Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Our First impressions of Care For Life


This is Tal...
We are learning so much these days and each day we feel like the learning curve gets steeper!  We've decided that we are just going to just write the little that we know about Care For Life and then as we get more understanding, we will add more understanding in future posts.

Before Care For Life: Organizations would come into communities and give food and provisions to try to help the people of Mozambique. This would help people for a few weeks and then the people would look for the next truck full of food or provisions. It was all about GIVE, GIVE, GIVE.
Care For Life's approach is different. They work with families and not for people. They believe that the families (and individuals) need to take charge of their lives and their future. They believe that people need to work in order to better their situation. Each family works for rewards instead of receiving a hand out.

Family Preservation Program:
The core program of Care For Life is the Family Preservation Program.  It is my understanding that the Family Preservation Program (or FPP) is exactly what it says it is… all about the preservation of the family. Joao (the program director) was telling me last night that the problem with aid in Africa is that many people are focusing on the wrong things. Organizations try valiantly to fix the results of broken families (orphans, vulnerable children, etc) and some have good results while others don't get anywhere. It's my understanding that Care For Life and the FPP is more about the offense (working with and teaching families how to strengthen) rather than the defense (working to fix the problems caused by broken families).
Care For Life started the FPP program about 4 years ago. It is basically a program where Care For Life is a partner (not a provider) to a community (they are currently working with 8 communities). CFL works with communities for 3 years and during that time the families in the community focus on self reliance and sustainability in all aspects of their lives.
When I first heard this, I thought well, that sounds nice, but I bet it is really hard to get people to change the things that they are used to doing. People like to receive handouts and don't want to have to work. Well, so far I am seeing that I was wrong. I have seen over the last few days that this approach is working. I know it has only been a few days and we are already seeing that there are lots of hitches and difficulties, but overall I have seen that this program really is working.

What does CFL want Tal and Anita to do?
One of the communities is now finishing its third and final year in the FPP. We have been asked to really dig into the community of Mungassa and find the good and bad outcomes of this program.  We will do focus groups, conduct in depth surveys, and really ask the tough questions of how things went over the last three years.  We are also interested in finding out if the families will now continue to practice the principals learned over the last three years.
I am excited to say that we had the chance to see "our" community of Mungassa for the first time today. It is a beautiful, verdant place where people take good care of their land.  It has nice dirt paths between hand made houses and gardens. It has palm trees and banana trees everywhere and kids follow us wherever we go. The people all wave at us and are very familiar with Care For Life.
One of our tasks while here is to collect at least 130 surveys from individual families in the Mungassa community. We had the chance to do our first two surveys today with two different families.
After asking a bunch of questions, here is what our first interviewee,  Dique, said about Care For Life and their involvement in his life and the life of his family:

"This work is for us to do... not for Care For Life. It is for us to do ourselves. The cleanliness, the building of latrines, the washing of hands, taking baths... These things are for us and for the good of our bodies... We, in Mungassa are very happy. Before [CFL] we didn't have very many houses, now we have houses. Before we didn't have bricks, now we have bricks. Mungassa is clean! This cleanliness will continue. Now that this has been taught, we won't stop and we will teach our children."

I know, it sounds rehearsed and like a perfect answer, but this shows the kind of impact Care For Life is having on at least one family.  We are excited to really dig in and find out what has worked well and what really needs to be done better next time. 

Below is a picture of Dique (the man who gave the quote) with his son



  1. Oh man you guys, this is really amazing! This is exactly what we've been incouraging families to do for years! The last two or three years we have especially concentrated on the importance of ownership! This sounds exactly like what these people are feeling...ownership of their bodies, their land, their future. What a perfect organization for you two to be associated with!

    What always amazes me about the wonderful humble people of Africa is that if they are healthy and their stomachs are full, they are such a happy people. It just doesn't take much for them to be truly happy!

    We'll be watching for developments with relish! Just keep on keepin' on!

  2. Sounds like a lot of hard work. It will be intense and rewarding. And it is all in Portuguese so you will really be immersed in the language as you delve into the community.