Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Savings Group Training

On Friday, 20 November Joél, Nadia and I went to the first day of the Brethren In Christ church’s savings group training. It was really good to go and see how Dona Cristina conducts the trainings. She first went through all the theory/logistics of forming a group, then had people stand up and give a recap of what she discussed. They covered most everything she presented. Then in the afternoon, she showed them how to form the secretary’s book. She told them, “Precisa pontealidade porque é tudo que fazemos” (You need punctuality because it’s everything that we do). She told the story about the church which now meets on time because the savings group meets prior to the service. When she talked about the internal rules, she said that the fine for gossiping outside the group is 500 mets; the second time is expulsion of the group. She stressed that group members need a spirit of building and not of destruction.
Dona Cristina explaining seminar with Dona Alina watching and Raimundo translating

I really like her rules for seminars. I saw them when I went to the seminar in Chimoio in March and she had the same ones here. This is my favorite: Anyone who falls asleep will get their face washed. She fines people 10 meticais if they are late to a session and also fines for phones going off during the seminar.

She left time for questions and had a lot of patience with questions. She focused much of her commentary about how savings groups are transforming their churches and women’s lives. She told several stories about groups’ contributions to their churches—the group that bought benches for their church, the conference where more women were in attendance because of the money they had saved. This group rented a car and had enough money to buy capulanas and food for the trip. Those at the conference not a part of this group were so impressed they went home and started their own savings groups. She said others use their savings for books and uniforms for school.

She was disappointed that there were not more women in attendance. She says that women really benefit from the seminars and savings groups. Plus, she said women are more patient with others when they return to their communities and explain things to the groups they form. As she described the roles of the leadership commission, she said that only women can be secretaries and treasurers (where the majority of the power is with the leadership). She talked about how Mozambican culture puts women below men; savings groups empower women. I wonder what the male pastors thought…

Dona Cristina explaining the layout of the secretary's book

She conducted the seminar in Ndau and Raimundo, one of the BIC pastors, translated into Portuguese. I think this is good because 1) most people come from rural areas where their understanding of Portuguese isn’t as strong and 2) it allows for the nuances of culture through language to come through in the explanations. One of the nuances she used was the idea of a “madrinha” (godmother) as a co-signer of a loan. People understand the role of madrinhas as someone who covers for someone else and so it made a lot of sense to them instead of using the word “testimonio” (witness).

It was really good for me to get out and go to the savings group seminar. It felt like an integration of so many worlds for me—BICs, Dona Cristina and Dona Alina from the UCC church, the Mennonites and now Nadia. Now we wait and see who goes home to their communities and begins savings groups. Dona Cristina’s church already has 60 plus groups going. It’s exciting to see the transformation that is happening in people’s lives, churches and communities.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Styl'n Bay-bee!

I was told by a certain young man that the new in style for hair is to wear a fo-hawk (or however you spell it). This is Nadia’s attempt.


Indian Ocean
We spent the last week vacationing on the beach. The idea came about when the young girl of a couple we know said she wanted to go to the beach on holiday (she was passing some time in the cold north of England in winter) and said she wanted to go with Jenny and Joél. We thought thisa very good idea and we went. It was nice to find a place to relax for a week that had a pool a nice little house with kitchen, grill and all within the beautiful setting of the Indian Ocean with its sailboats and azure blue waters.

Nadia's First Dip in the Pool

Look how happy she looks

The children had a place to play and run around and all the adults could find space to relax and to have fun playing cards in the evening. We slept in, read a lot and ate chocolate. Nadia had her first swim in her new little inflatable boat with two little holes for her feet. She was quite animated all week because she had new interesting people (especially children) around to play with. We returned feeling quite relaxed.

Our Happy Family (Nadia has eyes only for the hermit crabs)

Mozambique is going to the world cup.

I thought we Nebraskans get crazy about our American football, the expanse of red on the interstate highways, the surge in Lincoln on game day, Grandpa, aunts and uncles stopping work on the farm to go watch the Saturday games and shouts coming from my aunt and uncles house from the teenagers watching a Nebraska touchdown (or and Oklahoma one for that matter). It is good to see that Mozambicans get into their football (or soccer we like to call it in the US) as much as we get into ours. Today was the game between Tunisia and Mozambique. Mozambique has never been to the world cup and it has been five years since they ever scored a goal against Tunisia. My guard who was listening on his phone headset and making me concerned about his attentiveness to watching our house lept up and started shouting Halleluiah.

“If there is one thing I asked God this year it is that Mozambique would score a goal against Tunisia.” he shouted on his knees.
It is crazy because it has been so hot in Chimoio and people’s windows are open. The sound of people yelling all over the city emanated from the other side of our walled in yard from in front of their television sets. It as kind of surreal since earlier today he told me the US had beaten Argentina to officially enter the World Cup. I was the one to be jumping up and down at that point. It was a joy to shout and laugh and enjoy the experience. Mozambique is truly an underdog but they need something to look forward to especially since the World Cup will be held in South Africa. Maybe I can arrange a television so we can all watch the world cup together this next summer.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Savings Groups Transform Churches
The other week, I met with Dona Cristina to talk about plans for next year with the savings groups. She told me a number of stories about how the groups are transforming churches:

The Women’s Society conference on 9 September had more women than usual. The reason—women had money to come to the conference because of their participation in the savings groups.

The church in Chipibava last year had an “orcamento” (I think total collection) of 1500 mets. This year they are superseding 7500 mets! And when there are fundraisers in the congregation, people give because those who are in the savings groups know how much others have and so no one can get away with saying “I don’t have any money” because the others in the group know they have some money.

The church in Sofala decided to pay their pastor more than usual because they had more money to give.

Gracas a Deus! as they say here – Thanks be to God!

It has been a while since either Joél or I wrote on our blog. We blame it on being new parents and pokey internet.

We are doing well. The hot season is upon us. Our housekeeper arrived this morning saying that the forecast is for 34 C (93 F) today and yesterday was 36 C (97 F). The humidity doesn’t help. Fortunately, in Chimoio, the evenings are cooler and so there is some reprieve. Yesterday, Nadia was cranky and not knowing what else to do, I wiped her body (already just in her diaper) with a cool cloth. That cheered her up so we filled up her baby bath and let her splash around in the water for a bit. It seemed to help.

Now we wait for the rains. Joél says this is his favorite time of year because everything turns green. I don’t particularly like the heat (when I was a kid, I’d spend summers reading in the cool of the house all day to avoid the heat). In my mind the rains redeem the heat. Here it heats up then it rains and cools down then repeats the cycle. Mozambicans tell us that it will be a good year for rains. I don’t know how they know but that’s what they say. I hope they are correct and have the right amount of rains for a good harvest.

Nadia continues to grow. She’s now four and half months old. In general she’s a happy, easy going baby. She loves standing on our laps and when we’re eating fusses until Joél puts her on his lap so she can be at the table too. She’s starting to try to sit up by herself and is on the verge of learning how to roll over completely. For several weeks, she’s been able to roll from back to front; then she gets stuck. She hasn’t liked being on her stomach much but now she’s able to prop herself up and entertain herself for a bit of time before fussing to be rolled back over.

It’s interesting to me to see how having Nadia has opened doors for us. For example, frequently we take walks in the late afternoon. Often, we’ll pass a group of people who have noticed the “baby in the bag” (bebe no saco as they say in Portuguese about our baby carrier) and be talking about us. Sometimes someone in the group is brave enough to stop and talk with us about the baby carrier or talk with Nadia. Other times, people will stop and talk with her and ask us about her. It’s almost as if having a baby makes us less intimidating. And Nadia charms them with her wide open smiles and laughter.

Last week we did the first traveling with Nadia. We’ve gone to Beira several times but never out to projects. We went to Machanga Girls’ Center to visit the SALTer. The United Church of Christ started this center for girls from rural areas to have the opportunity to go to secondary school. Alexis, the SALTer, organizes activities for the girls when they aren’t in school. There are two school sessions—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So Alexis runs the same activity twice in one day. She does English language, physical activities (yoga, hoola hoops, soccer), art, song/dance and several other things with them. When we visited only 15 of the 40 girls were there. The rest had gone home on summer holidays and these 15 had to stay to take their exams. It was neat to see Alexis’ reporte with the girls and how quickly she’s learned how to communicate with them in both Portuguese and Ndau (the local dialect). The girls are very fond of her and were disappointed to learn she was leaving before their exams were over.

Tia Amelia, Tia Casilda and Alexis with Nadia

Nadia, on the other hand did not know what to do at Machanga. It was hot and dusty one night and the next night cool and rainy. The head mistress loved Nadia and wanted to hold her but initially Nadia cried when she was held. Finally she allowed Tia Cassilda to hold her and got a bath, Mozambican style from Tia. After that she was friends with Tia and happily looked around from her perch in the capulana.

Nadia in Tia Casilda's Capulana Mozambican Style

From there we went on vacation to Inhassoro for a week. We rented a house on the beach with friends who have two little girls. We were the only ones at the place and so their girls were able to run around without fear and loved playing in the pool and the ocean. Nadia didn’t get into much of the action (preferring to nap) but enjoyed interacting with the girls and put her feet in the pool a few times and in the ocean one day.

Now we’re back. Joél continues to work with both CCM Manica and CCM Tete on the sand dams/food security projects. I am gradually starting to work again, primarily with the savings groups—planning for next year’s activities with the UCC Women’s Society.

MCC Mozambique has changed. Holly, the SALTer in Tete left. She was working with CCM Tete on their sand dams/food security project. Tony finished his three year term and returned to the States. He’s getting married next week to the woman who patiently endured three years of long-distance engagement. Just before he left, Jon arrived to take both Holly and Tony’s places as the engineer working on both the sand dams projects. And Alexis, the new SALTer arrived. Our team is completely different than when we arrived, save for the MCC reps. It’s good; there’s a lot of positive energy and new ideas. Though we still miss those who were here.

I guess that’s all for now.