Damaris Bravo on When Jesus Calls Us to Stay and Serve

A woman sleeps on chairs at Dondo Secondary School in Dondo, Mozambique (outside of Beira), which was heavily damaged by Cyclone Idai. The school was converted into temporary shelter. | Photo: Food for the Hungry/Sean Sheridan

It has been a little over six months since Cyclone Idai–one of the strongest on record for Africa and the Southern Hemisphere–left its devastating mark in Beira, Mozambique. This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Mozambique with Food for the Hungry (FH) as a disaster response assistant to help with some of the rebuilding efforts, including logistics, capturing stories, and communications coordination.

I have seen what poverty looks like before–I had spent two years in Guyana through the Peace Corps–but I was not prepared to experience what I saw and heard in Mozambique.

As I drove through the communities of Dondo district, Beira, I saw homes completely destroyed, schools without roofing, and large resettlement sites filled with tents that people called home. I saw chunks of roads completely caved in and heard tragic stories of women and children being stuck in trees waiting for the flooding from the cyclone to recede. It’s estimated that 90 percent of Beira was underwater after Cyclone Idai hit. The most recent death toll stands at over 1,000 people, with close to 2 million people affected. I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like to lose almost everything. And yet, I was surprised by the communal spirit of not only their suffering and commitment to help one another restore their lives–but also the conviction I felt for us as global brothers and sisters in Christ to partner in rebuilding, together.

Everyone I came across seemed to have been affected in some way by the cyclone, including the local FH Mozambique staff. They themselves were victims of the cyclone: they had their own homes severely affected by the torrential winds and rain. Immediately following the cyclone, they described to me how hectic those early days were as they tried to care for their own families and serve the communities that were completely washed away by the cyclone. I still cannot fully comprehend how these staff members mustered the mental stamina and managed to provide life-saving support and relief to others while their own homes were partially destroyed. Although much progress has been made to rebuild homes, schools, and roads, there is still much work to be done.

During my deployment, I was able to see how committed the FH staff members were in providing relief to the most vulnerable communities. It is now been over six months since Cyclone Idai made landfall and the local Ministries and international aid organizations are still working tirelessly to provide support and recovery assistance to cyclone-affected households. There was a deep sense of shared responsibility among all NGO partners, humanitarian workers, government officials, and local Mozambicans. I heard many stories of individuals volunteering to distribute shelter kits to their neighbors, community members coming together to restore schools, and so forth.

I had the privilege of visiting a local community where FH was performing a school rehabilitation project. As I was taking pictures of the progress of Consito Primary School, I met four fathers that shared with me their experiences after the cyclone – Armando Mussage, Jacinto Marcelino, Fernando Paulo, and Alfonso Calvo. They said that the roofing of the community primary school was completely gone after the cyclone. The children of Consito could not attend classes since all of the desks and chairs were scattered all over the school grounds, the windows were completely shattered, and parts of the school walls had crumbled to the ground. The fathers expressed how devastating it was for their community. These four men participated in a community mobilization group days after the cyclone hit to restore the bits of roofing that remained and clean up the mess that Cyclone Idai left. I asked them how their children felt after seeing their efforts to restore the school.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Damaris Bravo