Readers Who Care: Suzanne Charity for Mozambique

Suzanne Charity went off the beaten path with CARE in Mozambique and discovered what it’s like to give a helping hand on the other side of the world.

By Dara Pettinelli
Woman in Mozambique proudly displays the treasury box holding her village’s savings and loan association funds

Suzanne Charity | 64 | New York, New York CARE site: Mozambique

Why did you choose CARE? Because their motto is "Give a hand up instead of a handout." They not only address emergency relief situations, but CARE staffers also develop long-term, sustainable programs with local communities.

How did you get involved? After the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand, I called a friend of mine who was also a chairman of the board at CARE, and told him I wanted to help. He put me in touch with a group in Manhattan called the Women’s Initiative.

What does the group do? The Women’s Initiative Steering Committee hosts fund-raisers and sometimes we invite CARE field staffers to come talk to us. We also travel to a different CARE site each year to check out their projects on the ground.

Where did you go? Last spring we visited rural villages in Northern Mozambique so far removed I wondered if the government knew people even lived there. The villagers lived 60 kilometers off of dirt roads in mud adobe huts with thatched roofs that weren’t very watertight.

What did you do there with CARE staffers? We went to see water and sanitation programs; maternal health and childhood nutrition programs; livestock and agriculture management systems; and HIV/AIDS education. Language is a barrier in the country because although Portuguese is the main language, there are so many tribal dialects spoken. CARE works with local NGOs (non-government organizations) to make sure there’s always a facilitator who speaks a specific tribal language.

What issues do the women face there? The women are poorly educated if at all. They’re often kept at home to help out with the house and take care of siblings. There’s no water source in most of the villages, so women have to walk about five kilometers to fetch water, which they carry in enormous 18-by-20-inch containers on their heads. No one in my group could even carry one and yet the Mozambique women put one on their heads every day.

What is your group doing to help CARE? We’re trying to raise $150,000 to help establish more village savings and loan associations in Mozambique, similar to a microfinance system, but all the money stays within the community. When asked what they would use extra money for, the women said they would buy mosquito nets for their children’s beds. Ninety percent of malaria-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and 3,000 children die each day. It costs just eight dollars to buy a net that lasts 10 years.

Why give globally? In the U.S., we take for granted being able to turn water on from a tap, to flick a light switch for electricity; shelter that’s impervious to the weather and basic access to education. At 64, I’m incredibly grateful for what I have, and I want to give back.

What inspired you about this trip? I didn’t come home depressed by my experience in Mozambique. I came home encouraged by the ability of people to find joy in small things and the possibilities of an improved life.

Where Your Dollars Go in Mozambique

. $8: a long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito net to prevent malaria . $10: water purification tablet package for one family . $15: a can of therapeutic food, Plumpy’nut, for malnourished children and adults . $25: educational materials for communities and clinics on the prevention of diseases including malaria, diarrhea, and HIV . $45: support for orphans and vulnerable children to get birth registration and to benefit from government programs in food and social protection . $1,000: hand-washing facilities for schools, or hygiene and sanitation training kits . $6,000: community-based savings and credit training for a group of women

Originally published on, January 2008.

First Published Mon, 2009-04-06 18:19

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