Updates from Mozambique: Leadership Gathers for Semiannual Board Meeting

May 4, 2012

Chokwe Sign sm.node

May 2012

CEO, Mary Ellen McNish, and Vice President for Advancement, Betsy Deisroth, are sending us live-updates from Mozambique, where Hunger Project leadership has gathered for the semiannual Global Board Meeting. Check back here for updates or follow along on Twitter: @HungerProject

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Mary Ellen

Join THP CEO Mary Ellen McNish in Mozambique on Twitter at #MEMtweets

Friday, May 4

  • Tonight we host a high level dinner in Mozambique. Guests include Africa Prize Laureates & reps from like-minded development orgs such as UNICEF, USAID and UNESCO.
  • Yesterday, I visited the Chokwe Epicenter in the Gaza province. It was great seeing our partners on the ground. Their passion & commitment is unmatched.
  • Currently at a University presentation hosted by our Global Board member Former President of Mozambique, President Chissano.

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Betsy Deisroth

Sunday, May 6

Yesterday was the Board meeting and I had the privilege to sit with the committed leaders of The Hunger Project in the afternoon. It was a joy to see our diverse board with so many professional and personal skills coming from varied countries and backgrounds to work very hard in serving our organization and guiding us forward to make our vision real — the sustainable end of hunger. Their insights, suggestions questions on our reports — finance, fundraising, visibility, monitoring and evaluation, advocacy, and the heart of our programs — were thoughtful and the ensuing discussions moved us forward on our strategic objectives. As we work on some program priorities, we will also be focusing on further developing our message to convey The Hunger Project’s nimble approach that is guided by our theory of change. We know that the best development work, and that which is essential to end chronic hunger, comes from the people and places where hunger exists. The catalyst and spark that the board, staff and global investors play is in service and full partnership with the hungry women, men and children of the world who step forward to change their lives.

As we completed our business, we had a bit of time to have longer conversations one-on-one about our families, lives and some of our passion for the work of The Hunger Project. Most of us ended the day with a meal together.

Friday, May 4

Today was a quintessential Hunger Project Day and by that I mean we spent quality time with a spectrum of partners, old friends and new ones, from many entities who are active and care for Mozambique – from our staff to the THP Mozambican National Advisory Council to various NGOs, government and international representatives from UNICEF, USAID, the US and German Embassy, Directors of Mozambican Departments for women, health, education and adult literacy, non-profits and more. The conversations were too numerous and deep to report here, but the vision and current strategic directives of The Hunger Project resonated with friends, new and old.

Our board members, President Chissano; Vice-President Speciosa Wandira, Steve Sherwood, Sheree Stomberg and Charlie Deull all spoke so simply and powerfully about our commitment to invest in the people of Mozambique.

I only had a brief time to talk with some of our staff: Ishmael, our local Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer, who is passionate about collecting and analyzing our data as well as telling us the human impact of our work; Emilia who is our Micrfinance Program Officer, Paula our office administrator.

Our guests were equally passionate about empowering the local people and governments to build their own future. And for some, as they looked forward, they also remembered the giants of the past who were champions of The Hunger Project such as Jim Grant and Wayne Frederick.

Thursday, May 3

It’s 5 a.m. and all is quiet, still dark out.

Two hours later, Board members and staff pile into a bus to visit Chokwe Epicenter (pictured). The drive was about 250 kilometers (155 miles) and the road was quite smooth for most of the way. We had the extraordinary benefit to have President Chissano as our guide, explaining where and how much the floods had destroyed around Maputo and the surrounding area.

The flora and fauna are very diverse even without being on a safari. I saw a peacock first thing this morning in addtion to lizards, geckos, egrets, seagulls and a variety of cattle and goats. Most of the cattle were guarded by young boys watching over them. The trees range from pines to palms. There are mango trees, cashew trees, the famous moringa. Flowering trees and bushes dot the landscape with their bright yellow, pink and purple.

We stopped mid-route at the district level offices and learned a bit more about the strengths as well as challenges of the area. The town is an economic and educational hub, it is also a transit spot on the road to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Because it is a rich agricultural area with a system of canals and irrigation schemes that are rehabilitating 14 hectares of land, many people work on the land. There are also many people who work in the higher educational institutions and the hospital.

When we arrived at Chokwe, we were greeted by the village members who are involved in the epicenter, probably 100 or more had gathered. School is still in session so there were no children, but we did meet several mothers with their infants. We toured the epicenter, visiting the food bank — some corn is stored, and their store — featuring many items they produce including breads, jams, fruits and vegetables, dried red beans, home-made clothing, and food they had purchased and offered for resale such as sugar, coffee, cookies, etc.

In the Meeting Hall, we met to share our greetings and respective thoughts. President Chissano introduced each Board member. [Board Chair] Steve Sherwood thanked the people who had come out to meet with us and shared what a gift we feel it is to partner with them. [Vice President for Africa Programs] Dr. Dicko asked the epicenter committee members to be recognized for their work and several shared their equal appreciation for The Hunger Project’s partnership.

We ended the epicenter visit by visiting the epicenter health clinic. This is an area that the members want to see improved. They are working with THP-Mozambique to ensure that the government provides the necessary equipment for treatment beyond basic first aid, including government-appointed health agents to conduct trainings on nutrition, anti-malaria practices, hygiene and other basic health issues.

This day was made possible by the work of so many and the epicenter itself represented many, many hours of work by many people. While there remains much to be done for this very rural epicenter to achieve its self-reliance, there is heart and vision and commitment by all to keep moving forward. My thanks and best wishes to all who made this visit and exchange possible.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 2

After a flight of 14 1/2 hours from JFK to Johhnesburg and connection to Maputo, we landed safe and sound. [Executive Assistant to the CEO] Wheatonia and [THP-Mozambique’s Country Director] Ofelia met us at the airport in Maputo. The first impression is of people’s happiness that they are eager to share. Portuguese is clearly langua ranca and I wish I had learned a few more phrases before leaving, but everyone is welcoming. From the Senegalese man that I met on my way to JFK to the people here who are interested or aware of The Hunger Project, I can see our empowerment model and message resonates deeply.

We leave 7 a.m. tomorrow to visit an epicenter.