Creating Change Across Different Communities in Africa
The journey began in Nelspruit, South Africa, where the volunteer stayed at the Ehmke house with other short and long term humanitarian volunteers. From here they transported medical supplies up along the coast and across the border to Mozambique. Mozambique is economically stable yet somewhat dangerous capital city. There they connected with Project Purpose.
Project Purpose is designed to educate girls in prostitution on health and safety issues, and ultimately help them break free of their bondage and seek out their greater purpose in life. In addition to office work, the volunteer was able to make a number of home visits to see the girls and their families. They spent most of the week with the children of the girls, building trust through swimming activities and sharing in their world, coming to learn their hopes and strengths, and monitoring their health. Making home visits to meet with the girls and assess their safety at home was a difficult journey, but also eye opening to see how socially constructed their worldview is, and how ingrained patriarchy is within their system and worldview. With the organization’s Director as a translator, speaking Shona, the volunteer was able to communicate with some of the girls, and provide psycho-education and support. The volunteer expressed that their time in this area doing such challenging work was priceless, and the exposure and knowledge they gained regarding cultural and historical paradigms was fundamental in their learning as a short term volunteer in Mozambique.
The most difficult outreach days in the rural community just outside of the capital were those spent at the Boccaria, the city dump, where families live in the most desperate of situations. The smell of burning plastic in the 40 degree weather, with relentless flies, and dirty, hungry and crying children is still a very real image that is burned into the volunteer’s memory forever. It is one thing to witness these circumstances as a visiting outsider, but to know that people live this reality everyday is incomprehensible—to live this way is not human, and their heart was heavy as they struggled to understand why some people get dealt such a terrifying hand in life—how can such a reality exist for so many people throughout Africa? These and other questions still hang heavy for the volunteer now that they have been back and living in such a different reality.
While at the city dump, basic wound care was provided, necessary medications were distributed along with bread and water. The volunteer and their team offered support for the children and families and their broken homes, and gathered the children together for games and songs to help build community and morale in such horrible living conditions. It was also the priority to meet regularly with the grandmothers in the area who were overwhelmed with care giving and feeding their extended families. The team had built such a strong relationship with the grannies and aunties in the area that they would leave their children with the team as to take part in activities and education so that they could do the laundry, water collection and farm work.
This opportunity for respite, seniors networking and outreach for the most overworked and unrecognized group in Africa—older women (grannies)—was a blessing, and their appreciation was overwhelming as they continuously offering food and chickens to us, which is such an incredible sign of genuine appreciation.