Short history of ASEM’s activities
ASEM was founded in 1991 with the mission to help the children of Mozambique, a country devastated by 30 years of war (ended in October 92) followed by the most serious draught of austral Africa (years 92/93/94) and other inundations that (99/2000/2001) have caused more damages and victims then the last war.
ASEM was born to help them in their primary necessities, but above all, to reconstruct their identity and to promote their psychological, moral, educational and formative rehabilitation, as well as their reintegration as participating and active members of society. Initially in 1991, to quickly address the emergency and the bureaucratic delay for the realization of the first Centre, ASEM began with a "soup program". This was salvation to over 300 child victims of war, who received drinking water, water to wash and a meal each day. In the soup one could put whatever was available (a lot or a little), therefore it was the most adaptable meal in order to obtain even the little bit of food that the community could donate, even those families who were, themselves, living in poor conditions.... a handful of rice or half of a tomato went a long way.
The program lasted until six months after the end of the war. The abandoned and orphaned children were in great need to take up a "normal" life again, by living in a secure and stable place, returning to school, trying to get over the traumas of the war and regain a sense of dignity, trust and self-esteem.
Therefore, ASEM created developed from 1991 to 2006:
The Centre of Macurungo (1993), in the first plot of land received from the Mozambican government, situated in the city of Beira: first in tents, then buildings made from local material and, after its destruction by the cyclone in 2000, in masonry. It included 3 dormitories, a refectory, a warehouse, a kitchen, a dispensary, a school, a professional training Centre and an office. This Centre has accommodated up to 170 children, initially only boys of all ages, because of lack of conditions in order to separate them from the girls. In 1996 the ASEM Manga School was born, followed in 1998 by the Manga Centre because of the increasing number of street children and the necessity to also accommodate girls, 11 km from the city of Beira, for boys from 2 to the 13 years and girls of all the ages. It was constructed in masonry and includes 5 dormitories, a refectory, a warehouse, a kitchen, a dispensary, a bakery for professional training and partial self-sustainability of the Centre, two offices, a school and a sawing workshop.
Within the two Centers, two schools have been built, officially recognized by the Ministry of Education, that offer primary instruction (EP1-EP2) to about 1800 children (annually), supporting also the wages of the teachers (since 2007 the State pays their salaries). The children were coming from the poorest families of the surrounding community, and ASEM guaranteed them the school material (pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.) and a meal a day.
The Centers have accommodated more than 360 children at a time.
The carried-out activities were aimed to guarantee the children lodging, regular meals, clothing, personal hygiene, health and psychological support by the educators. All the children were encouraged to follow at least one activity as post-scholastic occupational therapy, but also as training for experience and psychological support.
This process ended with the reintegration of the children in their families of origin or substitute families within their community. The young adults leave the Centers having achieved a number of educational experiences, as well as formative and recreational abilities.
Handicraft: Sculpture, design, batik (design on material), embroidery, working of wickers (cesteria), etc.
Arts activities: Theatre, dance, acrobatic, juggling, music, writing (poetries, stories), etc. They have toured in music, dance and theatre in Europe and received acknowledgments and prizes in the field of literature internationally.
Sport activity: Basketball, soccer, athletics. ASEM has brought home numerous awards in athletics and basketball on national championships.
Vocational training: Agriculture, carpentry, shoe making, sawing, electricity, engineering, administration, business management, arts and design, computer technology, and others. Some of these programs were fulfilled by correspondence or in training schools outside of ASEM Centers.
School: All children at ASEM Centers attend school (at ASEM schools or external schools) as soon as they become of age; for young adults who show interest and application in studies, ASEM looks for sponsors to offer them a scholarship for university or vocational training programs.
The City Counsel of Beira offered a plot of agricultural land, in Inhamizua in 2004, for the development of agricultural activities, vocational training and alimentary partial self-sustainability of the Centers.
At the end of 2007, the construction of the Gorongosa Centre was finished. It has the specific objective to support children infected and affected by HIV/ AIDS.
Since its beginning up today, ASEM has helped over 172,000 children at its Centers, Schools, through education, psychological support & health care, shelter, vocational training and/or occasional support.
Hundreds of children have been helped to rejoin their families and being reintegrated into their community.
ASEM appointed and trained its Mozambican staff (125 workers - until 2007), with the single exception of Barbara Hofmann (founder): some former boys hosted at the Centers have been trained and have grown with the desire of becoming an active part of the organization, to give the same opportunities they received to other children in need.
From 2007 on:
Macurungo Centre: all the children have been reintegrated into their direct or extended families; 80% of the young adults have been enrolled at vocational training colleges or helped in finding a job and housing (hut) within their community. The younger children (20%) have been reintegrated into their direct or extended families, with scholastic support and the promise from ASEM to find a sponsor for future vocational training.
Manga Centre: 20 children remain (beginning 2008) at the Centre, most of whom are fully orphaned or children coming from extreme situations, for which ASEM is working in collaboration with other private and governmental organizations in order to find lodging within the community. The other kids, thanks to the continuation of ASEM’s support, have been reintegrated into their direct or extended families.
Mozambique’s past have caused social imbalances and poverty in which the Country still today lives, and in the destruction its social structure.
Mozambique is one of the 31 poorest countries of the world (UNDP 2006) and has a mortality rate in women of around 38 years and in men of around 40-42 years of age. That means, over 50% of the country’s population is estimated to be children from 0 to 14 years old and the range of people aged between 15 to 25 years old, are the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, and are seriously compromised. The danger is that, in a short time, Mozambique’s society will constitute mostly of children and fewer from the older generations.
Following the analysis of this dramatic truth, the reconstruction of the social web for the development of the community and the country itself, becomes essential. The tendency of the government’s social policy (2006) (also always a main objective of ASEM) is to work to support the children and young adults within their family or community, rather than in Centers.
The Country is constituted of a multitude of cultures, ancient and tribal. The culture of the city is changing and the rural culture remains quite traditional. The importance of reunification between old and young people is essential for the survival of traditional and cultural values, the past (history) of the family, the history of the country itself (there is little written documentation) and in order to reconstruct the destroyed social web.
In various communities, especially rural, the children who remain orphaned are, naturally, helped and assisted by other families: but as they are also living on the threshold of poverty, for the long term, they have great difficulty supporting the children overall as the above described phenomenon is on the rise.
By direct family, we understand the parents (father/mother, siblings), and by extended family, relatives (grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc.).
Due to poverty, a significant number of children end up outside of their family, on the road or integrated in Centers. Sometimes the children themselves decide, in order to not weigh on the family, out of love for their mother, to leave home. On the other hand, it happens that the mother herself removes the child, convinced that he/she is more likely to survive on the streets than at home.
ASEM from 2008 on is engaged in the following areas:
WORKING WITHIN THE COMMUNITY: reconciliation, post-reintegration, monitoring and psycho-social support, safeguarding of the children rights, studies and analysis, programs of micro-credit, support of material (food, etc.), schooling, vocational training, support of housing (restructuring or construction of small houses).
SCHOOL: management of ASEM schools and scholastic support of the children (in other schools and within the community).
VOCATIONAL TRAINING: participation in the development of community through vocational training for young adults and initiatives to reintegrate young adults.
CREATION OF MICRO-ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES: for ASEM’s self –sustainability and for beneficiaries.
CULTURAL SPORT ACTIVITIES: as a part of the psychological rehabilitation; and in order to maintain ties between of the children/ young adults and their culture.