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Family Strengthening in Action in Mozambique

SOS Social Centre Maputo has embraced strategy of helping Aids Orphans via their widen community. With a catchment area comprising of a poor peri-urban community, there are plenty of ways in which community led interventions can pave the way to not only preventing the abandonment of children, but empowering families to improve their own situation.

SOS Social Centre Maputo has embraced our strategy of helping Aids Orphans via their widen community. With a catchment area comprising a poor peri-urban community, there are plenty of ways in which community led interventions can pave the way to not only preventing the abandonment of children, but empowering families to improve their own situation.

Take, for example, the Chitamba* family, who first came to the attention of the SOS Social Centre Maputo during the initial baseline study.

The family were known to the local leader well, as, traditionally, in times of trouble in Mozambican culture, it is typical for communities and extended families to help out where possible.

It is unfortunate that in recent times, as much as this traditional support structure might want to help, they too are also finding themselves vulnerable and are often unable to take on extra responsibilities.

The mother is in her late twenties and the father in his mid thirties. They have five children ranging in age from a baby of nine months to an eleven-year-old girl.

When the field officer from SOS Social Centre Maputo first met the family, none of the children were in school as the family had no way of raising the school fees, let alone provide 'extras' such as a school uniform or school books.

They live in a single room, with only access to a shared outside tap for water. The room is used for living, sleeping and sometimes even cooking (with an open fire) in.

The toilet facility is simple a 'long drop', shielded by two grass walls in the yard.

The father would occasionally be invited to assist a friend in his rudimentary carpentry workshop for a few days, but this was infrequent and he was hardly recompensed for his work.

"I was in total desperation before I heard about the family strengthening programme," said the mother. "There were days when we did not eat. The little one could hardly get milk to breast feed. This is just a miracle hat this has happened to us. I can feel that the SOS Social Centre will help us to help ourselves in the long run as my husband is being trained on how to run a business and he will be able to raise money for our survival."

The "miracle" that the mother talks about, will indeed be long term, but the SOS Social Centre Maputo field officers also feel that in the short term the family need to improve their food security. So, in consultation with the family, the family strengthening programme is providing the family with a monthly food pack consisting of basics such as dried beans, rice and cooking oil. The family are able to supplement this with meagre portions of fish and vegetables.

The two middle children have been enrolled at a local kindergarten, called Escolinha Estrela 'Star school', where the social centre has paid the majority of their school fees and provided material for school uniforms. At the kindergarten, the fees cover breakfast and lunch, so they are assured of two meals a day.

The two older children will soon be assisted with enrolment at a primary school nearby.

The father, who is quite a good carpenter, has been able to make a few products, such as cooking spoons and small cupboards and he is being instructed by the field officer on how to price the products and then sell them informally.

His friend has agreed to take him on for three month in his workshop for some 'hands on' training. When this time is up, the social centre will assist him to purchase a few basic tools and a little start-up capital, which he will pay back as he sells products.

The SOS Social Centre Maputo has discovered that many of the families being assisted in the family strengthening programme live in extremely poor conditions and it will soon be introducing a property development programme where community members with skills or time will assist one another to improve their accommodation.

The Chitamba family will be included in this, and Mr Chitamba will no doubt obtain some work through this programme, as well as some all important dignity from being a knowledgeable member of the team.

* For privacy reasons, we have changed the name of the family.

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Our Family Strengthening Programmes aim to prevent street children. By keeping families together, children can grow up safely in their own environments.