Throughout the entire day, my mind has been running a million miles a minute, trying to process everything that I’ve seen, remember all the information I’ve been fed, and attempt to string words together to really do this experience justice. Unfortunately no words or videos or pictures can really capture it all; it really has to be a lived experience. More than anything I just hope I can remember everything when I return home given the stimulus overload I feel even after day 1!

For the most part I wanted to use this post to talk about all the positive stories I heard today, but I also want to set the stage with a few facts about the area to give some background on why AKFC is working here.

The Coastal Rural Support Program supports areas, such as Cabo Delgado, prone to development gaps in health, education, and agriculture. This area in particular is of concern since it is isolated from a political power line, has a weak economy, and experiences low levels of well-being. Two statistics that stood out to me were 1) that over 48% of children under the age of 5 experience stunted growth and 2) that only 1 in 5 women can read and write. These numbers shocked our entire group and gave us great insight as to why this program exists and why the government of Mozambique has reached out to AKFC to assist in solving these issues, which ultimately hold back development.

This morning (which now feels like a couple days ago!), we mixed up our group and the AKF Mozambique staff into four Toyota pickup trucks and headed for Al Deia Pitolha, within the district of Meluco. I was surprised with how smooth the roads were and how they were all paved, despite leading to the rural parts of Mozambique. The driving however, not so smooth! We whizzed past overflowing busses and pickup trucks packed with teenagers hanging off the back and sides. By the time we arrived at Al Deia Pitolha, home to 854 villagers, we were itching to get out into field.

The village leaders welcomed us as we sat in a community circle with the locals. I was mesmerized by the colourful kangas the women wore and how easily they used them to strap their babies to their backs. Both men and women from the Village Development Organization (VDO) took turns presenting the work their village had undertaken in recent years, often referring to flip-chart posters they had displayed. Despite everything being translated twice over (from the local dialect to Portuguese then to English), the pride and obvious dedication to improving their livelihoods was not lost in translation.

The villagers of Meluco determined, back in 2013, goals that they were hoping to achieve by 2018. They appointed individuals to a council of sorts, each responsible for one area of improvement, including agriculture, healthcare, and gender issues. They had a collective vision of what they wanted for their village and you could tell that each and every individual, man or woman, was committed to making those goals and dreams a reality. They explained to us that great strides had already been made in ensuring that all children under 5 attended kindergarten, that all men and women were literate by 2018, and that domestic violence was on the decline. How incredible to watch a group of people, who are volunteers on this board, stand in front of us and proudly showcase the work they had achieved.

The presentations concluded with a demonstration of how mothers add packs of powdered nutrients to their babies porridge — made with sugar, palm oil, and corn flour — to ensure strong and healthy growth. As we sampled the porridge and drank our maringa juice (made from the maringa tree), we went around “meeting” men, women, and children from the village. Very few words were exchanged, but the smiles on our faces and theirs said it all. They wanted us to take pictures of them and then eagerly waited until I showed them how it turned out. I played peek-a-boo with a group of boys, who couldn’t have been older than 6. When they weren’t waiting for me to scare them or make funny faces, they ran around the village playing with a cooking pot; complete and utter happiness and joy. They were such curious and mischievous little kids, no different from the seven year olds I teach back home. What an incredible experience, to see such a united, determined, and incredibly organized community executing this vision they have for themselves.

Too be continued…(too much to share, and I feel like I wouldn’t be doing it justice in one post!)