AGDC-M has supported over 3,000 orphaned children and 125 widows with their basic needs of food, clothing and education. 200 girls receive sanitary pads and other personal effects every month. They have also built an 80-seater community library and trained twenty-one facilitators to support the running of the Community Libraries Programme. Over 4,000 people have been reached with HIV/AIDS and public health messaging. For a blind boy, Peterson Pierson, his life took a different turn when AGCD-M helped him to join a school and he is now in grade five.

In the provinces of Tete and Nampula located in the northern part of the southern African nation of Mozambique, an organization is helping orphaned and vulnerable children and widows to shed off the devastating effects of the civil war which ended in 1992.

From 1977 and for the next 25 years, opposing political sides engaged in a firefight that left unquantifiable destruction, death, disabilities, widows and many orphans in its wake. It is estimated that over one million people lost their lives through violence or starvation and over five million others displaced. Critical infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and schools were destroyed. Numerous human rights abuses were committed. Children were turned into soldiers, women into sex slaves and family members brutally separated from each other.

28 years later, the Associação Grito das Crianças Desfavorecidas – Moçambique (AGCD-M), which translates to Disadvantaged Children’s Outcry Association – Mozambique, continues the work of rebuilding the country. AGCD-M protects, educates and supports orphans who lost their parents in the political conflict or from HIV. Based in the northern city of Tètè, which greatly lacks in essential services, they also take care of elderly women who lost the sons and husbands that they depended on to the war.

AGCD-M was founded in July 2010 by Helment Matètè as President, with the help of his friends Lazarus Jorge Kanjala, Berenson Tesoura Watchi and Catarina Antonio. Helment Matètè is an organizational management professional and himself a victim of the brutality of the civil war. Lazarus is an agricultural and livestock technician; Berenson is a practising nurse while Catarina is a teacher. Together they combine their skills and experience to drive their common passion which has turned AGCD-M into a shining light for orphaned children and neglected women from the seven districts of Murrupula, Tete, Doa, Moatize, Tsangano, Angonia and Chiuta, who had lost hope in life.

Inspired by the need to address the vulnerability of the orphans, Helment took up the responsibility of helping by providing them with love and care.

“By remembering the suffering I went through in my childhood during the war and the help I received from community members to reach my goals, I learnt to be hardworking and generous. I am now somebody in my community because others gave me a helping hand,” painfully recalls Helment.

Addressing Socio-Economic Inequalities

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The social and economic development of these areas is particularly low when compared to other parts of the country. For people there to have access to essential basic needs is difficult owing to the low levels of education, among other challenges. Poverty here is the norm for the many who depend on small scale subsistence farming for their survival. There are very few schools and many children struggle to continue with their studies because of a lack of school supplies, food and tuition fees. This has led to high levels of child labour, early marriages, sexual immoralities, drugs and substance abuse. As a result, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies and school dropouts have shot up.

This is evidenced by a UNICEF report titled “Childhood Poverty in Mozambique: A Situation and Trends Analysis” which indicates that many children are severely deprived of access to clean water, sanitation, shelter, education, health, nutrition and information. The report provides a disturbing overview of the socio-economic situation of the millions of Mozambican children, especially concerning childhood poverty.

To address the situation, AGCD-M set up a network of five orphanages across Tete and Nampula from where they offer training and a feeding programme, provide clean water and conduct health education. To supplement the feeding programme and domestic households’ food security, the association practices crop farming and animal husbandry aside from tree growing and training the community on sustainable agricultural practices.

On the academic front, the association has constructed and runs a Pre-school, Primary and Secondary School where they provide basic education scholarships and school supplies to the orphaned children and those from the neighbourhoods. Founded on a Christian perspective, AGCD-M also provides spiritual nourishment through bible study classes and distribution of Christian music and literature.

During emergencies, like floods and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AGCD-M supports relief efforts to help the widows, orphans and other community members to cope and recover from the impacts. They provide relief food, shelter, clothing, first aid and farm resources to enable them to get back to farming after the disaster has passed.

These projects are implemented with the support of a team of project staff, volunteers, partners, well-wishers and community leaders. A board of management, supported by a team of consultants, helps to provide direction, motivation and oversight on the project.

Doing so Much with so Little

Thousands of people have been reached through the initiatives of AGCD-M, many of whom are now able to face each new day with increased confidence to work hard to meet their basic needs and to earn a living for themselves and their dependents.

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AGDC-M has supported over 3,000 orphaned children and 125 widows with their basic needs of food, clothing and education. 200 girls receive sanitary pads and other personal effects every month. They have also built an 80-seater community library and trained twenty-one facilitators to support the running of the Community Libraries Programme. Over 4,000 people have been reached with HIV/AIDS and public health messaging. For a blind boy, Peterson Pierson, his life took a different turn when AGCD-M helped him to join a school and he is now in grade five.

The community members have also received training and mindset change awareness that has helped increase the level of care provided to the young boys and girls. Through the Community Library Programmes, an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and supported by community organizations like AGCD-M, messages on child rights protection have reached many adults and children in Tete and Nampula.

Adequate funds to build orphanages, buy school supplies, food and other necessities for the orphans and to support operations however remains the greatest need. Additionally, AGCD-M also lacks enough professional human resources to assist with running the projects. Digging into one’s own pockets to support some activities is not something new to either Helment or the team.

To bridge the resources gap, they have resorted to the use of volunteers to help with activities such as teaching, administration, training and running events. They are also investing time in building a network of international partnerships with individuals and organizations to mobilize more financial, material and volunteer support.

“I hope our work can inspire people to see how good it is to help our community and contribute to its economic and social transformation. Whenever people are well trained and supported they will be able to work for their development. I pray more people will come forward to take responsibility for looking after and educating vulnerable children in their communities,” says Helment.

Adopting a Community-Based Sustainability Approach

One of the things that has kept AGCD-M going for ten years now is its’ strong foundation on community involvement. They very intentionally engage with community members to identify the challenges they face and contribute ideas on how they can address them. The community members also help in identifying and registering the beneficiaries to help achieve a real and credible target group and support with outreach to them. Additionally, the communities also chip-in to contribute small amounts of money to help AGCD-M to run its activities.

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Administrative support from the local government offices has given them credibility and enabled them to access support from other organizations. Such partners include LDFA International, which grants them material and financial support, and the Child Network Organisation which provides them with training and support on child rights. Open Books Organisation provides them with books and training, while the Peace Corps organization sends foreign volunteers and provides some funding for repairs and maintenance. John Holmes from the UK gives some annual funding for activities.

There’s so Much More that Still Needs to be Done

An article “Children of Mozambique” published on 9th February 2020 by Humanium – an international child sponsorship NGO dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world – indicates that an estimated two million children in Mozambique have no parents. And almost half of all the country’s 16 million children live in absolute poverty.

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These statistics paint a grim picture of how dire the situation in Mozambique still is. The valuable work that AGCD-M is doing in Tete and Nampula provinces of the country i,s therefore all the more important. Its small contributions powered by goodwill and support further contributes to giving a new lease of life to the many orphans and widows who depend on them.

To increase the sustainability of the gains made so far, the AGCD-M is looking at empowering families to start and run small businesses to earn income that can support them into the future rather than continue to rely on the current hand-outs. Caregivers from the communities they work with will also receive entrepreneurship training. AGCD-M is also working on several economic ventures like building cottages for rental, increasing areas under agriculture and expanding its volunteering programme internationally.

For AGCD-M education and skills development remains a top priority, especially for young people. As a way of supporting post-primary and high school transition, it intends to establish a vocational skills training centre. The centre will offer youth and widows opportunities to acquire skills in carpentry, blacksmithing, bricklaying, tailoring and knitting among other short professional courses. While they do this, they’re also intent on increasing academic scholarships to the bright but disadvantaged children from primary to high school and tertiary institutions.

If you wish to support AGCD-M continue with their difficult yet important work, you can reach them on Phone/WhatsApp +258 855301523, or via email You can also find them on Facebook.

—————————————————————————————————————This story was written pro bono by Nelson Opany as part of his Communications Volunteering Series during the COVID-19 public health emergency to give a spotlight to grassroots organizations creating positive change in communities across Africa. Nelson is a Public Relations and Communications Management professional and a Scout with a passion for volunteering. ( Additional editing by Ray Saunders, an Information and Knowledge Management consultant based in Geneva, Switzerland.

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