When we were with the eye doctor a few weeks ago I noticed that many of the older ladies, kids, and pregnant women were struggling to climb the enormous step to the clinic, even worse, it was dangerous to get down the “step” aka ledge. So, with some left over bricks we built an intermediate step. Simple, easy, cheap, important, potentially lifesaving; a perfect intervention in our little community. Here the Nema team demonstrate how easy it is to climb down the steps now!

Keeping everyone healthy

Our new partner NGO is entirely Mozambican, a sign of progress in itself.  Set up by one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, Bashir, they have a wide range of capabilities and knowledge.  This week we tapped into their knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.  In four of the villages that Nema support there are no latrines at all.  This is because the sand is so soft that the local people say that they cannot dig a latrine hole that stays open due to the sand falling into the hole.  Not anymore.

Empowering women the right way....

I have seen a lot of bad “gender equality” projects, especially in Afghanistan where the culture is not ready for certain projects and it can be more detrimental to empowerment to force it on a culture not ready for women’s rights than it can be to try to do “gender-based” projects by well-meaning but misguided amateurs.  The underlying principle of development being Do no Harm, we at Nema try to do all of our projects in slow and understated but effective way.

It’s something we take for granted but dirty drinking water kills over here. Some people boil their water but many drink straight from the wells or, worse, the “natural watering holes”. But not for much longer in our little world: for just $15, paid over 3 months, we are selling water filters that clean the dirty water of germs and bacteria leaving the water safe to drink and potentially saving lives, especially of young children. We have been using these filters in the lodge for a month now for guests and staff, and they are great. When we first demonstrated them to the staff they said it was witchcraft, but now they have faith in the science. We’ve started selling them to the staff at the start of a publicity campaign that we hope takes off locally to reach all of the local people with clean drinking water.

The school feeding programme is such an important part of what we do here that it’s been heartbreaking not to feed the kids for a term as the factory that makes the corn soya blend has been closed. However, one door shuts and another opens and all that and we managed this week to get maize meal and pigeon pea for the kids. I’m reliably informed by people who know more than me that pigeon pea is uber-nutritious and therefore great for the kids. And a bit different than the plain xima they normally eat. This week Dona Amina and I have distributed to all of the schools in the programme and are looking forward to seeing the kids grow healthy and well fed for the rest of the term.

Helping the orphans to a life of quality and dignity

“Working not begging” is a phrase I really admire from Big Issue founder John Bird, it has an air of dignity about it, and self-help with a little bit of ‘you can help me to help myself’ added in.  That’s what we’re trying to do here at Nema - help people help themselves.   Sometimes that’s hard here as there are so few opportunities, but we are trying to generate some and this is the first step.

Practice what you preach...

Our very own Dona Rema looks after the orphans and vulnerable children project in Naunde where she lives. Recently her own niece was orphaned and Dona Rema took in Pequena Rema. Pequena (little) Rema is a feisty soul and enjoys life to the full. She’s a handful for Rema whose own children are all grown up and live away from home these days. But Dona Rema takes it all in her stride, she must be used to it with the number of kids outside her house every day. Sometimes Pequena Rema comes to Nema Monday meetings, she always makes noise about something, we’re grooming her for a job with us in a few years’ time.

A NGO partner from town came to a meeting with us and kindly left us 6,000 condoms for distribution to our staff. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to educate we took the opportunity to entice the staff of both Guludo Lodge and Nema into some HIV training with the promise of free condoms at the end of the session. Never ones to miss the something for nothing opportunity and even better, an hour off work, the staff all turned up. Nema’s own Amina and Abudu carried out the training with their captive audience. It’s always good to reinforce messages and even those who think they know it all can learn something. It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry when the first question is “if my wife has HIV should I just go get another?” but the safe sex message was reiterated and the information that tests and drugs have recently been made available to all in the local clinic is invaluable so if that’s all everyone learned we have passed on a good message. We definitely knew to smile when 7 months pregnant Sephalina pocketed her condoms saying she would guard them till she needed hers!

Sometimes you just meet the nicest people:  after his recent graduation from agricultural college Rafael Kalachinga turned up on our doorstep (figuratively anyway) last week to bring Nema a bag of tomatoes and cabbage from his own fields, and 3 orange tree saplings, again that he had grown himself just to say thanks to Nema for giving him an opportunity. Now planted in the lodge the Nema saplings are going to be a reminder of the first ever Nema sponsored students to pass agricultural college.

For our orphans’ project in the local village of Naunde, Eid is a double celebration: the religious celebration is complimented by a gift from Nema. Yesterday we took our truck load of gifts for the 200 orphans to the village. Another parade of screaming happy kids greeted us as we arrived at Rema’s house. We had bought 45kg of children’s clothing, 240 bars of soap and lots of notebooks and pencils as well as some adult clothes donated by some guests and 100 pairs of girls pants! Despite the rabble the kids were really well behaved and team leader Assane marshalled the process whilst the “management” took photos and played with the kids. It’s such a small gesture really but something which made the lives of the kids just a little bit better for a while and gave them a day when they are not the most disadvantaged in this very ravaged comunity, and that’s part of why we’re here. Overall a fun day and a lot of happy faces.