Tearfund’s partner Oasis Mozambique recognises that for families fleeing civil violence, the work of improving health and financial security starts at the very heart of community – building relationships of trust between neighbours.
“People told us not to bother with savings groups in Manga Loforte”, says Armando Licoze, the Director of Oasis Mozambique. The neighbourhood sits on the fringes of Beira, a port town on the east coast of Mozambique, with aging Portuguese architecture and white sandy beaches. Most residents have fled civil conflict in Mozambique’s rural areas, finding a place of relative safety. It used to be a community only in geography; when Oasis first started work the people had little shared history, no old connections between families, little interaction between neighbours, and no established trust.
In this context, gathering a group of people together to save money, and lend and repay it to one another, is very difficult. The ‘experts’ told Oasis that others had failed, and they would too.
But Oasis’ savings groups, and their other community activities, are thriving. Why? I asked Anna, a savings group member who has been part of Oasis’ work for about 6 years. She explained: “The project came to unite us as a family”.
Long before Oasis started savings groups, they started building relationships. Oasis identified a small number of mothers, including Anna, who were willing to learn how to help other mothers improve their family’s health and hygiene. The ‘mother leaders’ formed care groups with neighbours, building relationships of trust over time. Through them, the community’s health began to improve.
Anna and her neighbours have drastically lowered the instances of diarrhoea in their families through simple techniques like boiling water and cleaning their homes. Now, they’re pooling their savings to provide each other with loans through an Oasis-run savings group. The group’s credit goes toward home improvements, school fees and small businesses.
Whether they were part of a care group before or not, the savings group members are still cared for. They hear the health (and other) messages from leaders, and they are encouraged to look out for one another. The groups save and borrow money for themselves, but they also have some funds to help out neighbours who are doing it tough.
Everywhere you move in this neighbourhood you hear about the relationships, how people feel like family, how they are working together.
The effects of this project are, at first, hard to see. There are few physical inputs: no wells, immunisation programs, or school buildings. Very little is actually given to or done for this community. This organisation is committed to valuing people: working in an inclusive and empowering way, guided by a hope that transformation is always possible because the resurrection of Christ shows that even the darkest situation can be overcome.
Oasis Mozambique’s work in Manga Loforte is, in some ways, painfully slow. What is marvellous about this work is not its speed, but its depth. Relationships between the staff, volunteers and the community are strong. Mother leaders are devoted to their care groups, and neighbours know one another better. Everywhere you move in this neighbourhood you hear about the relationships, how people feel like family, how they are working together. The community can speak into Oasis just as Oasis can speak into the community. These long and deep two-way relationships, built on respect and trust, have enabled Oasis’ work to succeed where others have failed, and will enable the people of Manga Loforte to continue their own development trajectory into the future.
Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).