Not everyone wants to or has the freedom to pick up and go to a foreign country to start working for little to no pay. I have been lucky enough to find myself in such a situation and would like to share this with as many people as possible.After graduating with a BA in Human Services: Social Action/Social Change, I decided to put some of my ideas into practice. I moved back home, got a full-time job, and started saving almost every penny that I earned.

By the end of the summer, I will have saved enough to support me (very modestly) for three months in Mozambique. I leave September 3rd, 2008.I plan to return to the Community Center in Nhamatsane, where I worked for much of last year. This time, I bring with me new information, new lesson plans, and a new mission. In the nine months that I spent in Mozambique in 2006 and 2007, I tried many different ideas and made many mistakes. I have seen the things that work and the things that absolutely do not.

For these reasons, my goal this time around is to completely rethink the words "charity," "poverty," and "development." I feel that a project's capacity for changing lives is not merely determined by how much money it has (though that certainly is a factor!), but who it touches and how.

To be a part of something incredible, we do not have to write a check without ever knowing where it really goes nor do we have to pack our bags and get on a plane. If we all give what we can, I guarantee that we will see amazing results!

While I leave most of you behind in the United States, what I do is not a one person job. I sincerely hope that this will perpetually be a learning experience for all of us, which is why I ask that we share our knowledge, fresh perspectives, and resources with each other.

Enjoy the blog!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ants in the pants: WAY worse than the metaphor

Well I hope you all get a good little chuckle out of this like my mother did. I was sitting on the stoop of the escolinha and I felt some slight tickles on my lower back. Thinking it was a piece of grass or hair, I swatted at it but mostly ignored it until suddenly my left butt-cheek was ablaze! I jumped up and reached in my pants and pulled out a handful of teeny tiny little ants. I was ambushed!! Attacked without warning!! With no cover! Nowhere to disrobe and purge my pants of this infestation! I danced around for a bit, pulling out handful after handful of my tiny exoskeletal foes until finally I thought I had gotten them all out. When I began to walk, however, the last of the invading army chomped at my pasty flesh just a few more times before being crushed under thick dirty denim. In the end, I suppose I came out the winner. After all, I was not squished. Merely mauled. But my butt is not as appreciative of the victory.

In better news, the escolinha is beautiful and wonderful and every exhausting day gets better and better and I get more and more comfortable. Tomorrow I will finally start my health and English classes. On Monday the painting class began and on Wednesday they'll start actually painting. The kids are going to love it. They are so creative and so imaginative. I can't help but smile whenever I walk past the classroom. My pre-school class continues as usual every morning. 7:30 to 10:30. 84 children. Inacio and I are discussing the concept of turning the old office into a small house for 10 of our children who were orphaned. We have about 52 orphans in total but most live with other relatives. These ten are either living with neighbors who do not have the means to take care of them or with their elderly grandparents who themselves need much taking care of. So far, we have Antoninho (age 5), Fatima (age unknown, she's never had a birthday), and Tabita (age 4). The rest of the candidates we'll choose this week and then put together a budget. I just finished translating the brochure I made for CAN into Portuguese so that should help us get some donors.

Our health center is struggling, but doing well. Since it is now the time for farming, most of the health workers are out in their machambas. So I am at the center for most of the day. 7:00 to 11:00 and 1:30 to 5:00. This week I treated four cases of tinea (ringworm of the scalp), a severe second-degree burn covering Paulinho's (age 8) entire arm, an ear infection, and I am in the process of treating a todler's infected big toe (which is still very small even when swollen). And every time I treat something, I wish you all could see it and see the kids' faces after they're all cleaned up and get their stickers. Because I'm able to do this because of you. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful.

Though amazingly gratifying and without a doubt exactly what I want to be doing, I am TIRED. I walk (on average) for 3-5 hours in a day. To and from and to and from the escolinha. To and from the city. To and from the homes of my patients. And then I come home and make dinner for my boys. Boys, meaning my fiance and our housemate. Apparently, their cooking skills are steadily diminishing. Two weeks ago, they wouldn't let me near the kitchen. "Sit down!" "Relax!" they said. Now, they insist they have no idea how to cut a tomato. And they don't know where the dishes go when they're clean. I feel that they're starting to forget where anything else but the couch is. But alas, they're so charming and to be fair, I haven't complained. It's good for me to be busy and honestly, I probably don't want to eat their cooking anyway.

But let's talk about my bathroom for a second. Bathroom is a strong word. I have two bathrooms. Both are outside. One is the shower/bathroom for number 1. It is made of sticks, plastic bags tied together (most of which are translucent) for discretion's sake, and groved roof tiles. It is treacherous. The tiles move and make noise and the splash-factor is always an issue. BUT! because I am a smart little duckling I have found the perfect pee-spot with minimal splash and maximum stability of stance. Showering only happens at night, lest I have an audience (and I do). The other bathroom is a latrine. It has no door. And one of the walls only goes half-way up. So people can see you when you go in, watch you fiddle with your pants, but once you squat down you are in the clear. Except for the door. But when I do my business, I take a capulana and hang it over the opening. I'm not picky but I do like my privacy. And it's a latrine so at first I thought, oh great! I can just pee here instead and there will be no splash whatsoever. So I started to use it at night when I got home from work. I used it the next morning and when I lifted the cap, out popped about 15 cockroaches the size of small kittens. They trampled me on their way to find cover. I don't mind bugs, but sewage-soaked cockroaches the size of my elbow. Not okay. I only use that bathroom for emergencies. Speaking of bugs: I don't have malaria yet!

No malaria, but a very nice suntan. And in addition to my suntan, I have a host of bizarre rashes, crevaces and bugbites the origins of which I honestly couldn't tell you. But not to worry. This is normal. I had forgotten about all of those strange skin conditions, the perpetual semi-dirtiness, the octagonal bugbites, how the bottoms of your feet become browned rocks, and of course my personal favorite the white scabs that appear even when there was no wound to begin with. I'm not worried.

On a personal note (more personal than the bathroom stories), Marcelo's mother came back from her journey to Tete. We had a long talk the other night and I have been welcomed into the family. Lulu, Marcelo's youngest sister (age 7), told me that Marcelo and I can't ever split up because she wants me to be her sister and also she wants to live in our house with us. I told her not to worry.

So I've been carrying around my notebook with me and writing down little pieces of things that come to me. They're kind of abstract and don't make much sense but this is what I wrote:

Thinking about the bars on all the windows. Despite the comfort in security also duly provided by the man who holds my hand at night, seems like a prison. but some sort of prison like camus imagined. in the trunk of a tree, looking up at passing birds and clouds. placidly complacent in one confined space. some people call me a traveler but am i really traveling when i care my home on my back, just moving in and out of range of the people i love? am i a wanderer because my plane stopped in germany before i unplacked my bags and folded my clothes on top of a cardboard box that is my dresser.

when the red dust is settling in the pink setting sun, when i am covered in dirt and have diseases to cure by morning. when all is said and done, what is poverty anyhow.

there's something so poetic about the moment i took my tired old dictionary from my pristine (slightly dusty. i know, mom) bookshelp in the US , its pages covered in the red Earth of mozambique . waiting patiently to be used again and taking a deep breath before sinking into the folds my green backpack from 7th grade, the one which has traveled across the world three times, and which still contains the pieces of a fracutred wooden bracelet I bought last time i was across the ocean. i have kept it for years. it reminds me to treasure what i have.

Well, I suppose that's about it for now. I hope you guys all enjoy these updates. Thanks for all your wonderful encouraging e-mails. :-) I won't lie. It does get lonely at times. But that's half the fun: figuring out what makes you happy when the things that did before are so far away. Every day is a challenge. My legs are tired. My face is sunburned. My butt is ant-bitten. And I have to get home before the sun goes down. Plus, I have to make dinner. No. you know what? Amandio can make dinner tonight. I'm tired. So there. Feminism at its finest.

Anyway, I'm babbling.

Love always,


The business side of things

So aside from creating that brochure for the escolinha, I also created a ledger to keep track of all of our patients, when they were treated and with what. We mostly treat minor wounds and sickness that can be cured without anti-biotics or prescription drugs. But it is good for my students to see their own progress. So I printed that out just now. Also, I created my curriculum for the entire health class. The basic structure goes like this:

(i'm translating into english as i go. bear with me)

1. The job of a health worker

2. Hygiene and Clean water (which ties into bacteria and how sickness spreads)

3. Dressing wounds

4. Sicknesses of the skin

5. Nutrition

6. Taking care of a patient (which also involves a lesson on when to and when not to use medication and when to send a person directly to the hospital. it is important for them to know their limits and not feel that they have to cure anyone or try anything they are not comfortable doing)

7. Malaria (we arranged for someone to come to the escolinha and test all of our students (200 in total). my students will give a presentation before and after the tests.

8. HIV (during which time my students will be giving presentations in the community and getting people to come with us to the city to be tested)

9. cholera

10. women's health (which even in the US is in a sorry state. it's important for my male students to understand that taking good care of a pregnant woman is not a matter of chivalry or culture but of respect for human life)

11. Health of children and the elderly

And finally we spend our last week giving presentations and cleaning out our health post. We also plan to buy some wood and cloth to make a cot for our patients.

I also made these big posters with pictures of all sorts of fun skin diseases. I made a decorative sack of bacteria (filled with peanuts) to illustrate how bacteria passes from one person to another. I made a big poster with picture instructions on how to clean and dress wounds. And I made nutrition fact cards (which food goes in which group and how to eat healthily. the signs of malnutrtion, etc.) at the end of our class, we'll all cook a nice and nutritional meal together.

I am in the process of putting together the budget for the orphanage and I have already started cleaning the walls so we can paint them. i am so excited :-)

That is all!

Much love,


Friday, September 19, 2008

adress you can write and donations

And the post office box of the escolinha is this:

Elyse Chaput c/o Inacio Cesario

271 Correios de Mocambique

Chimoio , Mozambique

Much love,


frist update!

Well, three days in airports, one week on a white sandy beach, 2 days on a 300 mile bus trip that normally takes six hours, and five days of incessant smiling and reuniting with old friends, here I am in the internet cafe writing home.

Sara, you were right. Leaving did sneak up on me. In the two weeks preceding my departure, I kept feeling that I should have been more concerned than I was. The gravity of the situation didn't hit me until I got to Germany . Well, no. It hit me after 10 hours of sitting in the airport in Germany when my flight to South Africa was boarding. "What am I doing?" I thought. And suddenly I was scared and confused alone in a country so angular and efficient where the only words I can say in German are those for Please, Thank-you, bib, and mitten. I got on the plane bawling like a little girl.

That night, I slept terribly on the plane. The people next to me apparently had no control over their bladders and also thought I spoke Spanish (they were Swedish and British and were speaking English to each other but spoke only Spanish to me). If you're wondering, no I did not feel the need to tell them I spoke English.

I got to South Africa and waited in the airport for several hours before my flight to Maputo . When I arrived in Maputo , it felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. When I first saw Marcelo, I did not cry or even kiss him. My heart could not believe that it was really him. We were silent for some time, only delicately holding hands and speaking to each other like strangers. But when we got to the hostel where we were to stay, everything started to come back. Little by little, I started to believe that I was really here. And little by little, he once again became my best friend and the keeper of my heart.

Marcelo and I now live in a house with his friend Amandio, who studied in Zimbabwe some years ago and speaks a little English but insists on speaking it in a very high-pitched voice. I don't know why. We have a little kitchen with a stove (INSIDE!!!) and a living room with a teeny tiny TV that gets three stations. Our bathroom is outside and is not really a bathroom per se... Our shower is guarded by translucent plastic bags and has grooved roofing terracotta tiles on its floor. Our bathroom is right next to it and does not have a door and, like the shower, has no roof. It has not been as hard as you would think to adjust. I just take my showers at night after dinner. I boil a pot of water and mix it in a bucket with cold water. I bring my soap and my towel out to the shower and pour the hot water over myself with an old coffee can. Sometimes I just let my head fall backwards and watch the stars as the hot water becomes cold on its journey down to my toes.

Every morning I wake up, brush my teeth outside by the cement clothes-washing apparatus. I boil some water for coffee for the boys and me. I sit outside in the sun with Marcelo and wonder how in the world I got so lucky. How could it be possible that a person can be this happy? My days are filled with children and challenges and portuguese and bananas. My nights are quiet, lying in bed and working on lesson plans. There hasn't been one moment since I got here that I felt there was even a chance that I made the wrong decision to come here.

I started to work at the escolinha on Monday. Inacio and I sat down and made our plans. We start an art project next week with two of Marcelo's friends that want to teach painting lessons at the center. Also next week, I start my health classes again. It turns out that someone had taken my ciriculum and trained 10 more health workers in the village. This made me very happy. And the most intriguing part of next week will be the fact that Inacio is leaving. He's going to another village to teach a course about cholera. "So the center will be closed then?" I asked. "No. Here's the key, Senhora Director."

We'll see how this goes... I'm going to try my hardest. I am trying my hardest! The biggest things that need to happen before next week is that we need to buy supplies for the art project, rice for the kids' breakfast, and grass to cover the roof of the escolinha which as recently blown off almost completely. Then next week, we should be good to go.

In other news, I am getting quite the sun tan. I burned a little last week but it's already healing. My body isn't going as crazy as it did last time I arrived in Mozambique . And to my surprise, there are sooo many people who remember me! In the market, on the way to the escolinha, at the escolinha, in my old neighborhood, in the city, I am constantly greeted with "OLA ALICE! Ja voltou!!!" (Ola Elyse! You came back!!) This morning, one of my pre-school students gave me a kiss on the lips. He said he was waiting for me so that we could get married. And also to my surprise, I remember everything. I remember the paths to and from work and ADPP and the city and my house. I know where everything is in the city, down to the best place to buy tomatoes and onions. And I don't feel strange or out of place. I feel comfortable. I feel like I am living and not waiting to live. I feel absolutely positively wonderful and amazing in every sense of the word.

I am sending pictures of Marcelo, our house, and the escolinha. I love all of you and I miss you bunches!!

Love always,


lesson plans

Ola! THis is my first lesson plan I made for my health class.

First, we do introductions. Everyone says their names, their ages, and where they want to see themselves and their community in five years. We'll write them down on a piece of paper and hang it up. Then, we'll play an ice-breaker game just to get things rolling and to set the tone of conversation over lecture.

I want my students to have an active role in the formation of what they are actually learning. To do this, I will need their input about what are the most serious problems in the community and how we can fix them. Each person will write what they feel are the three most serious problems and then we will choose 10. We will rate each one according to how many people they affect, how they affect them, and how we can resolve them (curative or preventitive measures, etc)

The most important thing I want to talk about is the role of the health worker, not as the keeper of secret information but as the person responsible for educating the community. We belive that health care is not only everyone's right but everyone's responsibility. We'll make a list of the qualities of a good health worker and circle which ones we think we have and which ones we will have to work on.

Next, we'll talk about our role in fixing these problems and how it ties into Community Action. We'll define communtiy action and discuss what it means to mobilize people, the difference between doing things FOR people and doing things WITH them. We'll finish off with some improvisational scenes of what a health worker should NOT do. And we'll pick up on Wednesday with our first lessons in First Aid.

AND my budget for the escolinha:

960 MtN ($30) to pay the post office box for a year so we can receive donations

1500 MtN ($50) to buy art supplies for all 25 art students for one month of classes.

500 MtN ($20) to feed all 84 of my pre-school students breakfast every morning for one month.

Sorry this was so brief, but I only have 12 minutes left. Please post this on my blog and facebook too. Thanks bunches!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Getting down to business

Sooo this week I sent out the first batch of fundraising letters and ordered a book from hesperian.org (really cool site, check it out) called HIV, Health, and Your Community. Hesperian also published Where There is No Doctor, Where Women Have No Doctor, and Helping Health Workers Learn, the three books that were my guide and inspiration during my health classes last year. They have lots of illustrations and explain complex concepts in very simple and easily communicable ways.

Since my biggest endeavor this September will be creating a program specifically for HIV/AIDS education, I doing an IMMENSE amount of research and planning using my old lesson plans and teaching methods with the new information I have. To help me with this, I've spent a lot of time on www.aidsalliance.org, this non-profit that distributes free materials on HIV/AIDS and teaching about HIV/AIDS in developing countries.

As I read all these documents, highlighting, scribbling notes, drawing diagrams, and jotting down ideas, my head just starts spinning. There is so much to think about and so much potential both for incredibly beneficial results as well as not so positive reactions. First and foremost to consider is my undeniable position as the Outsider. Though I have already worked in the community, gotten friends, and will show my commitment by returning, aidsalliance and I differ on a couple of issues.

A.) Sex education will not be a staple of my lessons. I feel that in the rural communities, this would be seen as disrespectful. I absolutely intend on clearing up the myths that surround sex as it relates to pregnancy, STDs, and HIV, but I won't be holding a class where everybody is completely open about how they have sex and if they use protection, etc etc because that is not my place. I will discuss sex when it is relevant to the topic at hand, but I don't plan to make CAN a forum for the detailing of sexual escapades around the village. No thank-you.

B.) I feel that the material I've been reading from aidsalliance.org assumes that people know their HIV status. I really hope the publishers are aware that that is often not the case. The material suggests fighting stigma by encouraging communities to embrace their HIV+ members and encouraging the HIV+ to form support groups and to speak out. At this point, I'm going to opt out of telling HIV+ people that they should make themselves known and heard. The stigma in the community is still just too strong and unless we FIRST got the whole community involved, encouraging HIV+ people to out themselves (encouragement would imply that I believe that it will be better if they are public about their HIV status) could be dangerous. There's no sense in getting HIV+ people beat up. They kind of already have it rough enough.

I do like the way aidsalliance breaks things down. Maybe I'm just particularly fond of flow charts, but the diagrams make a lot of sense to me. The material educates the reader in the same way that it advocates the reader teach his or her student. It divides community action for HIV into categories and not just Prevention and Treatment. They take a fresh and realistic approach to the complicated nature of dealing with HIV education and, in fact, HIV itself.

The "All Together Now" (put out by AidsAlliance) model has four major categories: Prevention, Care and Support, ARV Treatment, and Impact Mitigation. Each of these is divided into appropriate methods of Assessing, Planning, Acting, Monitoring and Evaluating, and Scaling Up. The handbook emphasizes the importance of carefully choosing in which area you will work. This must be best suited to your abilities, knowledge, and resources. More on this as I try to figure out where that all leaves me.

I'd say hands down, the most valuable piece of information I collected from the 141 page handbook called "All Together Now! Community Mobilisation for HIV/AIDS" comes on page 13. It's a proverb in this little gray box in the lower right hand corner. It has a picture of a bird in it (not really sure about the bird's relevance... flying... wings... beak... beat... BEAT AIDS! ok got it). It says:
"Trust is a verb, not a noun! It is something you do; you have to build trust, it is never given freely."

As much as I had thought I understood that concept, I don't think I did. I think I got too wrapped up in the "job" aspect of what I was doing at the community center, meaning if I had no responsibilities that necessitated me being at the center, I would often just go home and plan my lessons there. I don't think that's the best way to do this. I need to be there. Even if I'm not doing anything. I just need to be there and make myself available as much as I can. And I want to be available. I want people to feel like they can come to me. I just need to make the effort. If I want people to get involved in their community, I have to be involved in it too. It's just going the extra mile that can make all the difference. I wish I had known this earlier... but I guess it just comes with age? Well jeez, if I keep finding out all these things I wish I had known earlier, I can't wait to be old.

Yes yes... it's a long way off, I know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

T Minus Seven Weeks and Counting...

Hello and Welcome to the blog!!

Well we are at T minus seven weeks until I jet off to Mozambique. I am in the final planning stages of my projects, communicating with the Centro Aberto de Nhamatsane (CAN), and brushing up on my Portuguese.

Here are the plans I am currently working on:

  • Health and Hygiene classes for adults, teenagers, and children
  • Weekly HIV/AIDS awareness workshops consisting of four parts: a classroom session, group trust-building and support exercises, HIV tests for all willing participants, and subsequent debriefing/counseling
  • Homework help sessions for the four primary schools in Chimoio
  • Community service and team-building projects with teenagers of the village (building latrines, repairing broken houses of the elderly, etc)
More details as I get them!