When I am in the kitchen, I feel like a fish in water

By Molly Sandford -Ward and Fiona Nagle 

Before leaving for Mozambique, the food we would be eating day-to-day seemed like a fairly insignificant aspect of our experience. Preoccupied with making sure we’d packed enough clothes, the right shoes, deet, our vital mosquito nets, it was difficult to anticipate what our daily meals might be like. But on the long plane journey from London to Johannesburg, the minutia of pre-departure arrangements over, we started to wonder what we’d be eating during our stay. Would it be xima (the thick porridge-like meal eaten as a staple) everyday? What about the only vegetarian in the group?
We needn’t have worried. We spent the majority of our time on the Young Africa Beira campus, where we were fed at So Magia, a training ground for young catering students and a working restaurant.
From starters of crispy mini-samosas and spring rolls, chicken and fish seasoned with lemon in the traditional Mozambican style, to So Magia’s famous Pudim de Caramel, we were spoilt with delicious dishes every mealtime.
In addition, although outside of the campus it can be difficult to find vegetarian options, So Magia was only happy to cater for the only vegetarian in the group, serving meat-free alternatives every day. The group’s favourite prawn curry was even served alongside a chickpea and pumpkin equivalent which was happily eaten by all.

So Magia, Manga Campus

So Magia, Manga Campus

Speaking to Manosso, the owner, we found out more about the concept and running of the restaurant.
So Magia is part of Young Africa’s franchise model, within which local entrepreneurs rent out space and equipment and train students as part of their workforce. Money made from these enterprises can then be fed back into Young Africa. It is in this way that Manosso has used his time and skills to teach young Mozambican chefs and run his restaurant.
The meals served daily are made from fresh ingredients mostly sourced from independent suppliers in the area. Surrounding markets provide meat, vegetables and beans, while the Young Africa agriculture technology campus in Dondo sometimes supplies its own produce.
Using these raw ingredients, Manosso teaches the students to make an international menu for customers, giving them an opportunity to develop, not just their skills in cooking, but also hygiene, safety, and entrepreneurship.

Dinner at So Magia

Dinner at So Magia

Although Mozambique is currently experiencing economic and political issues, Manosso is hopeful for the future. He is working towards opening more contracts with external businesses and institutions, which would offer further opportunities for students to gain practical experience and cook for the wider public. He also hopes that more boys will be encouraged to enrol on the programme, as he feels that many do not see catering as a typically male profession.
However, whatever So Magia’s future may hold, it is clear that Manosso has a vision which chimes perfectly with the ethos of Young Africa. He told us that he loves to teach young people and believes that many of his former students are now working in restaurants and hotels throughout Beira. His passion is clear; as he says, “when I am in the kitchen, I feel like a fish in water”.

Climate Report: Mozambique

By Niall Joyce

Once we had arrived in Beira, Mozambique we were welcomed by the scorching sun beaming down on us. Before arriving we had been informed that Southern Africa had been going through a period of drought during the El Nino season.
On our way to the Young Africa campus in Beira I had expected to see crops failing and dry lifeless ground but instead around every household and roadside lay ridges and beds bustling with crops. With further research I soon learned that this particular El Nino had unfurled in Beira’s favour.

In general, the rainy season begins in November and lasts until March. This year, however, while the temperatures increased with El Nino, the rain did not appear until nearly February and lasted until May. This led to the southern half of Mozambique suffering a prolonged dry spell and falling water levels in rivers and dams. Less access to water for drinking and maintaining crops resulted in a fall in school attendance as families concentrated on food production and travelling for water.

While Beira did not suffer the same fate this season, it is generally impacted greatly each year by the seasonal heavy rains. Beira is a bustling port city, acting as a gateway to the Indian Ocean for neighbouring countries. Lying just above sea-level the city faces massive threats with a population five times higher than its infrastructure was designed to support.
Cyclones and flooding batter the city each year. One huge issue that the city is tackling is the Cheveve River. This tidal river is being cleaned and restored to reinstate a drainage system for the city in times of high water levels. Mangrove trees are also being planted along its banks to act as a natural flood barrier.

The following photo gallery depicts some of the causes and results of damage associated with the heavy rainfall as well as how the people of Beira have adapted their lives to the conditions.

Photo 1. (YA students arriving)- Students arrive at the Young Africa campus in Beira during an un-seasonally heavy downpour.

Photo 2. (YA Beira flood)- After three hours of rain early in the morning, students and staff were welcomed by flood pathways that were impassable on foot.

Photo 3a (Houses flooded)- On my search for how the local population was affected by the heavy rainfall I quickly discovered that quite a few residences suffered the same fate, the rain rapidly surrounded households reaching at least a foot deep.

Photo 3b (Flood Overflow)- A perfect solution to the rapid downpour and gathering of water was to form run of streams that drained the water from households into a marsh area.

Photo 3c (Flood Rows)- These rows of crops were then fed by the water that had gathered in the marsh area, a brilliant method of utilising the rainfall to feed their crops as the warmer months approach and the likelihood of rain will lessen for a time.

Photo 4 (Tomato field)- The heavy rain can prove an issue for some farmers, who use irrigation systems to maintain their plants’ intake of water. As the irrigation system feeds the plants a certain amount of water already a heavy downpour of rain could result in the overwatering of a plant, damaging its development.

Photo 5 (Tidal erosion)- The rise in sea levels and intensity of storms has battered Beira’s coast, slowly eating away at the land at the beaches edge.

Photo 6 (Trucks passing)- The heavy amount of traffic and heavy goods vehicles passing over the roads along with the heavy rains that usually come with El Nino result in huge damage to the road network on the main passageway for trade between neighbouring countries and the port of Beira.

by Daniel Twomey

Volunteering with SERVE in Young Africa, Mozambique has been an amazing adventure. I received a place on the programme when another candidate had to withdraw. I will always be grateful for this bit of fortune. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

SERVE have proven themselves to be an extremely well organised organisation, an organisation that does everything to ensure their volunteers are looked after. We always felt safe, secure and appreciated with all our basic needs catered for. The work SERVE does in the majority world is amazing. Truly acting in solidarity with partners like Young Africa to help ensure a better economic future for people in disadvantage. I’m so humbled to have played a small part this summer in something so large and significant. I would have no hesitation in recommending SERVE to any friend or family member interested in doing charity work in the future.

Young Africa was the perfect partner organisation for me to be involved with. As a secondary school teacher who has been employed in an educational context all my working life, a vocational college offering practical skills to young African students was an ideal setting for me to work. Education, young people and development are all areas I am passionate about. Young Africa is a representation of all these things and more. They are a beacon of hope, vitality and opportunity in an otherwise extremely difficult environment. As an organisation Young Africa have ambitions to develop even further in the future. I will monitor their growth with keen interest over the years to come. I wish them all the best.

Mozambique itself is a beautiful country. It has some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen and a fantastic climate, inhabited by the friendliest people you could imagine. But it has struggled as a result of a myriad of issues, not least a history of conflict, corruption and political unrest. There are definite signs of improvement but unfortunately it’s development will require further investment, both domestically and from abroad. My memories when I think back on Mozambique over the years to come will be the smiling faces of the young people I worked with on the campuses of Young Africa. Their unbridled enthusiasm and appreciation for education was refreshing and wholly rewarding.

Finally to my fellow volunteers. The Mozambique team of 2016 was definitely a special group. With Katie’s guitar skills, Niall’s eye for s photo, Fiona’s calming lady like presence, Rachel’s leadership and linguistic skills Paddy’s ear for all things musical, and Peter’s ability to stay alive against all the odds, we are definitely a group that won’t be easily forgotten! Our leaders Sue, Lindsay and Vernam also deserve special mention. They kept everything going with subtle understated guidance. All three leaders were more friends to us than superiors but without their management on site and otherwise, our goals would not have been met. I had a lecturer in university who said it is “People that make Places”. Well that is most definitely the case in my volunteering experience. I have made friends for life, Mozambican, Irish, Zimbabwean and English, and this is what I am most grateful for. Mozambique you have been wonderful and to SERVE, Young Africa and my fellow volunteers, a big sincere thank you. Personally it was an unforgettable experience, and one I will always be grateful for.

Week 4 Blog

by Daniel Twomey

Day 28: Wednesday 3rd August

After lunch we went to the local markets and once again I was taken aback by the rawness of the Mozambican reality. We are very much sheltered within the walls of Young Africa, Beira. A beacon of hope in an otherwise very harsh landscape. It is no wonder the students appreciate the education and training they receive at Young Africa. It affords them the opportunity to escape an otherwise challenging and difficult future. As Eric said in the interview with me, the qualifications they receive at Young Africa allow the students to “shine”.

In the evening we tidied the house from top to bottom. Afterwards we had our last dinner together as a group in Magico. The quietest we’ve ever been eating a meal. We were all too aware of the fact that our adventure was over. A magical, life changing, once in a lifetime experience. An experience that I am grateful to SERVE, Young Africa and my fellow volunteers for making so special. Mozambique 2016 has been indescribably amazing. Unique, richly rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable. I am humbled, honoured and thankful to have had the opportunity to have been part of it.

Day 27: Tuesday 2nd August

Today we spent the day on Campus at the Dondo Agri-Tech. It was another enjoyable day on site as we were painting murals in the classrooms we helped to build. It was extremely satisfying seeing the fruits of our labour almost complete. We all contributed to the artwork and marked it with the SERVE logo, a logo we are so proud to represent. Afterwards we took the bus back to Beira where we chatted late into the night. Another good day in Mozambique.

Day 26: Monday 1st August

Today we returned to Young Africa Beira and were understandably exhausted after the exertions of the past three days. As a result we all went to bed early. We were tired but in fantastic form. We were on a high after the weekend. Our adventure to Rio Savane exceeded expectations for numerous reasons but it definitely solidified us as a group. It was nice to spend time socialising and enjoying ourselves for a few days before returning to work on Tuesday.

Day 25: Sunday 31st July

Today we spent the day relaxing at the beach. We swam, lay on the sand and played football on the shore. In the afternoon the group walked to a local fishing village a kilometre from the resort and spoke with the locals. These fisherman rely on small fishing boats and unrefined fishing methods in order to make their living but they do it in a dignified and honourable manner. In the evening time the group decided that we would watch the sunset and then wait until morning time to watch the sunrise again. Only a select few achieved this ambition! We passed the hours by chatting, playing cards and finding glow-in-the dark plankton. It was a magical 24 hours, one that will last long in the memory. Along with the Young Africa graduations on Friday, this weekend was the highlight of my volunteering experience. The group became even closer over this two nights. Unfortunately however this will only make saying goodbye on Thursday all the more difficult.

Day 24: Saturday 30th July

We woke this morning with palpable excitement. Today we were going to Rio Savane for our weekend away. A well earned break and an opportunity to bond even further as a volunteering group. We all hopped in the back of the pick up truck and headed for the coast. Enroute we travelled through Rural Mozambique where we saw a family of baboons making their way across the terrain. Today’s pick up truck was larger than the one we usually use so all 8 of us could fit comfortably in the back. As a result it was the most enjoyable journey of our time in South East Africa. Spirits were high and the craic was mighty! We sang, told jokes and just enjoyed the trip. We arrived at the coast and took a boat to the island of Rio Savane! The sing song continued on our new vessel and we only stopped singing momentarily and intermittently to take in the spectacular views. We arrived on the resort and it was paradise. We had the Rio Savane almost to ourselves. We enjoyed the evening while exploring our new home.

Day 23: Friday 29th July

Today, on the 29th of July 2016 over 400 students graduated from Young Africa Beira and Young Africa Agri-Tech Tech, Dondo. It was a day of celebration where students and volunteers alike dressed up and made an effort. It was a fantastic day and we had the honour and pleasure of performing at both ceremonies. The full volunteering group sang an original song combining the lyrics of “Riptide” and “Dark Days Are Over”. Rachel pieced the song together for the group and coordinated it’s production. Katie led us on guitar while Paddy played the tin whistle. The rest of the group sang along together. It was an amazing day. The students were beaming with pride, and rightfully so. They worked hard all year and deserved to have a day to mark their achievements. Energy levels were through the roof all day with music and local dancers entertaining the congregation. After the students received their parchments there were a lot of hand shakes, high fives and hugs being shared between the volunteers and students. It was brilliant! A once in a lifetime experience. One of which I am very grateful to have been a part of.

When we returned to Beira we had a special meal to mark the 21st Birthday of our English colleague, Molly Moo! We secretly decorated Magico with balloons and banners and had a cake made up for the birthday girl! We all contributed to the night but Fiona did most of the work. The look of surprise on Molly’s face as she entered our special in-house restaurant made all the preparation worthwhile. It was great being with Molly on such a significant birthday. She will definitely have a unique story of how she spent her 21st!

The evening was bitter sweet however as we lost the first member of our family. One of our leaders was leaving us. Lindsay’s time in Mozambique had to finish prematurely as she needed to return to Zimbabwe. It’s such a shame that Lindsay couldn’t be with us to the end of our experience but when she was with us she was awesome. She was fun, professional and friendly. We marked her last night with a group photograph behind Paddy’s tricolour flag and lots of emotional goodbyes. Lindsay is a legend and we were lucky to have her.

Day 22: Thursday 28th July

This morning we were busy preparing the campus of Young Africa, Beira for tomorrow’s graduation. We finished painting the classrooms, set up the conference room and erected posters and banners on the grounds of the school. Afterwards the local kids had had fun helping us to clean the painting equipment. They just love hanging out with us. Their youthful curiosity increases as our stay progresses.

After work, Carlito, an employee of Young Africa, brought us to see monkeys. We took a 20 minute walk through the neighbourhood of Manga to where he expected us to see the animals in their natural environs. As we walked through the wooded neighbourhood looking for the evasive creatures I couldn’t help but take in how the locals lived. They are extremely resourceful, making the most of the limited resources they have at their disposal. People here seem always to be busy working at this or that but their homes and living conditions are extremely modest. Completely alien to what we are used to at home. Something that is hard to convey in words. It is something that has to be experienced.

When we returned to Young Africa we had a meal with Dorien, partner of Raj and Co-Founder of Young Africa. Dorien is also an ex-secondary school teacher, so she had my attention straight away. She spoke to us with conviction about the future of the organisation, her vision for Young Africa and her experiences in Africa as a Dutch lady who emigrated from Holland to Zimbabwe in her 20s. Her ambition is to train half a million youths in skills for employability and entrepreneurship.

The weather today was beautiful, bright and warm. In general the weather is very nice in Mozambique at this time of year. It’s the winter time here so it’s rarely too hot and never too cold. The days are like a pleasant Irish summer’s days.

Week 3 Blog

by Daniel Twomey

Day 15: Thursday 21st July

Today Niall and myself travelled from Dondo to Beira with Lindsay to set up the brand new, state of the art computers in the Young Africa school Library. We travelled in the back of a pick up truck, the novelty of which still hasn’t worn off! When we arrived in Beira we had to unpack the computers, set them up and install the software. These computers were paid for in part by SERVE and will be an invaluable asset to the the students of Young Africa.

Afterwards I completed my SERVE blog for week 2 and we travelled back to Dondo with Dr. Barbito and Raj, the founder of Young Africa. Raj joined us for dinner and told the volunteering group the story of Young Africa. It’s an amazing tale. Raj came to Africa from India, along with his partner Dorien, with 1500 dollars in his pocket and a dream to set up a school that could offer African students a chance to receive practical vocational education-an education that will set them up for working life. Their dream is now a reality with 6 Young Africa institutions in 4 countries around the continent. From very humble beginnings Young Africa has grown to a large international organisation, one that is still growing. Raj’s story is proof that with direction, conviction and unrelenting ambition, dreams can come true. It is the students of Young Africa who are reaping the benefits of this realisation and it’s a beautiful thing.

Day 16: Friday 22nd July

This morning while most of the volunteers were painting classrooms I was asked to spend the day preparing for tomorrow’s Young Africa Sports day. This was my responsibility, delegated to me due to me background as a PE teacher. The annual Sports day is a massive event held in the grounds of Young Africa Agri-Tech. The Sports day caters for local kids from the Dondo area aged between 4 and 13 years of age. 2016 will be the third year of the event with over 200 students expected to attend. It’s an opportunity for children in the area to learn new skills, have fun, make new friends and see the facilities offered on campus at Young Africa, Dondo. I spent a good deal of a time preparing for the event. The sports day is my major responsibility on this volunteering experience so I wanted to make sure we as a group were as prepared as possible. I will have an early night, tomorrow is a big day!

Day 17: Saturday 23rd July

This morning I woke at 6am and got straight to work. I walked the course and set up all of the stations around the school campus. The sun was shining and I had a good feeling about the day. I met the group at 8am, ate breakfast and handed out the timetables to the volunteers. The girls outdid themselves with the banners and posters that they had painted. The campus looked amazing!

The first group of kids arrived at 8.30am. We split the children into their 16 teams and assigned each team a Young Africa student leader. Every leader received a brightly coloured sports jersey and their timetable for the day. At this point the kids were literally somersaulting with excitement! We started close to bang on time with each group being brought to their first activity by their leader. Every group had six different activities before lunch. Peter coordinated the basketball, Paddy supervised the football, Niall managed the obstacle course, Vernam and Katie were in charge of the running races, I organised the tug of war and Rachel was in charge of dance. There was also a station for the younger kids where they had face painting and fun games. Molly and Fiona had the unenviable task of controlling 27 infants. No easy task.

The campus was a hive of activity from start to finish with smiling students and enthusiastic leaders busy throughout the day. At lunchtime everybody was fed by Dr. Barbito and his highly efficient staff. Chicken, xima and juice was the dish of the day, and every child was fed before 2pm.  After lunch we had a closing ceremony and Katie presented the prizes to the competitors. It really was a great day! Fun, vibrant and energising.

On a personal level, I couldn’t have have been happier with how it went. The group worked extremely hard to ensure the day was a success. I was a relieved man when it was over but I took pride in its success. Afterwards we packed up and drove back to Beira. The mode of transport on this occasion was the back of a truck usually used to transport chickens, followed by a trip in a ‘chapa’ – a type of mini-bus that gets jam-packed full of passengers. Interesting aromas and questionable comfort in both vessels, but yet another new experience! When we got to Beira we found out that as a reward for everything going so well our leaders were surprising us with a barbecue.  This, needless to say, was very well received by the group of volunteers! Another great day in Mozambique! Richly rewarding and hugely satisfying.

Day 18: Sunday 24th July

Today was a day to chill out and relax. The group asked for a day where we could do nothing and our leaders kindly accommodated our request. We went shopping in downtown Beira where the volunteers bought ‘capulanas’ – colourful fabric worn by men and women, and other bits and pieces. I’m still looking for an official Mozambique football shirt. I was unsuccessful I’m my quest today, but I will find one! After the market we hit the beach for a dip in the Indian Ocean and a bite to eat. Molly, Peter, Fiona and myself played some beach volleyball. We got back to Young Africa Beira refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to tackle another week. We are back on the construction site tomorrow. Lots of work to do!

Day 19: Monday 25th July

Unfortunately this morning we couldn’t get on site due to the unrelenting rain. It was torrential. As soon as the rain subsided there were more issues, this time with materials. As a result we couldn’t get any construction work done today. Instead all the volunteers worked on their respective blogs. Peter and I also worked on editing the video for SERVE. It was a strange day. We were up and out of bed at the usual time ready to go to work but as a result of the conditions we couldn’t get started. It was frustrating. In the evening we passed time by playing basketball amongst ourselves. It was the first night since I landed In Africa that I wasn’t tired going to bed. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Day 20: Tuesday 26th July

Today was the antithesis of yesterday. Productivity levels were incredibly high. I woke up ready to attack the day! My fellow volunteers felt the same. The break really stood to us. We got a row of classrooms painted, sky blue, navy blue and green. Bright and welcoming. We hope the new colours will be conducive to increased levels of study! We took a lot of footage for our videos today with Peter and myself delegating jobs to the rest of the group. This approach worked well as everyone got their own individual footage which was then collected together.

Paddy, Niall and myself went for a run through Manga after work. On our run today we were greeted by waves and smiles as we made our way through this little suburb of Beira. As we ran a few of the younger local lads joined in behind us. We got back to campus and were met by more of the local kids. They instantly ran to us. I sat on the step and just hung out with them for a while. They took my headphones and listened to my music. They took my hat and tried it on. They pestered me for a photo until I took one of them. Then they wanted a photo with me. They played with my hair. They asked me to lift them up in the air, which is something they associate with me. They were so full of curiosity and fun. They just wanted my company for a few minutes – us Irish are curiosities here! As the sun disappeared the kids were ushered off campus and they left me with a “Tschau! Daniel!”, big waves and a smile. The kids here are so full of life and so happy, with very little. It makes you think. These children aren’t starving or dressed in rags. They are not. But they are living in much poorer conditions than we are accustomed to at home and yet they still smile. They have fun and they, just like any other child, crave attention and affection. The only difference between the children here in Beira, Mozambique and the children I teach in Co. Cork is their geographical locations and the economic situation they find themselves in. It made me think as I walked back in to meet the rest of the crew. It’s the essence of solidarity in “SERVE”.

Day 21: Wednesday 27th July

Another productive day in Young Africa, Beira. This morning the volunteering group was split in two. Fiona, Peter, Paddy and myself stayed in Beira while Rachel, Niall, Katie and Molly went to Dondo. We painted another row of classrooms, this time upstairs in the school building. Again we used bright, welcoming colours. Afterward we played the local teens in numerous games of  soccer (without recording a single victory). We recorded more videos including a back-flipping YA student.

In the evening time I led the volunteering group in an exercise regime on the basketball court. Unsurprisingly the local kids came over and joined in with our workout. Squats, sit ups, push ups and burpies were the order of the day! As today marked the end of our third week there was a lot of talk amongst the volunteers about the impending end of our volunteering experience. We have our trip next weekend to Rio Savane. A trip that signifies the end of our adventure. It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly over. We have had an amazing experience in Mozambique. The time is going too fast, but it’s not over yet. We’ll have to make our final week the most productive and enjoyable yet. After dinner we played card games. Today was jam packed. I hit the hay early tonight. We have another day on the building site tomorrow.

Weekly reflection

We have really bonded as a group over the last three weeks. The 8 SERVE volunteers plus the 3 leaders, our Mozambican family. We’ve been living in one another’s pockets for the last 20 days. Literally from the moment we wake until we put our heads down at night we are together. There hasn’t been a single falling out or clash within the group. The dynamics are very positive. We buy our food together, clean our dorms together, eat together and sleep together. It’s funny, we’ve only been in Young Africa, Mozambique for three weeks but it has a feeling of home. It has everything we need. Shelter, food, people who care for us. The absolute fundamentals. But what I’ve grown to realise is that it’s truly all we really need. Sometimes at home in Ireland we can get too caught up with materials a possessions, our career, our status in society. Those things are all superficial distractions from the simplicity of life. If we have the fundamentals, everything else is a bonus. We should show gratitude for what we have. That’s the lesson I’m taking from this week. This week has been a good week.

Sports Day at Young Africa


Blog by Peter Finnerty; Photos by Sue Hargrove and Daniel Twomey

On Saturday the 23rd of July Young Africa Agri-Tech – an agricultural training facility located in the province of Dondo – was host to its second Sports Day Festival.  It was another great success!  The festival is open to all youngsters in the Dondo region with ages ranging from as young as three or four up to thirteen.

As the evolving tradition goes, SERVE volunteers were called upon to host the festival.  This year we had our hands full as there were over 200 children participating.  Planning began a week in advance with Daniel Twomey leading the charge.  Dan is a qualified teacher that specialises in Physical Education.  Under Dan’s guidance a rigid schedule was drawn up, one that ensured the inclusion of every age group.

Katie, Fiona and Molly spent days preparing a massive banner for the festival.  The amount of effort put into creating the banner had the rest of us expecting great things and it did not disappoint!  The banner depicted all the different activities that would be involved in the sports day set against a day-and-night landscape painting.

The festival involved 6 sporting events each supervised by a SERVE volunteer: Paddy hosted the soccer (the definitive Mozambican sport); Niall oversaw an inventive obstacle course; I was in charge of a basketball free-throwing event; an enjoyable dance competition was headed up by Rachel; Daniel organised a tug-of-war event and for the youngest of participants, Fiona and Molly arranged a face-painting class.

As the bus-loads of children arrived at the facility we became aware that we would have our work cut out for us. The children were full of energy and had clearly been looking forward to the event.  Thankfully, we were supported by 16 students from Agri-Tech who were each assigned to a team.  Their assistance ensured that the language barrier was not an issue and that the children were safe and happy.  Further support was provided by a team who helped prepare meals for all 200 children and by Director Mario Barbito and the Dondo teachers who were on site all day long.

To add a competitive edge to the proceedings, each event was treated as a contest with the winning team receiving 3 points to be added to a running total.  From the first game it was clear that the children were willing to do their teams proud.  My experience on the basketball court was very enjoyable.  Despite the ongoing competition there was a friendly atmosphere amongst the teams.  With the free-throwing competition every child got a chance to shoot and they clearly had a great time.
When the basketball was finished I checked out the dance contest and was impressed with the confidence of the participants – almost everyone was willing to join in and bust some moves!  Myself and Paddy were then given the job of helping supervise the face-painting class.  In other parts of the campus the obstacle course was proving to be a success and the tug-of-war game a firm favourite!  By walking through the Agri-Tech campus on the sports day, it became apparent to me that the community spirit that SERVE seeks to tap into and help grow, was stronger than ever.

The festival finished with an awards ceremony hosted by Mario Barbito and Ilda Muchange.  Gold medals were awarded to the members of the winning team, who were given a firm round of applause.  As a further gesture of good will, the Dondo students that had supervised the teams were each awarded with a t-shirt and an emblem of Young Africa.  The participants listened attentively as the hosts reflected on the importance of Agri-Tech to the inhabitants of Dondo and it was clear that this was something that is universally understood in the area.  It is great to see how a project that was begun in 2012 by Young Africa, has now evolved into a community-run enterprise that both provides employment to the local community as well as an indispensable source of education.

The Sports Day Festival itself is proving to be the perfect way to celebrate the success of Agri-Tech.  As a group we came away from the experience exhausted but thoroughly satisfied with our work. It is surely an occasion that will continue long into the future of this evolving school and hopefully something that SERVE will continue to be a part of.

Mozambique: Challenging Perspectives


To encourage SERVE’s 2016 volunteers to think critically about common perceptions and misconceptions relating to developing countries, they have been given the task of taking photos that we think will challenge the perspectives of people in Ireland.  These photos are coming from our volunteers working in India during July and August 2016.

While so much has changed, developing countries continue to be described through a series of lacks and absences, failings and problems, plagues and catastrophes.  The challenge we set our volunteers was to be open to seeing things differently, to fight the stereotypes and exhibit the reality.

The photos featured here aim to challenge perspectives around such things as consumerism, gender stereotypes, wealth and nature, which may not necessarily be the common images we associate with India.

At all times the volunteers will be keeping in mind the Dochas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages.

Click on the photos below to get an explanation of the context of the photo.

Week 2 Blog

Blog by Daniel Twomey;

Day 8 – Thursday, 14th July 2016

Today we woke like every other morning.  I showered, ate and went to work.  Work starts at 8.30 am. From the off, today was tough.  We were down one volunteer on the construction site through a wrist injury and unfortunately lost another through an eye injury earlier in the day.  This meant we had to work extra hard to get the job done.  The sun was really beating down on us this afternoon and it was uncomfortable at one point.  Work was difficult but the bricks were flying up.  We went from a base and a floor to walls almost reaching the level of the roofs in one working day.  After work I finalised my blog for SERVE for week 1 and started working on our video, which we will begin to produce tomorrow with an interview with a former Young Africa student.  Peter, Molly, Niall and myself discussed interview questions and how we were going to go about our shoot.  This video will be used in a promotional video for SERVE where we will be taking particular individuals and giving their story.  We are calling it ‘Walk a mile in my flip-flops’.  After dinner we had a development education discussion that  focused on general misconceptions of African society and investigated how our experience in Mozambique challenges these misconceptions. We also watched a video about the refugee crisis caused by the conflict in Syria and reflected upon how vulnerable groups have been dehumanised by the media.  We finished the evening with a game of cards.  We are one week into our experience officially today.  Spirits are still high but injuries and fatigue are picking up.  People are commenting on their tiredness.  I chose to go to bed early tonight.  Tomorrow is another day.

Day 9 – Friday, 15th July 2016

What a difference 24 hours makes!  I woke up refreshed and eager to attack the day!  I worked on site laying blocks and we got the job finished ahead of time!  Productivity was at an all time high as we were keen to get as far as we could in the construction of the toilet block.  It really is a great feeling to get into the swing of things.  Working with the local builders it’s clear how experienced and efficient they are at their work.  Under their guidance we are well on track to finishing this facility.  With volunteer work there’s the presumption back home that we go to developing countries to teach them skills, but in reality we come here and learn a great deal ourselves.  The builders here have received good skills training at Young Africa and we learn these skills and help build in their way, the idea being that we bring the resources, capital and our willingness to work hard and in return we gain a greater understanding of the local people.  After work I interviewed Eric for our SERVE video.  Eric is a very interesting and articulate young man.  He was an apprentice plumber during his time in Young Africa.  He is now in full-time employment in a hotel in Beira and he credits the education he received in Young Africa as the reason he got his job.  The interview went extremely well.  Great day put down, and also it’s Friday.  Happy days!

Day 10 – Saturday, 16th July 2016

Today I woke about 9am (a welcome change to our usual 6.30 start), showered, ate and made contact with home.  As it’s the weekend we weren’t on site today.  Instead we visited the other Young Africa facility that we will be working at, a school known as Agri-Tech.  We travelled 40 minutes to the neighbouring province, Dondo.  Agri-Tech impressed me as a place that appears to be evolving at a rapid pace.  We learned that development projects at Agri-Tech Dondo in the last year has changed the site from a simple school to a campus that now houses two separate hostels, one for boys and one for girls, as well as a refectory.  There are also numerous agricultural initiatives that have been introduced in this time.  At Dondo we found numerous examples of the contribution SERVE makes to the development of this organisation.  We were shown the projects we would be working on next week and were given a tour of the campus.  After lunch we travelled back to Beira and did a communal grocery shop.  After dinner the group spent the evening sitting around a campfire melting marshmallows, playing games and relaxing.  The weekend break is a nice time to gather one’s thoughts, get affairs in order and take a break before starting another week of labour.

Day 11 – Sunday, 17th July 2016

We had another lie in this morning, rising at 9am.  After breakfast we went to a traditional African shop for crafts and souvenirs.  We all bought gifts for our families and friends and afterwards we went for lunch in a restaurant at the beach.  On this occasion I decided I had to try Mozambique’s famous prawns.  Lets just say that they  lived up to their reputation!  After lunch we went for a walk on the beach.  I’ve been really impressed by the beaches on this South-Easterly point of the continent.  Immaculate white sand, crystal clear water and glorious sunshine.  It’s therapeutic watching the boats going from mainland Mozambique as they make their way to the island of Madagascar.  This country is as diverse as it is beautiful and it is completely winning me over.

Day 12 – Monday, 18th July 2016

Today we went back to work but at a new location.  It was our first day on site at the Agri-tech at Young Africa (YA), Dondo.  We’ll be based here for the week.  Agri-Tech is a YA campus offering practical, agricultural and literary skills to over a hundred students.  We arrived at 10am after a 40 minute drive from Beira and went straight into construction.  My major job today was plastering walls.  It was my first time doing it.  Plastering is messy work but enjoyable at the same time.  I’m enjoying working on the building sites out here.  After 6 hours working on site we were assigned extra-curricular classes to teach.  I taught Physical Education for 2 hours on a purpose built clay sports pitch.  We played a few warm up games and then played soccer and basketball.  The students here are up there with the most enthusiastic I’ve ever worked with.  They are a pleasure to teach.  After class I contacted home, got some food and called to Dr. Barbitos’ house.  Dr. Barbitos is the director of Young Africa Agri-Tech and is an extremely interesting character.  He welcomed all the volunteers into his home.  We played pool and relaxed before settling down in our new sleeping quarters.  I was in bed by 10pm.

Day 13 – Tuesday, 19th July 2016

Today was yet another new experience for me.  I spent the morning welding on the construction site.  Another skill that I learned and can bring with me back to Ireland.  All the volunteers were divided around the campus working on different projects.  The mood in the camp was low today.  From talking to my fellow volunteers people felt tired and down.  This is rare as generally speaking people have been in good spirits.  I put it down to the new location and the busier work-load.  As well as construction work during the day and extra-curricular classes in the evening we have to plan the sports day, the videos and our respective written blogs.  People are busy, but it’s a challenge we’re able to take on.  Unfortunately fatigue is an understandable by-product of the added responsibilities.  For lunch we had Xima and beans, a local dish full of carbohydrates and protein.  We ate with all the students of the college in the refectory.  After work I took two more groups for PE where the students played sport and even learned some English.  After dinner all the volunteers played cards before going to bed.  Tomorrow we will be two weeks into our volunteering adventure. The halfway point, hard to believe.

Day 14 – Wednesday, 20th July 2016

Today was the most enjoyable day I’ve had in Mozambique so far.  Work on the building site primarily involved painting classrooms.  It was great fun and was satisfying seeing a building almost complete.  Afterwards I had the pleasure of meeting Raj, the founder of Young Africa.  Raj is a very interesting character who regaled us with tales of his time in Africa and the numerous development projects he oversaw, including the Beira and Dondo facilities.  After work I spent two hours teaching the students Gaelic Football.  I explained to the students that the game was a hybrid of football and basketball and showed them the basics through a few drills and afterwards they were away!  They really enjoyed it.  Competition took over and they had a lot of fun.  These students love to learn and are so appreciative of everything we do for them.  I received a round of applause after every drill or skill I did with them.  Definitely not something I’m used to!  We had a beautiful meal on campus and in the evening we played a game of “Celebrities” (A Charades-type performance game).  Afterwards, we were invited to the common room to help celebrate the birthday of one of the students in the college.  It was great to be part of it and to see the students in a social context.  Today was an awesome day and it was a great way to draw the first half of our volunteering experience to a close.  Time is going so fast out here but at the same time our night in London seems like forever ago.  It’s been a fantastic adventure so far.  Here’s to the second half of our volunteering experience!

Weekly reflection

That brings week 2 to a close.  From being primarily based out of Dondo this week I see first hand where the money from SERVE goes.  Every second building on this amazing agricultural campus has SERVE’s logo on the side of it.  This has been the residing memory of the week.  Seeing how the money, so generously donated from sponsors at home, is being used by this worthwhile charity.  The students here in Young Africa Agri-Tech Dondo get a good level of education.  They get practical vocational training as well as academic tuition by well qualified and competent teachers.  They have a sufficient standard of accommodation in their furnished comfortable dorms.  They have a sports court and a large common room for socialising in the evening.  They get three meals a day and are looked after by people who care for them.  They have everything a young enthusiastic student with a thirst for knowledge could hope or wish for.  And they have these things, in part, due to the work of SERVE, an organisation based on the other side of the planet.  It’s humbling to be playing a small part in something so large and so significant.

Week 1 Blog

Blog by Daniel Twomey; Photos by Peter Finnerty

Day 1 – Thursday, 7th July 2016

So finally the day was upon us – July 7th.  Mozambique!  After months of fundraising and preparing we were actually about to embark on our volunteering adventure.  I drove to Cork airport with my parents with a mix of anticipation and excitement.  I said my goodbyes to my folks and went inside to meet the gang.  After our obligatory check-in on Facebook and thank you messages to all who donated to the project, we were off!  The flight to Heathrow was short but the news we received upon arrival was far from sweet.  Our flight was cancelled!  Which meant we had to stay a night in London.  Myself and Paddy also temporarily lost our bags – not an ideal start.  It was all a bit stressful but it worked out in the end.  We checked into the airport hotel, ate and went straight to bed.

Day 2 – Friday, 8th July 2016

Friday morning we made our 9.30am flight to Johannesburg and everything ran smoothly.  We read, played games and watched movies on the flight.  After 12 hours in the air we landed in Johannesburg.  We spent one night in South Africa; Unfortunately not enough to see much of the country but it’s nice to say I was there.

Day 3 – Saturday, 9th July 2016

Today we woke up and got the bus to the Johannesburg airport to board our final flight of the journey (hopefully).  Our destination was Beira airport, Mozambique.  Our adventure would officially begin!  I slept for the whole flight.  We landed on the small runway and were buzzing to get out and view our surroundings.  Outside the airport we met two more of our leaders, Vernam and Lindsay.  They seem like cool people with vast experience of the work being done by SERVE and Young Africa.  Driving through the suburbs of Beira was surreal.  Poverty was everywhere but we were greeted by smiles and waves from everyone.  We arrived at the Young Africa campus and took in it’s charm. The impact that the project has had on the community is instantaneously apparent.  We got the grand tour of our new home, as all SERVE volunteers do.  We are staying in a dorm on campus, with less comforts than we have at home, but with more than one requires.  The campus has a particular atmosphere of warmth.  People are very helpful. There is a constant atmosphere of lively activity-constant development but smiles all round!  After settling in we challenged the locals to a game of soccer on their pitch.  Ireland versus Mozambique.  Unfortunately, Ireland went down two nil to the Mozambican outfit.  Obviously we couldn’t leave it at that, the pride of our nation was at stake.  A rematch ensued.  Ireland won 2-1!  After sports we all took ice cold showers.  They were invigorating and refreshing.  After our showers we ate in our in-house restaurant, ‘Magico’.  ‘Magico’ runs a programme that allows students to gain culinary experience, all the while running as a business that uses local produce.  It  is a great example of an initiative that SERVE has supported that has become a self-sufficient enterprise that contributes to the local community in multiple ways.  Afterwards we played cards for an hour until we all slipped away to our mosquito-netted beds.

Day 4 – Sunday, 10th July 2016

This morning we woke up early. We had breakfast followed by a trip to town.  All the volunteers hopped into the back of the Young Africa pick-up truck and we hit the road.  We went grocery shopping and visited the beach.  The braver volunteers went swimming, the less adventurous relaxed on the shore. After lunch we ate in a restaurant that can only be described as “Nandos”, but better!  When we got back to campus the local boys challenged us to a rematch…… Result: Ireland 3 Mozambique 1.  To pass the evening we played a game of ‘Assassin’ (a role-playing game that is similar to ‘Cluedo’) – it was great fun!  Afterwards we watched Portugal beat France in the final of the European Championship, much to the delight of the school security guards peering through the window.  We enjoyed our last day of freedom before the real work started on Monday.

Day 5 – Monday, 11th July 2016

Today we started work on the construction site and in an effort to start as we meant to go on all the volunteers got up at 6.30 to go for a morning run. Afterwards we ate breakfast and met the students of Young Africa, Beira at their assembly.  Our first construction job was to build a toilet block on campus near the preschool building.  All the  volunteers rowed in and pulled their weight for the day with the majority of us working as general labourers on site.  My major role for the day was digging and manning the wheelbarrow.  After work we had another hour of sports.  This time it was basketball and again it was an opening day loss for the Irish.  We lost 10-8 to the very enthusiastic and athletic students of Young Africa.  Afterwards we introduced hurling to the students.  After initial reluctance the students really got into it!  We taught them a few skills and some of the students proved to be naturals with the old hurley and sliotar!  After dinner I went straight to bed.  I was exhausted after staying up for the football on Sunday night.

Day 6 – Tuesday, 12th July 2016

This morning all the boys slept through the alarm so we missed the morning run. The girls powered through however…….. but got lost around Beira along the way!  Breakfast was followed by more work on campus.  Most of the group spent the day on site but I was based in the Library setting up brand new computers that arrived earlier in the day.  Lindsay informed me that the computers were bought from money donated directly from SERVE.  Another example of the great work the organisation does here in Young Africa, Beira.  It was great to see how the money we raised through fundraising has been used and tangibly having it in front of my eyes. After work we played the local teens in Basketball, winning on this occasion 10-8 with our glorious leader of Zimbabwean descent, Vernam, scoring the winning basket.  After sports we ate and had our first workshop. The topic being roles for our movie production and writers for articles for the SERVE website. I was designated the role of director/producer for the movie and sports journalist for the website…. Busy times ahead!

Day 7 – Wednesday, 13th July 2016

Wednesday morning we woke and every volunteer went for the morning run. Followed by another workout on the football pitch. Work on the building site on Wednesday was the toughest yet…. Lots of lifting and again I was on the wheelbarrow! After work we went to the local market….. This was real Mozambique and it was very interesting to see. It was raw and eye opening. We witnessed locals in their natural environs. I think up to this point we may have even spoiled by being engulfed in the idealistic bubble of the Young Africa campus.  This was a truer reflection of life in Mozambique. After dinner we had a dance workshop with the girls from the school and some of the volunteers played traditional Irish music, led by Vernam on his Tin Whistle.  The hostel girls introduced us to their native dances and in return we showed them the Macarena and the Cha-Cha slide!  An equitable and balanced cultural exchange.

Weekly reflection

That brings week 1 to a close. It’s been an amazing experience so far. The dynamics within the volunteering group is very positive. We are all  getting on well with one another and everybody is fully committed to the programme. The voluntary work we do on a daily basis is making a difference but by coming out here we can see exactly the worthwhile work SERVE is doing in the majority world. This couldn’t be done without the generous and charitable donations received through fundraising at home. The biggest thing that stood out for me in the first week was the warmth and friendliness of the locals. People are always greeting you with a wave, a smile or a “bom dia” (good morning). The children out here remind me of the students I teach in Co.Cork. They love sport, having the craic and making new friends. Their sense of fun and enthusiasm is truly infectious, and it’s wonderful.