June 24, 2011
Working together for better care for orphans and vulnerable children
Hello from Quelimane, Mozambique! My internship partner Marques and I have now relocated from Maxixe to Quelimane for the second project of our internship. But before I tell you about that, a little bit about what I’ve been up to since I last wrote.
During our field visits with IRD’s local partner organizations, we noted the many unfulfilled needs of the orphans and vulnerable children in the province of Inhambane. We also met with government representatives who oversee programs with orphans and vulnerable children. They told us that they did not have a lot of information on these children in the province, and they would be happy to receive data on them from organizations such as IRD and its partners which are implementing programs to support them.
In response to the needs of the children, the local volunteers who work with them, and government, Marques and I developed a guide for the volunteers to use in their visits. This would prompt the volunteer to inquire and follow up on key issues for orphans and vulnerable children, including school attendance, health, having a birth certificate, and nutrition. We were challenged to develop a form which would cover all these topics in depth while still being appropriate for the local volunteers, some of whom have basic literacy. To go with the volunteer’s guide, we also created a form that their supervisors can use to summarize information about the children visited, which can then be passed on to IRD and the government for their data needs. It was certainly a learning process for me to follow all the steps from identifying a need to creating a tool to meet that need, and I hope that it will be useful for all involved.
Then it was time for us to say goodbye to Maxixe and our IRD coworkers there. It was hard for me, because I although we spent a short time there, the staff had shown us such hospitality. I enjoyed and appreciated working with them during my time there, and without their willingness to assist us in our project, we would not have accomplished all that we did in such a brief time. After saying our goodbyes at the office, I went and bought one last big bag of Inhambane’s famously delicious and juicy tangerines and a pile of capulanas (traditional wrap cloths), and we were off.
Exploring a new and different town- by bicycle taxi?
We’re now in Quelimane, the capital of the province of Zambezia. It’s quite different from Maxixe. First of all, it’s much bigger. You might expect that a bigger city would be more chaotic or busy, but actually, Quelimane is downright tranquil compared to Maxixe. This is probably because Maxixe was right on the country’s main highway, and there was a lot of hustle bustle and people coming and going all day. In addition to the highway, Maxixe had a ferry terminal which also brought lots of people through.
In general I prefer a calmer place, but I do find myself missing a few things I had grown fond of in Maxixe. There was the small restaurant in the market which served delicious and hot beans and rice for lunch; the women on the streets selling tangerines, bananas, and cashews; and the constant parade of women passing through wearing traditional clothes and carrying amazing bundles on their heads. Now, I haven’t exhaustively searched the market here for beans and rice yet, but I do notice a few key differences between Quelimane in Maxixe. Quelimane seems a bit more cosmopolitan- most people I see are wearing Western, not traditional clothes, and very few are carrying things on their heads. There are also few street vendors here. I’m not sure why that is- doesn’t everyone want fresh and delicious fruit available for purchase at a moment’s notice?
In spite of missing those aspects of Maxixe, there are plenty of new things to enjoy in Quelimane. First, the city is big enough to require taxis. But the taxis aren’t cars, they are bicycles! If you need a ride, you perch on the panel over the back wheel and let your bicycle taxi driver do the work. I’m very excited to try this myself, although I get the feeling sitting on the back of the bicycle with perfect poise will not be as easy as others make it seem. Quelimane also has some big, beautiful squares with gardens in them, and quite a few pretty colonial-style buildings. I’m looking forward to exploring the town and especially the market this weekend to get a better feel for the city.
You just have to be there.
On our first day in Quelimane, Marques and I were introduced around the office. The office here oversees programs all over the Zambezia province, and it is really buzzing with activity! After introductions, we sat down to get to work.
Here, our project is to design and implement a survey to evaluate the River Value project, which will soon be coming to a close. The River Value project is based in the rural Luabo area on the Zambezi river, about three hours by car from Quelimane. The project has several components. One component is water, sanitation, and hygiene- the program promotes better access to clean water sources and sanitation methods through the community-led construction of wells, rainwater catchment systems, and latrines. The program also works to improve hygiene and decrease the spread of infectious illnesses through education on hand washing practices. The program also has an agriculture component. This part of the program promotes techniques to take advantage of the fertile soils left by regular flooding of the Zambezi River, and also promotes the planting of cash crops, such as sesame, which can bring in much-needed income to the farmers in this area.
To design our survey, Marques and I first set about consulting all of our available resources, including IRD headquarters staff, local staff, and previously published information. I learned that there is a wealth of great information and tools on the internet, and was very appreciative of the efforts of other organizations in sharing their resources with others working on similar projects. We created a draft survey, but soon came to an impasse when we found that there were many questions we couldn’t answer from our office in the provincial capital. What are the names of the communities we will survey in Luabo? There’s no detailed map of the area, and the people who know best are the ones who live there. What types of containers do they use to fetch water? Where will we find enumerators to administer the survey? All of these questions would best be answered in Luabo itself.
Marques and I consulted with our supervisors, and soon arranged transport to Luabo on Monday. Once we arrive, we’ll talk to IRD’s staff there to learn how best to phrase our survey questions, where to implement the survey, where to find the enumerators, and many other things. I’m excited about the work (and challenges!) ahead.
Aside from the implementation of the survey, Luabo should also be quite an experience for us in general. Luabo is in a very remote area and doesn’t have all the resources we have here in town. From what we are told, the electricity works only during the day. There are no shops, so we need to bring anything that we will need with us (especially any food items that aren’t grown in Luabo). All the staff here, upon hearing that I will be going to Luabo, immediately say, “be sure to bring bug repellent!” It seems the mosquitoes there are really something else… And finally, there won’t be any internet- so the next time you hear from me, I will be returning from Luabo with much to report!