Mesa nonprofit turns around impoverished African villages

In Mozambique, one quarter of the adults have HIV, 75 percent are unemployed, one in seven children die before the age of 5 and the expected life span is 48.

In this southeast African county, a little-known Mesa-based nonprofit is working to turn the tide, one village at a time.

“We don’t give them money, not giving food,” says Glen Galatan, spokesman for Care for Life on Baseline Road near Val Vista Drive. “We are providers of education. We teach them to become self-reliant. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The nonprofit educates villagers on how to be self-sufficient in eight key areas – health and hygiene, education, psychosocial well-being, sanitation, food security and nutrition, income generation, home improvement and community participation.

Care for Life first researches a village and then meets with that village’s leaders to see if they want help. “Sometimes they are skeptical because lot of organizations have worked in Mozambique and some are great and some are not so great,” Galatan says.

Once invited, Care for Life sends in a team of 10 to 15 employees and volunteers, who are from Mozambique, to work with the villagers for 2.5 to three years – long enough for a cycle of self-reliance to start.

“One of the many things we are doing is reducing the infant and maternal mortality rates and the biggest thing we do is education,” Galatan says. “So, we teach prenatal care. We educate the mother on what to expect, how to be hygienic and sterile.”

The efforts are working. Maternal deaths have been reduced by 78 percent and infant deaths cut by 58 percent in villages where Care for Life has gone in, according to an independent five-year research study presented earlier this month at the Social Work, Education and Social Development Conference held in Dublin, Ireland.

According to Dr. Patrick Panos, director of global education and outreach at University of Utah and the study’s author, Care for Life’s presence in a village more than doubled the chances of survival for Mozambique babies.

“In fact, according to UNICEF, in 2015, Mozambique had 489 maternal deaths per 100,000 births,” he says. “In Care for Life villages, we see that number go down to an amazing 90 per 100,000.”

Since its inception in 2000, Care for Life has helped between 20 and 25 villages, Galatan says. Right now, the nonprofit is entrenched in four villages.

The nonprofit is the brainchild of Blair and Cindy Packard, who visited Mozambique in 2000 after flooding there killed at least 700 people and devastated the land. The Gilbert couple saw empowering people was the most effective way to tackle the country’s problems.

The nonprofit focuses on villages located outside of Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique with a population of 530,604. Each village typically has between 200 and 250 inhabitants.

“Most of these places there is no electricity, no running water — not in all but in most,” Galatan says. “Oftentimes they have to walk miles and miles and hours and hours to get to a source of water that may not be clean.”

Life for Care teaches villagers how to dig for wells and how to use pellets to sanitize the water. The group does provide the low-cost pellets.

“Another big problem is there are no latrines,” Galatan says. “Lot of times, they go out to the streets to defecate. We teach them how to build latrines. We don’t do the work but show them how to do the work.”

Countries that lack access to clean water and where open defecation is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children under 5 years old, according to the World Health Organization.

Care for Life also sets up Children’s Clubs to educate children and help form village associations where villagers can borrow money to start a business.

The group also helps villagers to set goals and rewards them for meeting them. “For certain goals, we may reward them with simple things like seeds, a hoe, things of that nature,” Galatan says.

He acknowledged there are other similar organizations but what sets Care for Life apart is it tracks each and every villager a few years after he or she has left to ensure they remained self-reliant. So far, it’s been 100 percent successful, Galatan says.

Care for Life is funded by private donations but is looking for local and national corporations to partner with. Galatan is Care for Life’s first full-time employee hired in the United States in January to help in this endeavor.

“One of our long-term plans is to help millions of people,” Galatan says. “And we have to get funding so we can take this model and use it in other parts of Mozambique and other places in the world.”

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Care for Life tracks each and every villager a few years after he or she has left to ensure they remained self-reliant. (Photos special to LLAF)