By Bill Frist, M.D.
I had the privilege today to spend time right outside of Chimoio, Mozambique yesterday, in Vanduzi Town. Africare is doing some amazing work in this village called Project COPE. Africare, partnering with Habitat for Humanity and the government of Mozambique (who provided the land), had built 30 new homes for families in need, many of whom were suffering from HIV. The homes were made with 100% local supplies and modern materials, rather than the traditional homes in the area. They were painted in a handsome, ochre color, and they featured sloped roofs that reached almost to the ground in order to prevent the rains from damaging walls of the house over time.
I met a young widow who was a beneficiary of one of the homes (See picture). Her husband had died of HIV/AIDS, and she was left to support three children. She began to cry because she was so incredibly thankful for the dignity that her home brought to her there. She explained that before this house they had had to live in a terribly camped hut. But, now they were in her dream home. Her little four-year-old started crying as well because his mother was so happy.
Africare also supports a Community Care Committee (CCC) by paying and training fifteen CCC members, chosen by the community, to oversee the humanitarian response. As a part of this response, each of these CCC members takes care of 15 HIV orphans, and they provide them with food, mentoring, education, housing, and a kind of advocacy: they identify their needs and then go to the community seeking on their behalf to provide for those needs. For instance, three times a week they provide a hearty, nutritious meal (see picture: dish of corn, vegetables, peanut butter, etc.) for young Israel an orphan recently diagnosed with HIV, who has been taken in by his grandmother, Taleza (see picture).
Taleza's three children had died, some from AIDS. When her last daughter died of the virus, Taleza took custody of her daughter's only son, Israel, who lives with HIV but has been on ARVs for 6 months upon receiving them for free from the Mozambican government. Taleza and Israel are also beneficiaries of the housing project, Project COPE. Africare helped build them a house when they had to leave their previous home, which had been connected with one of Taleza's children's place of work. Taleza and Israel are regularly visited by Africare's CCC members. The social networks created by Africare's localized approach to supporting orphans and other vulnerable families -- the CCC concept -- will remain active long after Africare's current program has run its course.
The CCC also supervises and mentors a family of orphans, who care for one another and manage their own household (See photo). Antonio, 19, became an Africare client several years ago after he was orphaned by the death of both parents. He is the head of his household, and cares for a younger sister and brother, who receive school supplies from Africare. Africare's support has helped Antonio's inherent entrepreneurial energy room to flourish. When they helped him build a new house, he chose to keep the old one and rent it out for 150 meticais -- about $6 -- per month, supplementing his income. A grant of a pair of goats has now multiplied into a small goat herd. Africare teaches about "income generation," how to take care of the goats, breed them, and multiply the herd to multiply sales. In this way, the brothers and sister are not only learning about the care of goats, but they are also learning about financing.
Finally, we visited the hospital there which Africare supports. Having learned that messages about health and nutrition are more likely to take hold if they are communicated by peers, not by outside experts, Africare trains indigenous volunteers in the area to educate the community. We met a woman who has volunteered to visit new mothers in their homes over the past several years, teaching them to make a more nutritious porridge for their infants. This, despite her own self-evident poverty!
The unsung heroes in all the programs are the amazing volunteers from the community, many of whom themselves have suffered in some way. These heroes have stepped forward and gotten involved with teaching others how to make a healthy meal, raise goats for "income generation," etc.
I wanted to relay these stories and photographs to you to remind us all of the individuals whose lives have been changed, touched, and bettered by the great work of Africare. This village of good folks in Vanduzi will lead better lives because of the contribution of Africare.
Tomorrow, I will be in Maputo, Mozambique visiting with governmental officials and other dignataries, leaning more about how the public and private sectors are interfacing.