“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” –African Proverb
Two weekends ago was the JUNTOS workshop for the Niassa province. As I’ve said before, JUNTOS is a youth group aimed on education youth and communities about topics such as leadership, self-esteem, puberty and reproduction, violence and abuse, communication, HIV/AIDS and sexual health, and income generation. JUNTOS stands for Jovens Unidos No Trabalho para Opportunidades e Succeso, or Youth united in the work for opportunities and success. It is an organization that I believe strongly benefits its members, Mozambican and American.
As the new Niassa coordinator of JUNTOS, I was one of the people responsible for planning the workshop. Event planning, as it turns out, is MUCH more difficult in Mozambique than the U.S. For one, none of the places to stay or restaurants have any sort of e-mail or website. You either have to have their phone number or go to them directly. Sometimes even calling them does not work and it is essential to go talk to them in person. Matt, the former coordinator, is closer to Lichinga and handled most of that while I worked on the curriculum side of things.
On Thursday July 3rd I left my house in Cuamba around 4am. After walking (and some running from dogs) to the chapa paragem, I managed to catch an almost full chapa to Lichinga. I was there in about 6 hours. I got a pastry and a latte at a café (a sign I was in the capital city of our province!) and waited for one of our Mozambican leaders. He picked me up and we went to the pensao. After talking to the Dona there and arranging to rent all 16 of the rooms the next night (for 36 people), we went to her mother’s house to inquire about food options. It turns out her mother was a cook and was willing to offer us a better price than the restaurant we had arranged with. Afterwards I did some shopping and exploring of Lichinga as I waited for Matt to get in. I even got a chance to meet up with one of my Mozambican friends from Cuamba who was going to the University of Lichinga.
The next day we got up bright and early and went to a stall in the market for breakfast. Turns out it was delicious and affordable, so we asked the man if he’d be willing to do breakfast for 54 people the next two days. He agreed, and with that, food was set!
We went to the bank and withdrew A LOT of money, then did our shopping and printing. When my JUNTOS groups got here, I went to meet them and lead them to the pensao. We got all the printing and shopping done in time and headed back to settle in. It being the 4th of July, we kicked off our conference by performing the national anthem for them (quite badly)… We did an introduction and taught them a cheer, and then they had sessions on self-esteem and leadership led by one of the Mozambican counterparts. She even used her group to perform a small play. Afterwards we headed out to the courtyard to eat a delicious dinner of rice and chicken stew and relaxed before bed.
The next day we got off to a late start because of a late breakfast. The Mozambican counterparts were great though and immediately started some games. We played Human Knot, which they had fun with, then went in to learn about sex and gender, puberty and reproduction, communication, violence, malaria, and diversity. I think the diversity activity was one of my favorites: the students stood on a ledge and jumped off if the statement applied to them. It was a lot of fun. We gave them their shirts and headed back to the pensao.
That night, each group performed something specific to their group, which was a lot of fun. We had a group that showed their photojournalism book, a group that sang, a group that gave a lecture on HIV/AIDS and demonstrated how to use a condom, and quite a few theater groups. My IFP kids did a hilarious skit where they were students in a class and the teacher was teaching the geography of Mozambique. One of my students was a map of the country. My other group did a skit about violence towards women. Being a group of all boys, I got a knock on the door asking if they could borrow a dress from me…
On Sunday things went a lot smoother. We started with some teambuilding games. Afterwards, one of my students taught about HIV/AIDS. He had a great game where someone in the middle was the person and he had others representing the immune system. He added people as HIV attacking the immune system as the others were all throwing a tennis ball and trying to hit the person. It worked really well! We also talked a bit more about leadership and self-esteem. We made a Self-Esteem Wall where they could write shout outs to each other and also taped a paper to each person’s back so they could write nice comments to each other. They LOVED it, and it was a lot of fun for us. We answered questions from the folder of questions and took the post-test (they took a pre-test and a post-test to measure change in thoughts) then headed back for a final lunch. Eventually we crammed 21 people in our chapa to head back home. It turned out to be a huge success!
Some of the misconceptions they had during the conference surprised me, especially when they stuck to their opinions even after we gave them the facts. Some examples are as follows:
-Puberty and development are the same for everyone and are purely physical.
-Women cannot get pregnant on their period or before starting puberty.
-It’s equally easy to be a man as a woman in Mozambique.
-Women who have condoms are “easy”.
-HIV can be spread through mosquitos like Malaria.
-Violence only exists against women.
-Homosexuals don’t have any sort of real relationship
…and many others that I am now forgetting. I wish we’d had more time, but in the end I think they all gained a lot from it and met a lot of new people.
My group finally made it to Cuamba at 10pm on Sunday night. They were still super motivated though, and insisted on doing the cheer before leaving. My IFP kids all walked me to my house in high spirits before saying good night. It was a fantastic weekend, and I’m excited to see where my JUNTOS group goes from here!
Also, here’s a website a few friends of mine posted on Facebook. This describes how I feel about traveling… http://masedimburgo.com/2014/06/04/17-things-change-forever-live-abroad/
As for my words of the day, since we talked about sex and gender, they all mean woman/man
Portuguese word of the day: Mulher/Homem
Macua word of the day: Muthiana/Mulopwana
French word of the day: Femme/Homme