For many years, the Diocese of Niassa has run an inspiring and ground-breaking programme of community-based HIV response teams with thousands of volunteers participating within the churches and communities.
This formally began in 2004 and by 2007, 102 congregations had formed a ‘Equipas da Vida’ team and by 2009 this has surged to 200 with over 4,000 volunteers. These teams work with their communities to identify key challenges and responses and therefore practical responses come out of the individual communities and vary.
The Yohanna Abdalla Equipa grows vegetables to distribute to orphaned and vulnerable children.
A playgroup in Metonha enables orphaned children and those whose parents are living with HIV to play together.
A youth drama team from Mocuba travels from church to church, performing dramas about HIV prevention after church services.
More formal activism includes speaking out in churches against stigma and discrimination, calling authorities to account on issues that affect vulnerable people (for example, confronting teachers who mistreat orphaned children) and fighting for better access to HIV testing and treatment.
In Morrupula, Equipa de Vida volunteers effectively lobbied for hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children to obtain birth certificates (which are now required for children to study beyond the fifth grade.)
Though the Diocese of Niassa pays these full-time staff members, it does not pay the Equipas da Vida teams. Instead it acknowledges their contributions through further skill training and seeks funding for the supplies these teams need to conduct their work.
This amazing work the Diocese of Niassa is facilitating is unique. It is through grassroots work like this, that is owned by the local communities and developed from the bottom up, that long lasting change occurs.
For more information on these ground-breaking teams, watch this 3 minute movie: