Saturday, June 30, 2012

Awesome video!

Saw this today and I couldn't agree more. Visit here to read the full article.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 23-24 - Home Base, Grande Hotel, & O Farol

Hi everyone! It's hard to believe that we only have a few days left here in Mozambique... It feels like I just got here and it's already been almost a month. It's so satisfying to look back and see all the work that we have done and to feel like the people are at a point where they can go forward on their own. As I worked here, I have realized more and more that the best job I can do is to make myself obsolete, to make myself not needed. When I first got here I didn't think that could be a reality, but now as we are finishing up our field work, I am blown away by the potential of the Mozambicans that I have worked with for the last four weeks. We have all of our time teaching leaders, and now they are ready to lead. They know the materials. They are USING the materials. One example: At our meeting with the Care for Life supervisors, coordinators, and field workers, one of the field workers explained how this last week, a village member got very sick with dysentery (something that is more often fatal than not). Immediately, the village health promoter (the village member in charge of health) used the information she learned last week in the training to make up a rehydration solution and to care for the village member until they could get to the hospital. The person made it to the hospital in good shape, received the meds available, and improved immediately. That's how things are supposed to be with dysentery! People are not supposed to die from this disease. Once again, it has shown me that the biggest problem here is a lack of knowledge, not of resources. Once the people are empowered with knowledge, the health situation in the villages improves. 

Lots of people were asking about seeing a copy of the book. Here is a PDF of it. Sorry, it's the print format. I'll see if I can fix it up to make it more viewer-friendly.

One of the fun things we get to do in our spare time is visit local orphanages. This really has nothing to do with CFL--the purpose of CFL is to not need orphanages--but it's always a great experience to play with the little kids that are in so much need of love. I wish I had pics to show, but unfortunately they don't want pics of the little kids all over the internet, so they are pretty tight about taking pictures. One of my fav parts at the orphanage is playing the "Dança" ('Dance') game with the little kids. Basically, we all sit in a circle while one of the kids takes the lead of getting the clapping and singing going. Meanwhile, 2-5 kids go in the middle and dance while we sing. It's amazing to see how well some of these toddlers can shake it! I've decided that I'm going to play this with my kids so that by the time they get to high school dances, they will be awesome on the dance floor. The lyrics are:

Eu danço
Eu danço
Querem me ver?
Eu hei dançar
Eu danço bem
Assim, assim
Ai ai ai

I dance
I dance
Wanna see me?
I'm gonna dance
I dance so well
Like this, like this
Ai ai ai

Some pics:

Monday we had our last meeting with all of the CFL officials. We "tested" them on all of the things we taught over the last two weeks by playing a game with them. It got pretty heated because the prize was an awesome meal that Dr. English prepared. Obviously, everyone ended up eating it, but it was fun to see how much they had learned :)
Dr. English and I teaching the last few things to the CFL group.

In the heat of the game. Love this pic.
Another highlight of the last few days was that we finally found Allie's bag. I emphasize "we" because the local airline office here literally had no idea what was going on... They didn't even know that the bag had been located because we eventually just completely circumvented them and worked with the home office. So happy!

One of the city "landmarks" is this hotel pictured below. In the early 1970's was the nicest resort hotel in all of Africa. As soon as the war broke out though, all of the owners left and it became a shanty town. Today, thousands of people live there. It was so humbling to see a tangible and vivid example of the effects of war. 

After visiting the hotel, we headed to see the lighthouse--another one of the landmarks here in Beira. It was so fun to see the beach during the sunset. 

Awesome sunset!

Allie touching the Indian Ocean!

I'm going to miss this place so much! 

Day 21-22 - Ngupa & Manga

Saturday we started the day with a community service project. The leaders of a village picked out a family we could build a latrine for. The father of the family was physically disabled and very excited to have us come help him. The family and many neighbors gathered to help us and watch the progress. As always, a ton of kids came over to play with us too. :)

An incredibly smart kid from the village, Fernando, we have renamed the Justin Bieber of Mozambique. He is a total performer. He taught a couple of us girls his dance moves. Not gonna lie, he told me I was doing muito bien! I was proud of myself. Justin got some action shots below...

Later Justin got busy working with the concrete. We made a lid for the latrine complete with Fernando's handprint! He loved it.

And after the dance lesson, I of course kept busy playing with the kids. Mario below didn't give me the memo we were doing a war pose. 

Baby ewok getting some water

And another beautiful baby girl

Sunday we got to go to church in Manga (near where we are staying). Sacrament meeting was awesome. Right before, the missionaries asked if any of us can play the piano. I was so sad I hadn't stuck with my piano lessons longer! I can only play two hymns and even those are a little interesting. Luckily, Ann from our group plays and was able to accompany us. Two guys spoke that are probably 19-20 years old. They gave awesome talks (from what I could pick up and what Justin translated for me!). Then, Greg from our group gave the last talk. He served a mission in Mozambique a few years ago. He gave a sweet talk on the importance of obedience and faith. Hearing him speak reminded me of when my dad was asked to speak in church when we went to Samoa. I love seeing the tender feelings returned missionaries have for the people they taught. So cute. 

During Sunday school and Relief Society I was basically trying to pick up what I could from the Portuguese, Justin would confirm it, and then I would try to contribute but they usually had already moved on. :) It was fun though to hear their thoughts and lessons. The girls wore our capalanas like true Mozambicans. We took a group picture but it wasn't on our camera-- I'll try to get it from someone tonight. For now, here's one of me and cute Justin!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lessons of a lost bag

I'm going to tell you a story... partly for my therapeutic benefit and partly because I think you could learn something from it too. 

This is the story of my lost bag. I arrived into Johannesburg last Sunday morning groggy from 48 hours of traveling. I was worried about getting though immigration, finding my bag, and making it to my next flight. My bag had only been checked to Johannesburg because I had two separate reservations-- one to Johannesburg and then one from there to Beira, Mozambique. Surprisingly, all those steps I worried about went perfectly. I had made it through everything and just had one last step: checking my bag to Beira. 

I navigated through the airport with all my luggage to the South African Airways counter. I waited in a line and it was finally my turn to check in. The man asked where I was headed. I said, "I'm flying to Mozambique". I offered my itinerary but the man shook his head and refused it. He took my passport and finished checking me in. He handed me a boarding pass and checked my bag to Beira.................. or so I thought. 

Just as I was about to get in line for security, I glanced down at my boarding pass and noticed my destination was not in fact Beira but Maputo (another city in Mozambique) and my name was not Allison Holt but Houmungasldkfj (not to be racist but it was some sort of Asian name). I ran back to the desk and told the employee of the error. 

He freaked out. He grabbed my itinerary and ran me over to another counter. A girl sitting there checked me into my real flight to Beira. The first man took my luggage tag for Maputo and said he would run down and switch the tag from Maputo to Beira. I stopped him and asked what would happen if he didn't find it and switch the tag. He confidently stated, "I will find it". 

He didn't. Or he got ticked and decided to take it himself? Not sure. Only fact I know is it's been 9 days and no bag has arrived yet. Even with all the phone calls and begging my sweet Portuguese-speaking husband has been doing, we have no answers.

At first I was really mad about the whole thing, especially because in hindsight I see how I could have prevented all this. In my vanity, I was upset I don't have my cute clothes to wear on the trip and in my pictures. I was sad to lose the notes and cards from the last year that I had brought with me to read on our one year anniversary. In my good moments, I felt bad that I may have lost the bag full of hygiene kits for the kids in the orphanages. 

But in the midst of my episodes of wallowing this week, we would take a bouncy ride over to the village of Ngupa. I would see the protruding bellies of the malnourished toddlers or see my little friend, Mario, in the same red pants and teal shirt every day. I have never felt so foolish-- complaining about one bag of clothes being lost when I have an entire wardrobe and a full pantry waiting for me in my cushy apartment at home.

Other days our bouncy ride took us to one of the many baby orphanages in Beira. Three or four sets of tiny infant arms would reach out to me at a time not because I was anything special, but because I was simply someone to hold them. Sitting there trying to wrap my arms around all the little ones, I would think of the constant love of my parents and imagine them holding me years ago. These thoughts again left me no room to complain.

Then, I thought no one could refute the sadness of losing my memories with Justin from the last year. That is truly sad, right? Speaking with an older woman, Ann, who arrived to our team the other day gave me perspective. After detailing my saga to her and mentioning my lost cards and notes, she said, "Well, at least you have your sweet husband sitting next to you. Mine passed away last year." Again feeling foolish...

Reading the Bible the other night brought even more clarity. I was reading the Sermon on the Mount in the sixth chapter of Matthew and came upon these scriptures: 

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
These verses humbled me. So many times our lives are complicated by what we see as "needs". This past week has taught me about true needs. The people here have so little in terms of material "stuff" but they have so much joy. These ideas may seem cliche but to me this week they are very real. My Mozambican friends are happy because their lives, though far from privileged, are beautifully simple. Many times our lives are depressing because they are complicated by the poisons of materialism and comparison. 

If I learned nothing else in the last nine days, it is this. Most things I worry about don't in fact really matter. And most things I think of as "needs" really aren't. We can survive on so much less than we think. If you have a roof over your head, shoes on your feet, someone who loves you, and a chance at an education, you are blessed. 

Although I am still baffled by my luggage situation, this week I feel blessed. 

***A few minutes before posting this, I received an email that my bag has been found! That in itself is a miracle of miracles. We'll go pick it up this afternoon at the Beira airport we've come to know so well. :) A HUGE thank you goes out to my patient and incredibly good-looking husband. My frustration may or may not have been inappropriately directed at him at one point. He was still so good to me and only because of his hard work was my bag found. I'm so grateful he's mine.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 19-20 - Vila Massane, Subida, Ngupa, Kanimambos

Thursday was an awesome day. We started the day teaching the second half of the health book to the health promoters of Vila Massane. The promoters were so excited to learn and answer all our questions. I ventured out and presented some of my material in Portuguese! Actually, I just asked 2-3 questions in Portuguese but I was proud. I teach about malaria prevention and treatment and immunizations. Most of the time while we're teaching, the lesson gets translated twice-- from English to Portuguese and from Portuguese to Senna. When Justin teaches, we can skip one step because he teaches in Portuguese. 

Anyway, it was a really fun day of teaching because as soon as I asked a questions like "How can you prevent malaria in your families?" or "Why should you make sure the families you're in charge of get their vaccinations?" they would blurt out great answers. It makes me excited to think of the influence they will have on the families in their village. 

Here is a picture of a health promoter practicing teaching a section about oral rehydration solution. Also, notice the Six Flags sweatshirt. :) 

While someone else was teaching, Justin snapped these pretty pics of a little girl listening in on our lesson. It's amazing how photogenic these kids are!

Everyday after we teach, this is what we find. The back of our truck becomes a playground for every boy in the village. They run around playing king of the truck. :)

NBD just found a fellow KINGS fan in Mozambique!!! I first noticed her awesome shirt, but also isn't she beautiful? 


Thursday night we drove over to Kedesh (aka never never land) for a barbeque and movie night! It was honestly a wonderful night. John (the man who started the orphanage) made a humongous pot of popcorn and we sat around outside just chatting with the boys. 

I talked to John for a long time about starting the orphanage and some of his experiences. I think I wrote a little about Kedesh before, but I'll tell you a little more about what I learned. John came to Africa from the US years ago to help his mom move and never went back. He saw all the suffering and decided to open an orphanage for orphan boys after the civil war. When he started, the street kids he took in only had one way to deal with conflict-- violence. He had to break up fights daily and said there were at least four times he saved a boy from being killed. Now that a good amount of time has passed since the civil war, John said the boys are much less violent. He has really changed the lives of the kids. They are so polite and hard-working. One of the boys has the job of delegating all the jobs or chores out to the other boys. They all help out-- doing laundry, preparing meals, tending the garden, etc. He told me stories of the miracles that have happened at the orphanage during the time he's been there. It is so amazing what he has created and how he has helped the boys in Mozambique. 

Back to the BBQ. After chowing down on popcorn and the bbq, John announced that we would have a movie night. They had a sweet set-up with a projector screen you can watch inside the treehouse or out. We all gathered and as the DVD menu music started playing what did I hear but HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL!! I was probably just as or more excited than the boys! I couldn't believe we had the same great taste in movies. I was seriously on a high from the combination of HSM and Africa. We sang and danced to all the songs. The boys had some sweet dance moves. 

Troy Bolton comes to Africa!

The boys enjoying their popcorn and movie

Friday morning we drove out to Subida for our teaching session. When we got there, all the promoters and supervisors were just starting their weekly village meeting. Part of CFL's program is putting into place a local leadership. They take their positions very seriously. I love seeing the people show up with their plastic folders in tow to the "machessa" (gathering place they build). It was awesome to see the leaders meeting together and finding solutions to their own problems. 

After we finished up teaching, we started on the dirt road back to the city. We turned a corner and found a big van (chapa) stuck in the narrow, sandy "road". We jumped out to see if we could help push him out. Tons of the village kids had gathered to see the excitement of the day-- a stuck van. 

The driver hit the gas and Justin, João, Dr. English, and a few nice neighbors started pushing. After a few attempts at accelerating, Dr. English had the idea to reverse and then throw it into drive. It worked! I truly though someone might get run over in this process (especially a small child!) but luckily no one was hurt. This repeated one more time a little further on before the driver made it through the sandy part and pulled over into someone's yard. The best part was at any point that the car seemed to advance, all the children would cheer. A big group gathered and cheered on the stuck van. 
* * *
It's Justin, again. After a long day of working in the villages, we took some of the newly-arrived volunteers to our favorite Chinese restaurant here in Beira. Who would have thought, great Chinese food in Africa? Awesome. The empty plates below make it look like we ate enough food to feed a small army. The food is family style, so really the majority of those plates were empty to start with :)

Together again!

Our favorite dessert: fried banana with a caramel sauce and ice cream!

I can't believe that we only have a week left here in Mozambique. I feel like I have learned and grown so much in the time I have been here. I have been amazed by the people's capacity to learn and to grow, and then to sustain the changes that they make. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned is that people live up to the expectations we set for them. For decades, NGOs and foreign governments have come in with no expectations of the people here, simply giving things out because they think the people aren't capable of doing things on their own. Under these circumstances, the people of the villages here lived up to that lack of expectation and became dependent on the foreign involvement. I have been blown away though as I watch the villages hold their leadership meetings and to watch them show how much they are really capable of. At these meetings, the village leaders report on the various areas they are in charge of. At almost all of the leadership meetings, some kind of village problem is brought up. In the newer communities, the leaders then turn to the Care for Life reps there at the meeting for them to solve the issue. Immediately, though, the CFL reps turn it back to the people for THEM to come up with the solution, and they always do. In the older villages where CFL has been for a longer amount of time, the people start to come up with the solutions on their own and instead of hearing them explain the problems in the community, you start to hear them explain the problem and the solution they already came up with and put into practice. It has been inspiring for me to see. 

On Friday, we handed out the last of the health books to the health promoters in the village. Over the last two weeks we have trained nearly 65 health promoters and handed out nearly 1000 books to them. Over the next month, the health promoters will hand deliver each of those books to the nearly 1000 families in the communities. I am so excited to hear about the impact this will have. At one of the meetings I was at this week, one of the health promoters explained a situation in which a village member had presented with one of the sicknesses we had taught about the week prior. To my pure excitement, the health promoter explained how she not only recognized the sickness, but also stayed up all night with the sick village member applying her new knowledge of how to treat the sickness. Her intervention very likely saved this village-members life! Cool, huh? 

This week as I was reading a WHO health report on Mozambique from earlier this year, I was amazed (and saddened) to see that the average life expectancy here is only 38. Interestingly, though, the average life expectancy if the person makes it to 60 is another 13 years beyond that (73 years). So basically, the life expectancy here is so low because so many people die at early ages from very preventable sicknesses. As I read more, I realized that the leading causes of death among children and young adults were the sicknesses that we were educating the people against. I am so pumped to see the difference this work makes in the future. I can only imagine that in the future this information will be common knowledge and people will talk about how things used to be. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 15-18 - Palmeiras, Aeroporto, Ngupa, & Motel Bispo

I made it! After four long days of traveling, I arrived into the Beira, Mozambique airport Sunday afternoon. However, my bag did not.... sound familiar?! Repeat of Ecuador. I at least was prepped for this a little and had packed my sheets, towel, and a few changes of clothes in my carry-on. 

However, after four days I am running out of options! So, if I'm wearing the same two shirts over and over on the blog, don't judge. I'm actually really lucky because our sweet friend Isabel takes care of us and helps out with the laundry. So nice.

I'm sure you didn't come here to get an update on my wardrobe so back to the blog. On Sunday, after arriving we headed over to Kadesh, which we have nicknamed "Never Never Land". It started as an orphanage for boys after the Mozambique civil war. The boys were mostly in their teens. Justin and I played soccer and volleyball with them. It is a really sweet orphanage. The boys were so polite and even passed the ball to me a few times even though I was terrible. They also raise itty bitty goats that are so cute! I even held one! Proof below. 

Yay for being together again! 

Monday we took no pictures! But it was a great day. We spent the morning training the main Care for Life staff on the health book at our house. The cutest thing is they start every meeting with a song and a prayer. Their songs are in Senna (a tribal dialect) so we couldn't really sing but we danced. I love listening to them sing. Seriously, amazing and so much better than any music in the States. Also, they have a song about everything. When we're teaching, they will randomly break out in songs about diarrhea or malaria. 

The staff were so excited to learn about the new book. They are the high up administrators of the CFL program so they won't be teaching it to the villagers themselves but they can follow-up with the health promoters. Dr. English teaches and Justin translates for him. The people love Justin. It was kinda fun coming late because everyone automatically loves me when I tell them he's my "marido". 

In the afternoon, we went to town to shop and exchange money. I bought a cute "capalana" (the traditional skirt for women) to wear to church on Sunday. I'm realizing now this was a pretty wise purchase seeing that it's Wednesday and I still don't have my bag! :) 

* * *

So it's Justin now... Allie and I decided to divide up the blogging since we had a few days to catch up on. This week we are doing round two of the health curriculum in the different villages. It's been so fun to see how much the people have learned from one week to another. They have done quite a bit of studying on their own and come back with lots of good questions and ideas! As a part of this week's training, we gave out books to the health promoters in each village. Each health promoter is responsible for 20-35 families in their communities, with each community having 250-350 families. That's quite a responsibility for each of the health promoters, but they do a great job with it. 

The health curriculum we are teaching is very "basic" by most standards, but it treats most of the top causes of death in the third world--diarrhea, cholera, malaria, HIV, etc. The interesting thing is that most people "know" about these diseases, but have never really learned about them. What I have noticed as I have been here is that a fragmented understanding about these diseases does more harm then good--it causes a lot of fear and misunderstandings which cause other, more severe health problems in the community. What we are providing is not a deep, scientific understanding of these issues, but rather the essentials--how to prevent the disease, how to recognize it, what to do when they think they have it, etc. It's incredible to see that by doing a few small things, they can basically eliminate these huge problems from the villages that cause so many deaths each year. 

Us singing a song with the health promoters in Ngupa about diarrhea :) They are such awesome singers and dancers. 

Dr. English handing out the health books. 

At the end of the second training, we have the health promoters practice delivering the books to the families in their communities and giving a brief introduction to the book. Ana Mikas, the local nurse that we work with for the trainings (in the blue shirt/pink capalana), decided to call over a neighbor that was outside doing dishes to be the "first" family to receive the new health book. The pictures below are of the health promoter in charge of this family presenting the book to her and teaching her briefly about what's inside. 

The long-term plan with everything we are doing is to train the health promoters so that they can be self-sufficient in delivering the books to the families and watching over the health of the members of the communities. Seeing the health promoter in the pics above deliver and explain the book so well made me so excited to see the difference this will make in the future. As I mentioned in a previous post, doing all of this has really confirmed for me that much of the suffering that exists in these third-world countries is not because of a lack of resources, but rather because of a lack of knowledge. When we provide this knowledge, the people embrace it, and more importantly, we empower them to continue this improvement even after we have left the villages. 

At the end of today's training in Motel Bispo, we did some role-playing scenarios with the promoters to help them practice for when they visit their families. I was blown away by the amount o

Here are some more pics from the trainings:

Making a rehydration solution with some of the health promoters. 

Manoel was brave and wanted to try some. It's basically like gatorade without the flavoring. Yummm... ?

A lot of times we have free time in the later afternoons once we have finished up our trainings in the villages. When we do, we normally meet up with the HELP team. We got to visit a couple of orphanages over the last couple of days. The kids there are so cute and so fun. It's so sad to see how many have lost parents either to the war, or HIV, a different kind of war I suppose. At one of the orphanages, Casa de Anjos Inocentes (House of Innocent Angels), the girls asked my name to which I responded, "Justin, like Justin Bieber." I didn't even finish my sentence before a couple of them started singing "Baby," one of Justin Bieber's songs. There are a few in our group that are a little obsessed, so it didn't take long to have our entire group singing along. We spent the next 15 minutes or so singing pop songs with them. It was cool to see the language barrier break down a bit for those in our group who don't speak Portuguese. Speaking of Portuguese, Allie is doing so well with it! Yesterday at the training, they had her introduce herself and she did the whole thing in Portuguese. Such a great job! Kinda funny though, they thought she said she was Dr. English's wife, so then I made it clear that she was indeed my wife and they all laughed and then started chanting, "beija, beija, beija!" (kiss, kiss, kiss...) So I gave Allie a kiss in front of all of the health promoters and they were so happy :)

It is so fun to watch Allie with the orphans. She is such a loving person, and these kids are in such need of love. She has made so many little friends so far. She's a great example for me.

Buneca, one of my friends.
The Justin Bieber crew.

Carlos, one of my favorites. He is only 2, but he can sing and dance like you wouldn't believe. On top of that, he LOVES having his picture taken.

One of the kids had the idea of taking a picture flexing... haha... Please excuse Carlos' "Italian hello..."

One of Allie's friends named Davi. He is such a cute kid who suffers from cerebral palsy. Here Allie is helping him make a paper bead necklace.

He was so happy to have her there. After finishing he was just glowing. He gave Al a huge hug and ran off to show everyone his necklace.

Allie also headed off with the HELP group to help (no pun intended) with a vocational training while I headed to the airport to try and figure out her luggage situation.

Thanks for reading! We'll be posting again soon!