Community Volunteer in Mozambique

Monday afternoon, and the Animadora Suoma Emane, 30 years old and mother of six children, starts preparing for a trip to the centre of Nacala-a-Velha during four days. She has been called in by her supervisor, Mr Agy, for a refresher course arranged for community volunteers in the Nutrition Program run by Save the Children, USA in Nampula Province, Mozambique. Souma is really happy about going away for a few days and looks forward to meet with her colleagues, the other animadoras in her district. In all, they are 23, but she will only be meeting 12 of them during these days. Her mother who lives in the next village came yesterday to help taking care of her husband and the six children from 3 to 16 years old. Even her husband, Busha Momade is happy about her having a possibility to participate in these courses. Since she began working as a community volunteer 2003, or Animadora as we call them, he has seen remarkable changes in their village with less children suffering from malnutrition and diarrhoea. He is proud of her and feels that he also is a part of the improvements in their village. He has been chosen by the community members to be the guardian of the animadoras mother-groups vegetable gardens and their cassava multiplication field. Each Animadora is responsible for two mother-groups that she meets with twice a month. Every Monday and Tuesday afternoon Souma is giving a lesson and a practical demonstration in one of the eight key messages about nutrition and health. She is responsible for 30 mothers divided into two groups, but normally there is a lot more people coming and listening to what she has to say. The women are gathered under a tree close to her home, and as other people pass by, both men and women – out of curiosity they stop and they listen. The next morning at 07.00 she is ready to leave home. First she hear the car, then a little later she can see the white ambulance with the small read Save the Children emblem on the door coming closer on the dusty road leading to her little house in Mutumunta village. Mr Afai greets her with a big smile. She is not the first one to be picked up, the ambulance is almost full and she can hear the other animadoras singing and laughing inside the ambulance. A few days away from home, together with other women and a lot of talking and friendly gossiping is waiting. This is the reward four times a year for being an Animadora. None of them gets any payments for their work as it is entirely voluntarily. They have all been specially chosen by a group of informal and formal leaders in their villages and they know that their neighbours and other community members have high expectations on them. Some of the Animadoras is even called in to assist during labour, helping resolving family problems and giving advice when a child is ill. After two hours on the bumpy, dusty road the ambulance enters Nacala-a-Velha and their temporary home for three nights. Mr. Agy, the Conselheiro/Supervisor is prepared with a welcome breakfast, and information about the program. These days they will talk about nutrition and the pregnant woman, nutrition needs for severely sick people, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, Hiv/Aids and finally about conservation of seeds, drying of fruit and green leaves. During the sessions each one of the animadoras has to practice giving a lesson in front of her colleagues. It gives them the training and security needed to work in a culture where the woman normally doesn’t talk in front of others. The air is hot and they all sit on traditional mats on the floor in the local house with open sides. Some of the Animadoras have brought their babies, as they are still breastfeeding. Among the animadoras it is common to breastfeed up to six months without giving anything else to the baby. After that they continue with complementary breastfeeding of the child up to around two years of age. This is one of the key messages they have adopted. Souma is standing up and starts talking about the nutritional needs for the severely sick people. She is a little shy in the beginning, probably because I am in the audience, but only after a few minutes she has totally forgotten about me sitting there. The subject and what she has to say now absorb her completely. She is proud of herself, keeping her head up and looking at all of us as she speaks. She obviously knows what she is talking about. During one of the pauses, she tells me that she is also participating in the governmental project of alphabetisation five days a week. She wants to learn how to read and write, as she understands how important this is and she says: It opens up my head. She tells me that four or her children are going to school and now for the first time in life she has got the opportunity to learn something herself. Like other Animadoras that I have met, Souma tells me that there is a request from other neighbouring communities who have heard about her lessons, and they now wants her to start new mother groups with them. She is allowed to do that after have worked with a group for one year, as the mothers by then have heard all the messages twice and probably have changed some of their earlier habits. But first of all, she must contact the local leaders in the new community and present her messages for them for approval, and after that, they will indicate the mothers who can participate in her new groups. It is important that each Animadora has got support from the local leaders in a nutrition support group. They can help her to implement behaviour changes among the families, like construction of latrines and small hygiene environmental activities as construction of a little table to put the clean plates and food. The support group also mobilize and organize the mothers for work at their common vegetable garden or multiplication field. Some of the mother groups succeeded in producing sufficient vegetables for personal use and even selling a part of the production. The money they earned was either divided among the members in the group or the community decided together what to do ex. Buying of cement for construction of a small storehouse for seeds, or buying new seeds for the next season. Soon the fourth day is coming and it is time to go back home again. By now everyone is eager to go back home to their families. The animadoras have had three days to repeat and learn, three evenings to talk, telling stories, eat, sing and dance with each other, and now it is time to break up. It ends as it begun, singing in the ambulance as Mr Afai brings back each one of them to their homes and their waiting families. Back home again, Souma can see her chickens running around the house and some of the ten eggs that the hens were sitting on when she left have now hatched. She is a wealthy woman because she has got healthy children and does not have to spend money on buying medicines or loosing valuable working hours in walking for hours and then standing in a long queue of waiting mothers with sick children in front of the local health post. She knows and her neighbours know.

Postat av: börje i SofieRo

ja du skriver på utrikiska numer!

Må väl en påskhälsning från oss i SofieRo +2 grader och mulet men uppehåll!

2010-04-03 @ 16:32:44

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