It’s official: I have been living and working in Mozambique for one month already.
It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago, I was stepping off the 20-seat plane onto the tarmac of the tiny Vilanculos International Airport. I had left Thailand only two weeks before, spent a brief but lovely two weeks in South Africa with Morgan’s family and friends and after a 36-hour delay in Johannesburg, I had landed in the small Mozambican town I will be living in for the rest of year.
I’ve learned a lot throughout the past month. I’ve learned how to cook rice in a hut over a fire for 80 preschool kids (thanks, Morgan!). I’ve learned that there are various degrees of ‘Africa time’ (Durban ‘Africa time’ and Vilanculos ‘Africa time’ are not the same). I’ve also learned how important African Impact (the organization I work for) is to the community of Vilanculos.
The preschool that our volunteers come to teach at is completely funded (teacher/night guard/farmer salaries, food for students’ breakfast/lunch and school supplies) by African Impact. The ultimate goal is for the preschool to become self-sustainable, but at the moment, it’s not possible.
Our newest project is working at an orphanage in Vilanculos, but it’s not an ‘orphanage’ in the big building – lots of beds – and – a – cafeteria sense. It’s a Mozambican woman with little means, but a big heart who decided to open up her small straw hut compound to children who don’t have anywhere else to go. Our volunteers teach simple English lessons to the orphanage children on Tuesdays and arrange a fun play day for the kids on Thursdays.
Our third main project is Edson’s Adult English Class. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, volunteers teach a two-hour English lesson they’ve prepared earlier in the week to one of four English classes. The 80 Edson’s students registered are eager to learn English, as it helps get the a better-paying job in the Vilanculos tourism industry. Classes are taught outdoors on straw mats under a few tall trees.
Throughout the past month both on and off projects, the concept of ‘community’ has been constantly evolving in my mind. My few weeks in Vilanculos have reinforced the idea that “it takes a community to raise a child” as neighbors and friends here don’t think of themselves as such, but instead, ‘sister’ and ‘brother.’ These brothers and sisters help care for each other’s children, farm each other’s land and often help build one another’s first home.
This isn’t to say that Vilanculos, Mozambique is a perfect place. Poverty is everywhere. A small percentage of the population has electricity and running water and like everywhere else in the world (particularly Africa), crime does occur. Nonetheless, as much as we westerners feel like Africa has to learn from us, we definitely have a thing or two to learn from Africa.