Monday, October 4, 2010

Visiting our VSL groups in Guija District - Mozambique

A couple of weeks ago I was able to head out into the bush with our staff to visit our Village Savings and Loans groups in Guija District, Mozambique. This was a really neat experience for me firstly because I have never been to Guija before, and secondly I was anxious to see how our new project was getting on and if it was making the impact that we believed it would when we designed it.

Driving into meet one of the groups you realise how far away you are from anything – town, tar road, shops etc. These people live off the land and off remittances that are sent from family members working in South Africa. The thing you notice right away is that there are not too many men around the place. This is because the majority are working legally or illegally in South Africa.

Life for these women consists of getting up early each morning and fetching water at a well which also serves as a meeting point to chat with friends and neighbours. Then its back to prepare some breakfast and off to the fields to tend to crops.

Guija, unlike neighbouring Chokwe is not as fertile and so its much harder to produce enough food to eat. The afternoons are spent around the house, looking after the children, maybe collecting some firewood and attending VSL group meetings before cooking dinner and going to bed.

It was wonderful to sit with some of our VSL groups and watch them master the savings techniques that Project HOPE has taught them. Everybody was excited about putting a little bit of money away each week knowing that it was safe and that it would benefit them at the end of the year when all the money is divided up.

Another reason for my trip was to conduct some health pre-tests. Basically this involves asking a set of questions to each group to determine their level of understanding around certain health topics.

Project HOPE then takes this information and is able to use it to highlight certain areas that need improving. We tailor our health education and then towards the end of the project we will conduct a post test which is the same set of questions and compare the results. This then encourages the groups as they can see where they have improved, and also helps Project HOPE in showing us how effective we have been in our training and what we need to do to improve it.

Check back for some videos from my visit in the coming days!

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