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So I’ve made it a month in Mopeia! (Although some of that was over the holidays and I did go to Quelimane for some cheese omelettes and running water…) This month has been a huge transition- the pace of life in my small town is slow to say the least, I’ve had to learn to cook with the limited ingredients available (especially hard for for my vegetarian lifestyle but I’m sticking to it 🙂 ), try to “integrate” (which has been interesting because I’m at a new site and the first volunteer to live there so I’ve been quite a spectacle), and I’ve never lived alone! Between the bucket baths with dirty water in my outhouse without a roof, killing giant jumping spiders in my bedroom, and opening my door at 5:45 in the morning to find kids on my porch waiting to play, life in Mopeia has been interesting! So I’ll tell you a little bit about my town: it’s about 3 hours from the provincial capital Quelimane and you take a paved road for most of it and then turn down a dirt road that literally goes through the middle of untouched forest complete with baboons. After about 45 minutes you reach my town! There are remnants from the colonial period, mostly crumbling old buildings and something that looks like an abandoned fort, but there’s not much else. No restaurants, no internet, but there is a district hospital and both a primary and secondary school. The market is made of little stands selling whatever kind of produce they have that day (so far I’ve found tiny tomatoes, tiny onions, and even tinier potatoes), and a structure where you can buy dried fish (but I avoid the smell and flies at all costs). There are also little shops where you can buy flour, eggs, cookies, fake butter, fake milk, dried pasta and the rest of the essentials.

I’m working at the Save The Children field office in Mopeia on a home based care program that focuses on the children effected by having sick parents. There are seven different groups of activists spread all throughout the district and these volunteers visit and take care of people living with HIV/AIDS (I have to say that their dedication is truly inspiring. This is such a hard job and they receive so little for all of the hard work they put in). Save the Children supports these groups by supplying basic medical supplies, training, incentives, etc. so that the activists are able to take people to the hospital or bathe and feed members of the community if they need it. The program emphasizes the impact that HIV/AIDS is having on these children, psychologically, physically, emotionally. So what we are trying to do is check on the kids and see if they’re going to school, if they need medical care or uniforms or whatever else. My role is (or is going to be once I get better acquainted) to monitor and evaluate how the activists are implementing this child-focused program and what they can do to improve it. So I’ll be doing a lot of home visits and meeting a lot of kids.

I’ve been on a few home visits so far and it’s hard to even describe what I’ve seen. We’ve all read about AIDS and seen stories on tv, but the reality is far worse than anything I was expecting. The first day I went out into the field we visited a woman already in stage 3 who has 2 small children and whose husband won’t get tested. And she’s only 23. This beautiful woman with beautiful babies is dying. Luckily she got tested herself and started on medication so there’s hope that she’ll get better (not cured of course, but ARV’s have improved the lives of so many people). I was really shaken by this visit because I’m 23 myself and the thought of death terrifies me so I can’t imagine how she must be feeling.

But the next visit was the one that really opened my eyes to the reality of this terrible disease. We visited a 13 year old boy who full-blown AIDS. His legs are too weak to support his body and he can’t use his arms. He must weigh about 30 pounds and is confined to a makeshift bed that his family puts outside so other kids can visit him during the day. He can’t go to school, he can barely talk because it takes so much energy. He desperately needs to go to the provincial hospital but the district ambulance broke down and no one knows when it will be fixed. Amidst this sadness and suffering, he has survived and smiled the biggest, most beautiful smile when I walked up (most of the time I dread being a spectacle but this was the rare exception). He spoke as much as he could and joked about playing games. There was so much resilience and courage in this tiny body that I didn’t know if I should start crying or be happy that he’s hanging on.

It’s harder than I imagined, it’s scary and i wasn’t prepared for the things that I’ve seen, but there is so much work to be done. A woman was riding her bike when we were walking on the path and an activist told me that a year ago she couldn’t get out of bed. But because these activists went to her and convinced her to go to the hospital and start treatment, she’s now healthy and able to take care of her family again. It’s inspiring to see the amazing work that is being done in the communities, and it’s really helped me to not lose faith. Good things are happening, people are making a difference, and it may be happening slowly, but it’s happening.

So I think that “intense” is the only way to describe this work that I’m about to start, but I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity to lend a hand in whatever way possible. This past week has made me take many moments to sit and reflect on my life, my family, my friends and loved ones, and how lucky we all are. So I’ll leave you with some pictures of the kids in my neighborhood. Yes there is sadness and pain, but there is also so much hope.


Jordan Rief, PCV
Corpo da Paz/U. S. Peace Corps
Av. Do Zimbabwe 345
CP 4398


The contents of this blog are my personal thoughts and opinions. They do not represent the views or official policies of the Peace Corps or of the U.S. government.

Peace Corps Moçambique