Stitching Together the Fabric of Society in Mozambique

B

efore the Total Control of the Epidemic (TCE) Field Officer knocked on her door last year, Angelica Fole knew little about how hard HIV/AIDS had hit her community. Living just outside Maputo in southern Mozambique, a country where the adult prevalence rate is 16%, Angelica certainly knew about AIDS but had not realized how many children were suffering right in her own backyard. As she listened to the TCE Field Officer recount example after example of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in her neighborhood who, since losing parents to AIDS, had no where to turn for basic needs—food, shelter, clothing and school fees—she grew more determined to help.

With guidance from a TCE Field Officer, who was trained by NPI grantee Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo (ADPP - Development Aid from People for People) Angelica mobilized eight other women and started an OVC Care Committee. Using a single sewing machine and the little she remembered from a sewing course, Angelica taught her friends how to transform their country’s colorful fabrics into dresses and skirts for other local women. It took time, but, as soon as the business turned a small profit, the group was able to buy a second sewing machine. With this small increase in earning power, the women’s income-generating project grew enough to contribute to caring for local OVC. Seeing their commitment, ADPP then donated another three machines, enabling the women to dramatically increase production and boost profits.

Thanks to Angelica’s OVC Care Committee, eight orphans, their fees covered, returned to school. Among them is 13-year-old Jose Manuelinho, who lost both his parents to AIDS-related illnesses. First, his father died in 2007 then, his mother a few months later, forcing him to move in with his elderly grandmother who had barely enough to feed them, let alone pay for school. Identified as an orphan who needed the support of Angelica's committee, Jose eagerly returned to school in 2008 nurturing his dream of becoming a doctor one day.

In addition, the OVC Committee provides 32 other orphans with school supplies and new uniforms sewn by the group. Freed from worrying about day-to-day survival, the children say that they now feel more secure and can focus on their studies. As a result, their performance in school has improved dramatically, confirmed by higher marks.

Today, Angelica’s group is just one of many that ADPP has mobilized to support the nearly half-million orphans and 1.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. Since becoming a NPI grantee, ADPP’s Field Officers have reached over 600,000 people with information on preventing HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted infections. It has further led nearly 22,000 people to seek HIV counseling and testing, identified and supported over 8,000 OVC and successfully motivated 334,700 people to declare themselves “TCE Compliant,” meaning they have committed to living risk-free lives and protecting themselves against infection. By mobilizing the heart of Mozambican society—its people—ADPP is empowering ordinary citizens like Angelica and the women in her group to support the basic needs of children orphaned by AIDS and, in so doing, strengthening the social fabric of their community.