Our final day in Quelimane began with a review of the videography and editing techniques we had shared with our Mozambican journalist friends. And we have become friends. It’s humbling to see how dedicated these community-based journalists are and how many stories they want to tell. Boffite told us the first story he wants to tell is that his village has been without its only well for more than a year. Children who go to school have no water to drink and water must be dug or carried from some distance.
The progress the journalists have made is astounding. They have one camera that is used by everyone connected to the Oram-sponsored project. The camera is kept in Quelimane and if news happens in one of the CBJ villages—some as far as six hours away—someone must travel to Quelimane, take it back to the village, shoot the story, and bring it back to Quelimane for editing. Then they must dial-up an internet connection and spend hours uploading their projects to youtube.
Fawn’s lost luggage finally made it on a 11pm flight (that arrived after midnight) from Johannesburg-Maputo-Tete Matunda-Maputo-Quelimane. Fawn says her zebra-printed bag saw more of Africa than she did. I’d been lending her clothes and toiletries, but luckily she had packed her malaria pills in her carry-on bags. Several days earlier, we’d met a German researcher who had also lost a bag, which contained her malaria pills, so I shared some of my pills with her. I figure I’ll have enough to get me home and I can get more. Malaria is a serious problem here and preventive care during the wet, mosquito season is not to be taken lightly.
Health care is one of the biggest challenges facing Mozambique. One of our journalists had a severe toothache this morning. Fawn, who was a pre-dental student at one time, looked at it and realized his tooth was seriously infected. She had oragel cue tips with a topical anesthetic back at the hotel, so she and Alfredo, an Oram employee, drove back to the hotel to pick it up. I remembered that my dentist had given me penicillin and pain medication in case something should happen to me in Africa, so, in the hopes that something in my first aid kit might help, I ran as fast as I could, hoping to catch them before they left. I wasn’t paying attention and ran smack into a very unripe and very hard mango dangling from a low-hanging branch. It caught me square in the left eye, sent stars shooting through my head, and dropped me like a sack of potatoes (make that coconuts). I staggered back into our Oram office and pretty much passed out. I pulled it together pretty quickly and Fawn had managed to bring my first aid kit, which now Boffite and I both needed. I’ll probably come back with a black eye, but the good news is that Boffite’s toothache has been treated and he’s feeling no pain.
Our closing session with the Oram folks and their journalists was very moving. The people here are doing great work with next to nothing. None of the journalists has been educated in this field. Their communities selected the most promising young storytellers and sent them to Quelimane, hoping they could learn the skills to explain their problems and celebrate their successes. It’s really humbling. They have so much passion and potential. They want to tell their stories and establish a rural Mozambican voice in the world. They just need the technology to get it done. Fawn and I are brainstorming to figure out how to help them in a way that truly helps. The international aid here, the way the Mozambicans explain, comes to them in bloated bureaucracies that keep the international community here well supported, often through imposing dictates that breed resentment and frustration. The key is to provide direct help to grassroots organizations like Oram, step back, and let the folks here find their own uniquely Mozambican path to self-determination.
Tonight, the Mozambican friends we met are cooking dinner for us. Don’t know what that might be, but I know we’re sure to enjoy it.