Iulia is one of the Development Instructors trained at One World Institute Norway. Right now she is in Mozambique, somewhere in the Maputo province, volunteering in a project called Food for Knowledge. Here, she is telling us about the experience of living and working in Mozambique.
There is much that I wasn’t ready for when I arrived in Mozambique. I think it’s impossible to prepare yourself for living in a country, in a culture that has very, very little in common with your beliefs and with the lifestyle you are used to. I continue to be surprised everyday by the way people act, the decisions they make, the things they believe in, their traditions, and their way of work. So you can only prepare yourself for being surprised.
Leaving the expectations at the airport or at the border is also a quite a difficult thing to do. However, not as difficult as accepting that you are not playing by “your own rules” anymore. You do a certain action and unconsciously you expect a very specific result. It took me a while to understand that these results I was expecting are specific for the place I’m coming from, not for the place where I’m in now. In the beginning, I was surprised each day that the results were coming in completely different forms. The point is, you cannot be fully prepared for living 6 months in a “new world”. At least, I wasn’t.
The project where I’m volunteering, Food for Knowledge, is quite a huge project actually. It is operating in four districts of the Maputo province, it has been running for 4-5 years and it has funding until 2020. One of the things I like the most about this project is that, regarding my work here, I had many options to choose from. The project has 7 main domains that volunteers could work in: water & sanitation, school clubs, literacy, logistics, nutrition, construction, school gardens. Moreover, I could choose the district I wanted to work in. I chose Magude, a village in the district with the same name.
My responsibilities in the project are as many and as complex as I choose to make them. From the very beginning I knew I wanted to work with children. So I have decided to focus on school clubs and literacy. In this branch of the project, the target group is comprised of children who, for varied reasons, cannot keep up with the average academic level in their class. I chose to work with primary school children, from the 1st until 3rd grade and try to implement literacy clubs.
My plan was, and still is, to manage to have at least 1 hour per week in different schools. In this one hour per week I’m trying to help the children who have difficulties and are left behind to learn through different methods. My goal is to implement school clubs in a few schools. Moreover, I would like to help the teachers as well – show them that playing is a positive and effective way of teaching, make them look past the textbooks they have, motivate them to do things in different and creative manners. This is a rather utopian view of the things I’m trying to do here. In reality, this kind of work is received with skepticism and the process of implementing my ideas is not so straightforward. However, I have this picture in my mind, and I’m going to work towards achieving it. So I have made it my responsibility to go to the same 4 schools every week and try to implement the school clubs accordingly.
While trying to do this work, I came across an attitude that is not so open to change in the majority of the cases. As I said, it is a struggle to implement some ideas that I have. But I am still trying to find ways of teaching the children who are left behind.
When going for this kind of project, in a society that functions differently, I think it’s really important to try and understand the community where one is about to work. For example, in a project related to education, like I’ve chosen, it’s important to understand things like: the evolution of teaching methods in time, what drove people towards improving these methods, why did they decide to make changes in the first place, etc. It is extremely important to at least try to understand the place where you are, how it works and what is the situation of the educational system (as in my example).
Nonetheless, I am grateful beyond words for this experience and what it shows me every day. It teaches me so much about the world, about people, and about myself. It shows me how little I know, and how much there is to discover, and I think this is a crucial thing to be reminded of every day. I do miss home, and people I wish I had closer, but this makes the experience that much more valuable, because I learn how to deal with and guide all these factors that make me who I am.
Iulia – May 2015 Team