Mothers die giving birth in Mozambique, leaving a torrent of orphans in their wake. In 2001 we started a non-profit organization known as Care for Life, mostly on a challenge to Cindy to share her midwifery skills in an area of the world with a very high infant and maternal mortality rate. Ironically, Cindy has never delivered a single infant in Mozambique, but the unique approach of Care for Life over the past ten years now contributes directly to the saving and betterment of thousands of mothers, infants, and others.
Board member Bradley McBride described the situation: “Every year about this time, the torrential rains descend on Mozambique, causing widespread flooding that impacts thousands of people. Many lose their homes, many lose their lives, and the survivors pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences of the flooding. Even though they know the floods are coming, no one ever looks up at the sky and tries to figure out a way to stop the rain. Why waste time on the impossible?
“In all parts of Africa, and many other parts of the world, there is a growing flood of orphaned children. UNICEF estimates that there are between 143 and 210 MILLION orphans worldwide, with over 2 million more orphaned children in Africa every year. It is truly a flood of tragic proportions. Thankfully, there are many wonderful, caring people and organizations that do everything humanly possible to care for these orphans by providing food, shelter, clothing, education, adoptions and love. It is truly a wonderful work they are doing, trying to manage the flood and its consequences.
“We at Care for Life applaud these noble efforts. However, our focus is a bit different. We are standing in the storm, looking up at the sky, trying to figure out how to turn off the rain. Simply put, we are in the orphan prevention business.
“Since its creation, Care for Life (CFL) has been working to help orphans, but also to help families stay intact to prevent the children from becoming orphans. One of CFL's earliest efforts undertaken in Mozambique was to teach expectant mothers what they need to know and do to help both themselves and their infants survive pregnancy and delivery. When a mother survives, one less raindrop enters the flood.
“The focus of CFL has become the quest to preserve families. Healthy, intact families are the answer to the world's orphan crisis. Children and parents who understand sanitation, nutrition and hygiene stay healthier. Children whose parents provide income and grow gardens are fed. Children and parents who understand how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS last longer. Children participating in the Family Preservation Program do not get pulled into the flood.
“Since the Family Preservation Program (FPP) began four years ago, over a thousand babies have been born to the mothers participating in the program. Not one of the mothers has died from complications of childbirth.
“There are over 14,000 people who have or are currently participating in FPP, and we acknowledge that one day, one of the hundreds of expectant mothers will not survive. But we will do all we can to see that it doesn't happen. We intend to stop the rain.”
A Focused Organization
Care for Life (CFL) is still a relatively small and focused organization as far as NGOs go in the developing world. We work only in the Sofala Province of central Mozambique with our full-time staff of about 60 that includes field officers, supervisors and program administrators – all Mozambican. Our mission and focus remains unchanged – to “Relieve Suffering, Promote Self-Reliance, and Instill Hope.”
In the last five years CFL developed and implemented a highly effective transformational development program known as the Family Preservation Program. Entire villages, usually with 200-300 families, are organized by CFL into zones and districts. In just two to three years, all are instructed, encouraged, helped and closely trained to work together to make lasting and sustainable changes in their lives that center around 8 Areas of Emphasis. We then exit each village as an organization but leave behind life-changing skills and commitments. The 8 Areas of Emphasis, each with multiple subcategories of activities, education and skill development, and measureable goals include (see circle):
Acknowledgment of Success
CFL’s approach led the Christian Science Monitor to relate in September 2007 that, “Care For Life, a US-based charity that is staffed primarily with Mozambicans, is at the forefront of what has become a new trend in foreign aid to Africa.” In November of 2010, the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy in partnership with the U.S. State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs chose Care for Life as one of the ten “Best Practices in Global Health for 2010.” This acknowledgement may have come in part from the remarkable success the Family Preservation Program has had in decreasing maternal mortality rates.
We are also grateful for and acknowledge the support we have had from many individuals and organizations. We have partnered with the Church’s Humanitarian Department in the past on water projects in CFL communities, with maternal health and childbirth education training initiatives, and have also received capacity development grants and short
Story from a Program Participant
The program’s success is best appreciated, however, from the perspective of its participants. Here is the story of Ana Dança from Nhamatanda, a community in central Mozambique about 200 kilometers inland from Beira and Manga where CFL is headquartered in Mozambique.
“I am 45 years old and have four children. When I was a young woman I could not believe that I would come to have my own children. I was very sick since I was five when I got intestinal tuberculosis.
Nobody believed that I would survive, but I had hope that I would. From 5 to 19 I was taken to the hospital 190 times. In that time I was attending the 6th grade and many days I used to go direct from the school to the hospital.