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Experience #6 - Mafalala and Boane, Mozambique

Mozambique was an experience so intense that we will make two posts separately to tell so many inspirations we had!

This learning immersion happened thanks to a friend, Carlota Vilalva, who has been living in Mozambique for one year. Together with three friends they created the Mozup, a platform that puts in contact social organizations that need volunteers and people who want to volunteer but don’t know how. We will tell more about it in the next post. Thank you very much Carlota!

Mozambique reminds the history of Angola, for being colonized by the Portuguese and becoming independent in the same year, 1975, followed by a sad civil war. They at least ended before, in 1992, with a few conflict traces maintained until 2014 in central regions of the country, between the two main guerrillas-parties: FRELIMO (The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) and RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance). The official peace agreement was signed in this month of September 2014, two months before the elections that happen since 1994 and still aren’t exactly trustable, according to the public opinion. Due to this doubtful factor and to the preference we heard in the streets FRELIMO should remain in the power of state.

This supposed popular liking for the dominant party called out my attention, as everyone is aware of the visible corruption and the education and health systems don’t work. Even worst is that in the majority of the times that I asked if things have improved in Mozambique the answer was negative… Most probably what is missing is a good political education and better candidates.

An unusual fact is that just after the independence declaration, a law was created obligating the Portuguese to leave the country in 24 hours with 20 kilos of luggage. Can you imagine hearing this news? Shocking, revengeful and inconsequent. I’d describe such an act like this. It’s disastrous unfolding is noticeable as it is one the poorest countries in the world, mainly due to the disorder caused by this precipitated decision taken by new men with power in their hands.

After all these first impressions, we were able to meet very good people willing to dedicate themselves to improve the life whose has nothing to do with this: the children! The organization Livro Aberto (the name means Open Book) was founded in 2007 by people specialized in language, education and literacy. It has the objective of complementing the fundamental work of educating, what even being a basic responsibility of the local schools they are not really capable of doing. We talked with one of the founders, Mindy Brown, who being a teacher in a school of Maputo was astonished by seeing girls being “approved” to the following grade not even being literate. Obviously it would be unfair to blame only the professors, since the problem is way more complex simply for not having the deserved attention from government and civil society. The sad result is children who don’t even know how to read and have their learning seriously implicated.

With a generous look to this social gap, Mindy created the Livro Aberto to contribute to the development of kids from underprivileged areas like the district of Mafalala (I’ll tell more about it further down). Besides teaching to read and write for real, they seek to create the habit of reading as a pleasure moment. Being part of a morning class with the volunteers I could feel something I never had felt before, see how the literacy can be fun and made playing. In that moment I was just thinking how an enjoyable activity for a few hours a week can influence substantially their lives, by enabling them to read and have access to an endless knowledge, what is the beginning to guarantee a life full of opportunities.

Thrilled with so many inspirations surrounding us, we had the opportunity to know even more children in the Associação Projeto Cidadão – APC (the name means Citizen Project) in Boane, that is thirty minutes from the city of Maputo. Besides the mission of educating infancy, the Cavalheiro family created the APC to help the economic and social development of the community in several areas such as culture, art, professionalization and health. The most incredible part is that it’s progressing until today due to the friends’ network they built, what enabled them to find places for classes, materials and volunteers interested in leading the diverse activities they do.

When we met them we arrived during the classes and disregard any improvement required the kids were studying nicely and their joy was visible. In the video you can see the games “professor” Gabi played with them… In the other countries English didn’t allow us to interact so closely with the youth, but there the Portuguese language put us closer… To see children being educated once again, where this essential human responsibility is not exactly accomplished, thrilled us. Mainly for witnessing how generosity can substantially improve their lives.

Blameless for the past, these tiny people are the ones who suffer more the future consequences for not having access to basic service, for which the society should grind itself to achieve… But instead of making this a collective objective, the ones who have the power to decide today, prefer the self indulgence to invest money, time and intellect in creating technologies to develop more advanced shampoos to make hair more good looking and shining… Just an example of the value inversion we live…

Well, in the next post Gabi will talk about another inspiring organization and people fighting for their country’s education, called Muodjo.

Back to Mozambique’s moment, its economy for a long time depended on donations, as beyond the exploration suffered in its colonization, the country had no natural resources until the recent discovery of natural gas. This news gave more hope to prosperity, as it in fact attracts external investors, even considering their intention of taking a part of it, obviously…

Independently of it, today the greatest potential is tourism and we had the delight of feeling a bit of it when we went to Tofo beach. In its extended south-north geography, the country has a long coast with archipelagos, exuberant nature beauty and a lot of marine life. Besides the national parks where safaris take place. The challenge is still in the government’s capacity to foresee this as a real incentive to the economy, as it can bring external resources and more important, an incremental income for the population living in the surroundings of each new touristic center. At least this topic has been discussed. Firstly because ignorantly going against this opportunity, its visa price has doubled in last June. Secondly because the violent conflicts that were still happening in the country’s center region until the first semester of this year spread a very negative concern in the global tourism industry.

Aiming this opportunity with a more conscious look and thinking about the community, Associação IVERCA was born in Mafalala, a very peculiar neighborhood of Maputo. This area was created in the beginning of the past century by the Portuguese to regionalize the residence of workers from the city harbour, which began to grow with the discovery of gold in the bordering country, South Africa, generating a massive migration in the continent. It was not an intensive segregation as in Apartheid but its similar concept curiously gave birth to important personalities in Mozambique’s history, like ex presidents and writers. Specially for music, as the most traditional local gender, Marrabenta, was born there.

In reason of this rooted cultural identity, Ivan Laranjeira, who was then a student of tourism, noted that in those streets, where a prejudice of violence and poverty is cultivated from the outside, there was a big potential of inclusive tourism. This means way more than using the strong cultural traces for a private business profit, but instead, to develop the community of Mafalala while generates income for its people also.

IVERCA began in 2009, when Ivan and his friends, Erica Manjate and Carlos, decided to start by innovating Mafalala’s equity through three music festivals in 2010. What seemed to be a crazy youth idea, ended to be an annual festival with several music genders praised and attended by Mozambicans from different regions. As the social business started to grow, IVERCA developed the region not only through the music, but also with cultural tourism, crafts and gastronomy. Always targeting the clear mission of evolving together with the community, doing for instance, a course to educateesi youth rdents to become tourism guides to work with them.

We were lucky to do the famous Mafalala Tour with them and attend a performance from a local dancing group, Tufo de Mafalala, formed by ladies from the ethnic group Mácua with an impressive joy and charm. Gabi was invited to join them and learn the movements

As if it wasn’t enough, they also take part of interventions that benefit schools and the sanitation for the people. Public education in Mafalala is not an easy task, one of the schools we visited has more than a thousand students, works in three shifts with sixty children for each class.

Another proof of the conscious responsibility of this social entrepreneurship, we noted while talking to Ivan. Way beyond than growing the business, they have the objective of sharing the case they created so that other regions with similar opportunities can reapply what IVERCA made to impact positively their community. And even more important is that all Mozambicans have to keep in mind that stimulating cultural tourism is everybody’s responsibility, as together they can plant even more seeds like this one to improve the country, collectively.

Thank you very much to everyone who contributed to so many learning and we wish that these organizations working for the good can be constantly bigger.

Have fun!



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