September 13, 2011 | Posted in 2011, Mozambique, UPenn | By

Our Experience in Mozambique

 

When we arrived at Young Africa’s Beira campus, we were immediately struck by the beautifully painted buildings and the serene atmosphere of students working and socializing. Though we were not scheduled to begin our work until Monday, we were eager to get started and so we set about pairing wooden boards to make benches and desks for a primary school in Dondo. The wood had been discarded by Chinese industrialists and was purchased for very cheap. Young Africa wanted to show the locals of Dondo that they could make something useful and practical without much money; also, the classrooms were just cement floors and the students were in the habit of sitting on the floor for class. We stripped the bark off the wood and matched boards together to make desks. The first week, we went to the site of the primary school where a group of men waited to work with us. Joe, an Irish volunteer trained in construction, showed the men how to nail the wood into the benches and use concrete to affix them to the ground of the empty classrooms. For the first week, we worked alongside the local men, sawing and pairing boards and carrying wood between the three classrooms in which we were working.

In the second week, we went for the first time to the site of the AgriTech, Young Africa’s new agriculture school right down the street from the primary school. There we were shown how to make cement blocks, mix concrete, and lay bricks in the foundation of the first building of the school. We also went back to the primary school and painted the classrooms with bright green and white paint.

In our third and final full work week, we conducted a survey with the young people of Dondo about the new AgriTech school. We drove to Dondo and stopped in a few markets and along the road to talk to people between the ages of 15 and 25. We asked them about their current employment and daily occupations, education experience, goals for the future, and interest in AgriTech. We prepared a lengthy report for the directors of Young Africa with the information gathered. We also took time during this week to interview various department heads, administrators and students of Young Africa for YA newsletters. We talked with them about how they came to get involved with the organization and what in particular they liked about working here.

In addition to the general tasks mentioned above, we spent about a day each week working at the Young Africa crèche. On the weekends we visited a local orphanage, the House of Blessings, and also a state-run orphanage in the city of Beira. Carolina, the volunteer film student in our group, also filmed and edited a Young Africa promotional video. She also worked on a project of her own, allowing young people to film short videos portraying the cultural identity of their community and then projecting the footage to them. She wants to show how, through film, a community can further understand the unique aspects of who they are. Our entire group visited the village of Mafambisse to project the video for villagers and witness their response to seeing themselves on film for the first time. We also spent some evenings discussing various elements of development (HIV/AIDS, aid and development, gender) in a roundtable setting with long-term volunteers.

In our free time, we enjoyed dance parties, playing games, and doing aerobics classes with the long-term volunteers and with the girls who live in the hostel on campus. Lastly, we enjoyed visiting local markets to try exotic new fruits and purchase jewelry and fabric for family and friends at home.

 

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