Sharing a village spirit

By Jennifer Sarteau, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity volunteer and board member




Our affiliate in Minnesota recently returned from a Global Village trip to the Mozambique village of Chicumbane. There, we not only observed true village spirit, but we became a part of it! Eighteen of us, ages 19-72, felt so much at home there, that no one wanted to leave.

Isabelle, the soon-to-be homeowner we worked with, spent much of her time during our build balancing gallons upon gallons of water atop her head, water we used daily in construction.

When she wasn’t doing that, she was mixing and cooking her daily meals of corn and cabbage over a small outside “campfire” or teaching her four boys the responsibility of taking care of each other and doing chores — and like any mother would, scolding them when they hung upside-down a bit too dangerously in trees.

What we didn’t notice about Isabelle in those moments is that she is HIV-positive. One of her four young boys is, too. It’s a disease that affects more than 1.6 million people in Mozambique and a disease that too often passes from one generation to the next. But Habitat Mozambique partners with a health group here to get AIDS medications to people like Isabelle and her son.

Isabelle’s own physical strength and perseverance are astonishing. She says she is thankful that, combined with the security of a healthy place to live with cement floors and the warmth of a Habitat home, her children are now much less likely to contract other diseases now.

People look after each other here in Chicumbane. Neighbors feed friends. Even families with their own adversity share their crops, and no man is an island. Poverty is all around, but everyone works hard to make a living or to simply make it day to day.

Our journey taught us the virtue of community and the value of helping one family at a time. I know I felt I was touched by angels from Chicumbane village, and I will never be the same.