The following letter was presented to our HIA volunteers at dinner on our last night in Amatongas. The English is not perfect, and they even managed to change our organization's name, but the Head Mistress' sentiments still translates powerfully. Our volunteers traveled to Amatongas with one goal - to make a difference. Day in and day out we worked our hardest to reach this goal. The community opened their arms to us and accepted us into their family and we will carry them with us wherever life's journey goes. The daily gratitude expressed towards our group was exceptionally astounding and will not soon be forgotten. Reflecting back on the past couple weeks, I know for certain that they inspired me more than I could ever inspire them. Their presence is life's greatest gift to me.
Republic of Mozambique
Amatongas Primary School
Letter to thank the rehabilitation offered to our school by
It is a huge satisfaction that we have the desire to express our grateful thanks to the Health Initiative for Africa from USA for the financial that was offered to rehabilitate our school building and Health Oral Teach to almost 865 students.
Towards the rehabilitate our school the group of 9 members from your Institution on their own managed to:
·Paint in and out the biggest block of our school of almost 20m x 8m, which contain 2 classrooms and 3 offices;
·Put bugler bars on 2 windows of almost 2m x 2m;
·Build a play ground for children;
·Teach students about Oral Health and First Aids;
·Offer clothes and some school materials.
Our school was more than 10 year without any rehabilitation so, the painting that they have done came to change its out look, something that we’ve been seeking for years and finally found without any expectation through HIA. They made up our school to become so beautiful among most of the primary schools in our district.
Our school, like some other schools, never thought to have a play ground due to lack of financial conditions, but from now on we have it and we turn to be a reference from the district up to the province. Every child from Amatongas Village and surrounding areas find the interest come to our School due to the best conditions created by
We also have to say that HIA fill us with happiness by the conditions that created of which are very important for the quality of learning process and it renewed the name of Amatongas Primary School, not only that, also the team that we received and have done the job was so kind towards kids and all the teachers. Every one of them didn’t show any racial discrimination, although the language is the barrier of communication, there was interaction among us.
The name HIA will stay in memory of Amatongas community not only for rehabilitating the school, building play ground, but also for the distribution of tooth brushes, tooth paste, bandages on every health teaching and some pieces of clothes to the students.
Considering the difficulties that we have, the block that has been rehabilitated still needs the same on roof, windows and doors. We still have some other blocks in bad condition. We would be so glad to receive other team from HIA or finance for the same job.
The school leaders, teachers and students really give thanks and congratulations to you by everything that you’ve done to our school. We’ll try by all means to preserve and keep our school in good conditions that we now have, if possible we’ll carry on with rehabilitation that you’ve started.
Amatongas Primary School, 5th June 2012.
The Head Mistress+
/ Amelia Gonzaga Doringuira /
Hey everybody! My name is Cristina Kline and I am a nursing major, currently at Southeastern Louisiana University. This mission trip to Amatongas has been an amazing experience that I am so thankful to have been a part of. Everyday has been a new experience..from the bumpy car rides to playing with the kids, painting the school, almost getting attacked by an elephant, and so much more. It’s hard to put in words what you experience when you’re here. I never fully comprehended the poverty in Africa, until I experienced it firsthand. It amazes me how poor the people are, but how incredibly happy they are. I now fully believe and understand the quote “money can’t buy happiness”.
Today was our last day here in Amatongas. I woke up to Michael and Anthony obnoxiously banging on our door..which was very surprising because me and Kelsey are usually the ones dragging them out of bed. I attempted to wash my clothes but the housekeeper took over seeing I wasn’t used to using a washboard. I gave her my hiking shoes and a pair of socks as my thanks to her, realizing she would get way more use out of them than me. She was extremely happy and it made me feel good to help her out. The rest of the day consisted of watching the guys build the rest of the playground, which turned out successful. Me and Kelsey also went to the market and bought some African shirts. At dinner they thanked us profusely, and after we took lots of pictures. It was hard to say bye to the kids we got so close to.
Tomorrow we are leaving bright and early at 5:30. Everyone will be traveling home except Michael and I will head to Spain, London and then Iceland for a week where we will meet up with our family. Again, I am extremely grateful to have been a part of Mission Amatongas and hope to be back in the future!
Since there’s more days than people, you’re hearing from me again, hope you don’t mind… Today we woke up at the usual time, around 8, and had the standard egg and homemade bread roll breakfast. Soon after that, Knox, Randy, Chip, Blake and Trey headed to continue working on the playground while Michael, Christina, Kelsey and myself went with Brother Fabian to the local clinic.The supplies and infrastructure were very Spartan. The clinic seems to be just another concrete building; it included two small rooms for patients to be seen, a pharmacy, a lab, and a dental room. None of the rooms is even comparable to what we have at home. The “lab” was a room with a desk and a very basic microscope, which is only used to diagnose Tuberculosis. The dentist chair is the only thing that makes the dental room resemble anything we are used to. The pharmacy tech, who was giving us the tour, couldn’t tell us the last time a dentist was there. The small porch on the building was full of people waiting for their turn, so much so that we had to carefully place our feet so as to not step on anyone. We left the clinic and went to lunch with the kids. Shortly following lunch, we joined the guys working on the playground. They have done their best to describe what exactly is needed from the woodshop here at the mission, but the communication barrier continues to be tricky. “Cut this, don’t cut that” becomes “Cut this and that”. After hours of maneuvering around language barriers and waiting for cuts to be made, the swing beam was finally up. Needless to say, it took a lot of finagling and spontaneous ingenuity. We then headed to Chimoio, the nearest “city”, for a hike and pizza dinner. The hike took about 30 minutes to reach the top of a small mountain. As we enjoyed our 360 view of Chimoio, the sun set over a distant mountain behind a few clounds which was absolutely stunning . We hiked down right as the light was fading and vision was becoming tough then drove to a pizza place near the local market. The pizza was delicious and immediately triggered talk of what our ideal meals would be when we got back home. Of course, mine was mom’s red beans and rice with cornbread… hope she reads this. We shared our appreciation with Brother Chris for the opportunity to be here, but thanks just doesn’t seem to say enough. We drove back in our favorite Land Cruiser to help the kids with homework and have some down time before we went to bed, where Coldplay soothed Kline and I to sleep.
Sundays in Amatongas can only be described by one word: lazy. After waking up and eating breakfast, we headed to the church for Sunday mass. Mass in Africa isn’t the same as mass in the States. For starters, it’s a 50/50 shot, at best, of whether or not the priest shows up. In the case of today, and last Sunday, there was no priest to be seen. Nevertheless, the celebration continued as if the priest wasn’t even needed. The local deacon, and father of one of the boarders, stepped up to the plate and said mass in place of the missing priest, much to the amusement of the other boarders. Time becomes a foreign concept as the ceremony takes off with a heavy emphasis on singing and dancing. When the moment comes to exchange peaceful greetings, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed as you shake hands with virtually every individual in the building.
Immediately following mass, an unofficial gathering is held in front of the church where pleasantries are exchanged with the people around you. Lunch quickly ensued and then we all went our separate ways for the rest of the day. Some of our group headed back to work on the playground and some went to watch the soccer game, while others hung around and played with the kids. Brock and I occupied our time with the infirmary. Measurements were taken and we were able to plan in detail what furniture we wanted to occupy the empty space. Brock proceeded to draw precise blueprints before we met with Brother Chris to share our ideas. After coming to mutual conclusions, we edited our plans before making them final.
Dinner came and went before we huddled around the microscopic television, watched It’s Kind of a Funny Story and enjoyed what little group bonding time we could. Billy Joel then proceeded to tuck Brock and I in, tell us a bed time story and rock us into a serene unconsciousness even Rip Van Winkle would be envious of.
“Don’t set your alarm tonight” Brock told me as our heads hit their pillows. Overjoyed, I eagerly obliged, shut my eyes and began to look forward to a wondrous morning (or lack thereof) of sleeping in. Little did we know that Cristina and Kelsey would fill the alarm clock role on this day. “Wake up you lazy turds” was our lovely greeting to the morning. Several minutes of pleading with them subsequently followed before we finally accepted defeat, got dressed and headed to the dining room. After eating our fair share of a seemingly limitless supply of bananas and tangerines, we wandered over to the soccer pitch to watch Amatongas’ boys take on a local rival squad. Blistering heat aside, the game was entertaining and we emerged victorious in an emphatic 3-0 dismantling of the other team.
Exhausted from the heat, we returned to the dining room to once again fill up on potassium and vitamin C before bringing our talents to the basketball court. As hard as they try (and they do try hard), the children of Amatongas are almost as bad at basketball as we are at soccer. That doesn’t prevent the game from continuing, however, and we ran the court for the better part of two hours, only stopping because lunch was ready and our bellies were rumbling.
Masa, kouve and fish were on the lunch menu today. I must admit that the fish isn’t particularly appealing to the eyes, but if given the chance, proves to be quite delicious. The children consume the fish in its entirety…scales, head and all. Naturally, I did too. I must note that the texture of the eyeballs is unmatched and unrivaled in terms of taste and chewy-ness.
After lunch, James Taylor sang Brock and I into a peaceful oblivion, our daily nap. I must say waking up to “Fire and Rain” and “Mexico” is only marginally better than Cristina and Kelsey’s voices. After waking up from our refreshing nap, we set out to meet Marcos and some of the other boarders at the soccer field where we were scheduled to film the traditional dance they were set to perform later in the night. Immediately following that, we made our way towards the playground where Randy, Knox, Chip and Blake had managed to put the finishing touches on the roof and bridge. The playground was surrounded by children watching and impatiently waiting for their opportunity to play on it. It is an absolute beauty.
The evening finally arrived. Brother Chris informed us earlier in the week that we would be cooking an entire pig today in celebration of the two birthdays this week. As the week progressed, we were excited to discover that the night had evolved into an all-out party with cake, singing and dancing to be included. The pork was finally cooked and distributed evenly onto each of the tables. As we sat down to dinner, you could see the pure anticipation in the children’s eyes. It was a feast and we ate as much as we could stomach. The obesity rate in Africa may have grown a few percentage points just because of that meal. There was enough pork for each table to go back for seconds and thirds and still have some left over.
After the meal had finished, the children made it a point to show all of us how much their stomach had grown over the course of the past hour. Singing and dancing immediately followed. A bonfire was made and all of the guests were seated at a table and fed popcorn as the celebration continued on throughout the night. Trey and I were each presented with a birthday cake that was then cut into dozens of tiny pieces so everyone could get a slice. It was pure joy and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my birthday any other way. As a thank you from us, each child was given a new shirt, pencil and pencil sharpener. Their eyes lit up and you would have thought we had just given them their weight in gold. It was an incredible night and I am afraid that this post may not have done it justice. You see, there really is no appropriate combination of words that can be strung together to capture the fun and excitement of the atmosphere last night. This village is a magical place.
Hey everybody. This is Blake Ortego coming to you live from Amatongas in Mozambique, AFRICA. It was another beautiful day. The weather was pristine. We started work this morning around 8 am. Chip, Knox, Randy and I stayed close to the mission and continued building the playground for the kids. Michael, Christina, Anthony, Trey, and Kelsey went to Amatongas central to finish the painting of the primary school classroom. It was amazing to see the look on the kid’s as well as adult’s faces as they tried to comprehend what a playground was. They had never seen a power tool and the rock wall we built seemed alien to them. We heard from numerous people that they couldn’t wait until we finished to see how it all worked. All day at the playground we were constantly surrounded by at least 20 kids in total awe of what we were doing and also looking to give a helping hand. This community of Amatongas has been more welcoming than anywhere. Within a 2 week period, speaking a completely different language, all of us within HIA have truly become a part of the family community. They have had special dinners in our honor, learned songs in English to welcome us in, and you will never go more than an hour without hearing a thank you or receive a handshake from all the kids. Our mission is and was to come and love on this community. By simply showing up, I have learned more of love and its simplistic nature. It’s amazing how a simple song or special dinner can make such an impact on a person. I’m learning to keep things simple and enjoy life. I cannot wait to see what the days I’ve yet to experience have to teach me.
Signing off, Blake Ortego.
Hey everyone, this is Randy Roth, I just graduated from LSU in biology this past May and am one of the founding members of HIA. Today was quite a change from the usual routine we’ve experienced so far here in Amatongas. I am not particularly a morning person (at all), but was excited to wake up a little after 4:00AM to get ready to go to Gorongosa National Park. In 30 minutes, we were all piled in the Land Cruiser ready to depart. If you’re not familiar with this particular Land Cruiser, the best way to summarize it would be an adventure every outing. From the temperamental starting, to shocks that allow you to really be one with the road, to the back doors that fit very loosely, with 10 passengers the ride is something everyone should experience once. Slightly over an hour into the drive we turn off the relatively nice pothole filled asphalt and onto a mix of red dirt and gravel skinny drive that winds and leads to the entrance to the national park. Although 29 kilometers may seem like a short distance at home on the interstate, it’s anything but quick on this road. At a low speed, the ridges create a nice steady vibration that causes the back doors to rattle loudly, enough to make you think they might fall off at any moment. Still somehow Knox always finds a way to fall asleep through this ride that would put most roller coasters to shame. We finally made it to the gate, checked in and boarded onto the safari truck. As we entered the park we spotted warthogs, baboons, and various types of impalas and kudu. However, we couldn’t help but to notice a front of ominous dark gray clouds coming in hot in our direction. Our driver noticed this and altered our planned route to head toward a shelter in case of rain. Sure enough a few minutes later it starts to pour, and we all moved toward the middle of the benches to avoid the rain coming in around the canopy. Brother Chris in the front passenger seat seemed to catch the worst of the incoming water in the five minutes it took to get to the shelter, which was an old open concrete camp from before the civil war. Wet and cold, we huddled together in a corner to avoid the wind and rain that according to our driver has not happened in a few months. After 45 to an hour, the rain slowed and we hopped back in the truck and continued our drive. We continued to see some foreign species of animals and birds. The rain actually made for a fun ride splashing through deep mud puddles and ruts. After being on the trail of elephants we finally spotted one in the distance through a patch of trees. Upon a closer look, we marveled at the size of three elephants that made their way across the road about a half a football field in front of us. As we pulled up to watch them walk away from the trail, we noticed another one, the largest of the group still to our right. Our driver pulled in a ways in front and off to the side of the trail so we had a clear view of him, but left a good distance as he told us that the elephants were aggressive toward vehicles since the civil war. As the elephant took notice of us he watched and started to trot toward us. We all froze in panic, sure the huge mass was headed right toward us. We waited for the driver to take off and save us from this attack but he kept telling us to be calm, try not to move and stay quiet. Sure enough, it slowed, changed its path and stopped on the road behind us. It paused and stared right at us as if giving a warning, then continued back into the forest. Adrenaline still flowing, our driver started the truck back up and we finished up our tour of the park. We returned to the restaurant at the entrance of the park around 10:45 feeling as if we had been through a full day already. After a good meal and 30 minutes of trying to calculate our own bills and get correct change converting from American dollars to meticais, we all packed back into to the old Cruiser as gray clouds surrounded again. After a brief episode with starting rain and a dying vehicle we were back on what Anthony referred to as the road that feels like “riding a scooter on a washboard.” Looking at Brother Chris’ hands and arms shaking you would believe he was holding a jackhammer instead of a steering wheel. Despite the constant rain, large water buffalo blocking the road, and crazy 18 wheeler drivers we made it back to the mission in one piece a few hours later. Even with a fever, Brother Chris still cooked us a delicious dinner of pasta and meat sauce with sausage before heading to his room. Now we are all winding down, after all the excitement and early start today I’m sure we all will sleep well tonight and be ready to get back to work tomorrow.
Obrigadu (thanks) for the support and much love to all my family and friends back home,
Boa tarde (good afternoon) everyone! My name is Trey Schwartzenburg. I’m a Junior Biology major at LSU from Opelousas, LA and a new member of HIA. This is my very first mission trip, and what an experience it has been thus far! My decision to come on this trip was somewhat spontaneous, but I felt a strong calling to come here and hopefully make a difference in someone’s life.
Today is actually my 20th birthday, and I can honestly say this is one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. We started the day off as usual with breakfast in the kitchen, where I was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by the gang (for the first time). Knox and I then walked over to the village to teach his daily health class of basic wound and dental care to the younger children at the primary school.
Since we finished painting the primary school ahead of schedule yesterday, we were eagerly looking for some other way to improve the school. We decided to paint the inside of one of the classrooms. The condition of these classrooms is horrific. The windows consist of rotting boards that let in very little light to complement the one 40 watt bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. The rooms are littered with trash and wasp and birds’ nests. There’s also a pungent smell of old urine and dirt. There are only four of these classrooms for approximately 800 students.
While some of us were painting away in the central village, the rest of our group made great progress on the playground back at the mission. They had a constant audience of intrigued and excited children.
Towards the end of the day, we played a much anticipated soccer game. The nine of us along with Brothers Angel and Fabian were matched up against eleven of the boarders that live here at the mission. We actually held up much better than I anticipated, only losing by one goal with a final score of 4-3. Everyone had a phenomenal time, and we were covered head to toe in dirt afterwards. The kids really enjoyed showing us how real futbol is played.
To top off this day, we were invited to the Fernando family’s house for dinner back in the village. None of us, including Brother Chris, had any idea what to expect! At dusk we were led into the village to the Fernando’s house. Once we arrived, we found a nice table outside set with a table cloth, flowers, lights, plates, silverware and glass bottles of Sprite. After meeting the Fernando family and sitting down at the table, the women brought never-ending bowls and trays of masa, rice, smothered chicken, barbecued chicken, couve, beans, penne pasta and angel hair pasta. We were in complete awe at the amount of food prepared for us. After we had feasted and thought that there was no possible way to fit anymore food into our stomachs, they brought us several traditional African roots, which tasted very similar to potatoes, sweet potatoes and bananas for desert. After dinner everyone sang me “Happy Birthday” again in English and the Fernando family followed with their rendition in Portuguese. It was a great way to finish off a birthday in Africa under the stars.
Everyone is already in bed now because we have an early but exciting day tomorrow. We’ll be leaving for Gorongosa National Park at 4:30am to go on a Safari for a well deserved fun day!
Love you Mom, Dad and Lindsey! See you in a week.
Hello everyone, my name is Knox Kelly, I will be starting medical school at LSU this fall, and I have been involved with HIA since its beginnings four years ago. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am finally getting used to the early schedule. As usual the day started early with a great breakfast and some instant coffee. Then the legendary day that is May 29th really began. First, I and Cristina headed to the primary school of Amatongas to teach a class on basic health practices. We taught them about dental care, wound care, germs and hand washing. We also handed out a lot of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and band aids. The kids loved it, and made brushing motions to everyone the rest of the day haha!
After that, we began the epic project of constructing the playground near the campus. Randy was heading up the project, with Blake, Chip and I helping. It started out pretty slow, but by the end of the day we had made a considerable amount of progress in constructing the first of two forts that would make it the best playground for miles. It was a lot of fun…building something with your hands and having the occasional African come by to talk to you. One of them, Max the electrician, said that he never expected that he would see a cordless drill during his lifetime. It’s comments like that that bring you back to the reality of the condition of the people here.
The third accomplishment of the day was the final completion of the painting of the school after three days. We finished a day ahead of schedule and it looks great! Now Brother is at a loss for more work to give us…but not for lack of options. There is always plenty to do around here, and choosing seems to be the only problem. I am sure that we get and new assignment and continue with the playground in the morning. Overall, it has been a great day, and we are all dead tired. Hope everything is going well back in the states. Talk to you later!
Bon Dia (“Good Day” in Portugese) everybody! This is Kelsey Schexnayder. I’m a junior at LSU studying Biology. I have always really enjoyed helping people, so I turned to HIA as a means of doing so. I’m so proud and thankful to be a part of this organization, especially now, being in one of the most humbling places in the world, Amatongas. This is only my second mission trip, but it hasn’t taken many missions for me to realize how unbelievably special the people, students, and Brothers of Amatongas are. I have never felt so welcomed and appreciated in any other place. It’s such an unforgettable feeling!
I could go on and on, but let’s get to what we did today. Breakfast was at 8 this morning. Michael had the brilliant idea to eat the fresh baked rolls with fresh picked bananas and peanut butter in the middle. Exactly like an Elvis sandwich and for some reason we were in awe! After we stuffed our faces, we headed over to the local primary school to paint. We spent the morning until lunchtime finishing up the primer on the building. We then went back to the mission to eat lunch with the all of the borders. I sat with a group of awesome boys! I showed them pictures from back home. It’s a good way to break the language barrier. They were in awe of my house and were so interested to see pictures of my family. We ate couve and masa. Couve is a mix between spinach and mustard greens, at least that’s what Brother Chris says. And masa is similar to our grits, except much thicker. The boys (and Michael) pick it up and eat it with their hands.
After lunch, we relaxed for a little while, and then headed back to the primary school for more painting. We worked from about 1-5pm and managed to start the main coat of paint on the school. All of our hard work for the day was definitely worth it when all the children from the village and the school gathered around us and sang the songs that they welcomed us with on the very first day. Words can’t even describe how amazing seeing this is. The children here are some of the happiest children I’ve ever seen, even when they have absolutely nothing. To them, they have everything. I’m so humbled.
We headed back to the mission to relax before dinner. Michael made us another batch of fresh guacamole made from avocados he, Chip, and Blake picked at the mission. And Brother Angel taught us a new food revelation---cheddar cheese and honey. Try it at home! It’s pretty freaking good! After “snacking”, we went to dinner and ate red beans and rice. Sorry Dadeo, but these beat yours by a long shot!Needless to say, we’re eating pretty well on this trip…that’s a severe understatement. After dinner, we had a “washing clothes party”. (Yes mom, I washed my own clothes!) Then Cristina, Anthony, Michael, and I went to teach some of the boys some English, while Knox, Randy, Chip, Blake, and Trey made a fire. Teaching the boys was by far the most rewarding part of the trip so far. It was shocking to see how willing and anxious these boys were to learn. It’s not every day you see that in the United States. Wow, it made me realize how much we take our education for granted at home. And as always, they were so thankful for us being there, and you can tell that they really and truly look up to us.
I’m heading to bed now. Love you Mom, Dad, and BenJ
p.s. Thank you to everyone who donated to Michael’s KickStarter Project! Thanks to your donations, Michael has caught some awesome footage to put together a great documentary for ya’ll!