been a great hit in the sessions and can always be counted on to throw the group into fits of laughter as they learn.

We have also been using theater to open up the group to talking about HIV/AIDS. The method of Forum Theater has long been advocated as an effective and fun way of tackling controversial issues in an educational setting. For our workshop, the volunteers put together a short skit about HIV/AIDS. Forum theater skits are always comprised of at least two people, one is an oppressor and the other is the oppressed. After presenting the skit to the group members, a narrator turns the tables and asks the group members if they would like to enter the action and replace one of the characters to re-run the scene. In this way, the group members are able to use the knowledge they have gained in the session about HIV/AIDS to ameliorate the behaviors, actions, and decisions presented in the original skit.

Forum Theater has been a massive hit in our group. As a cornerstone of our workshops, we believe strongly in the power of theater to encourage people to turn thought into action. It’s all well and good for individuals to be able to recite the X number of transmission methods, but if you can give a young woman the opportunity through theater to actually practice saying “no” to a man who wants her to have sex without a condom it’s a whole other story! In the photo below, you’ll see Samuel and Jorge after they have entered into the Forum Theater action. The play was about Anita (Samuel) and Pedro, a married couple. In the original play, Anita broached the subject of condom use and Pedro vehemently negated the possibility, lashing out in an emotionally and physically violent manner. In Samuel and Jorge’s modification, Anita actually manages to convince Pedro to try it and see what he thinks.

The picture below shows the group members creating personal artistic responses to the theme of HIV/AIDS in the last session of the workshop.

Inviting the group members to create art is a lovely way to end the workshop because of its informal and open-ended nature. In the western world we’re all very familiar with the idea of artistic expression and could ramble off a million justifications for the necessity of art in schools, for example, to aid with personal development and expression. The Mozambican government however, likely due to lack of funds, isn’t able to offer any sort of art program in its primary or secondary schools. To see the group members touch paint to paper for perhaps the first time is a truly special moment. After 45 minutes of painting, gluing, and glittering our way into self-expression about HIV/AIDS. We came back together for the last time as a group to present what we had all created and to discuss our interpretation of it as well as welcoming other group member’s interpretations. The range of thought and emotion amongst the creations was amazing and once again affirmed our belief in the power of art for self-expression and growth.

We’re so proud of this beautiful project and can’t wait to be part of its development throughout the Vilanculos community. We’ll keep you updated on highlights of other upcoming sessions. Next up are the parents of the kids at preschool!

We would love your feedback and ideas as well about how we could make this workshop even more dynamic and effective. We actually hope that it’s constantly evolving and just getting better and better, so bring on the feedback!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Bittersweet times...

As many of you know, dear Jude will be leaving us this week. She is expecting her first child in December of this year and will go back to the UK for the remainder of the pregnancy and the birth. Jude's plans are to come back to Vilanculos near the beginning of next year, though unfortunately as a full-time Mommy and not with African Impact.

As sad as we are to see Jude go, we are so excited for the new adventure of motherhood she is about to undertake. As you all know, Jude's dedication to and passion for children has been one of the driving forces behind the success and development of this amazing project. Esther and Nix will remain in Vilanculos and do our best to carry on the brilliant projects that Jude has done so much to develop and nurture.

So, as we fight through a heap of bittersweet emotions in trying to write this post, we want to wish Jude and her budding new family all the best of luck. She will be so missed but the hard work and passion she put into these projects will be evident to us every day as we continue on.

Thank you Jude!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Dia das Criancas

June 1 is National Children's Day here in Mozambique. It's so amazing to see a community come together and rally around its youth in an outpouring of support and praise.

To celebrate the day with our littlies at the preschool we put together an assembly for the parents of the school. Our amazing volunteers helped the kids put together a banner with the school's name and all the kiddies hand prints. They also put together special t-shirts for the special 10 star-students that were selected to represent the school in our little sing-along presentation.

The kids sang so well. A particular crowd favorite was the theme-song that Zelia, Deolinda, and Esperanca wrote about the preschool complete with dance moves and all!

New Classroom!!!

We are so happy and proud to announce that we’ve officially held our first lesson in the new classroom at school! A million thanks to the number of donors who contributed to the funding for the classroom.

We’re so relieved to know that rain or shine our kiddies will be able to have their lessons. The kids LOVE the new classroom and we’re so excited when we set the tables up in there for the first time!

Our current volunteers are working on a plan to paint the classroom's concrete wall. We're hoping to order blackboard paint from South Africa in order to turn almost the whole wall into a usable blackboard space!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Sponsor a Child!

Hurrah! Sponsor A Child is up and running in Mozambique!

Inacio Lorenzo's Sponsorship Profile

We here on the ground have selected a group of about 15 children to be eligible for sponsorship that are particularly vulnerable based upon concerns about their health or their family's ability to provide for them adequately. We know these children and their families through the preschool and Bairo Desse, the zone in which our camp is located.

We have chosen to launch SAC with the children that we feel are most in need of immediate support. Once these children have all been sponsored, we plan on making sponsorship available for all of the children at the preschool. However, it's our priority to get this first group of children sponsored!

Once a child is sponsored, we will use the funds to provide them with 1 year’s education, 2 x school uniforms, 2 x school shoes, 1 x school sweater, 1 x raincoat, health checks, a year’s supply of vitamins B and C, text books and a stationery pack. Funds for sponsorship are moved through the Happy Africa Foundation, our sister charity based in the UK. We have chosen to move donations through the HAF in order to keep it separate from the money that goes towards the general operations of camp and the projects. That means that if you sponsor a child, your donation will go directly to the child you have sponsored.

Here is the link for Sponsor A Child in Mozambique with the Happy Africa Foundation.

If you have any questions about sponsorhip or would like to sponsor a child, please email Lucy, the head of the Happy Africa Foundation, at lucy@africanencounter.org

Monday, 4 May 2009

Language Club

Language club continues to go so, so well. The young children's lesson has been hosting up to 50 children recently and the soccer boys have been making great strides with their English.

Some of you may remember one of our cleaning ladies from camp, Cecilia. She, along with her colleagues Maria and Julia, have also recently started coming to Language Club. One of our volunteers, Poppy, has dedicated herself to teaching Cecilia how to read and write. It's so great to see a volunteer identify a need and then respond to it by using free time to put together learning resources and special lesson plans. It's always our goal to facilitate any sort of side project that a volunteer conceives and would like to see through to fruition.

We've already seen great improvement in Cecilia's letter recognition skills and manual dexterity. She has set herself the goal of signing her full name (instead of an "x") on May's wages slip. We know that with her hard work and Poppy's dedication to teaching, she'll achieve that goal!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Eddie's Bike!

Thanks to generous donations from a number of past volunteers, we've been able to get our translator extroardinaire Eduardo a new bike to use to get around between all of the projects!

We gave Eddie the bike the day before his birthday and we wish you all could have been here to see the massive grin that came over his face when we snuck him into the bike shop! Now it will be so much easier for Eduardo to get around between the projects and back home to his lovely family lickity split.

Thanks so much to those of you who reached out to help make this possible for Eddie.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Hello All!

We're so excited to be launching our very own blog here in Mozambique to keep you all updated on the projects, your donations, and all the goings on in Vilanculos.

We'll be updating the site as much as we can and it's the best way for us to stay in touch with past volunteers, new volunteers, and people that are interested in learning more about the projects.

We're quite new at all this new darn-fangled technology stuff (ok... well maybe blogging isn't that new) but please bear with us as we start getting it under our belts. If there's ever anything specific you'd like to hear about such as one of the little ones from preschool or a donation, please comment away and we'll post back as soon as we can.

All our love from Moz and until next time,