Elisabetta Colabianchi, founder of Kurandza, is a woman of faith who strives to help the women of Mozambique recognize their dignity and build up small businesses. She wants to help them help themselves. She currently fundraising to help bring Percina, the local Director to the US in August. Percina will meet with Kurandza supporters, share her story, participate in outreach and fundraising events in preparation of the launch of a girls education program.
Percina was the first girl in her village to graduate from high school. This was because she wanted to learn so bad that she walked 10 miles to school each day. She sees the value in an education, and wants to share her story of how it can create opportunity and a bright future for girls in Mozambique.
The girls education program will provide scholarships (matriculation fees, transportation, books, exam fees, backpack, etc) and tutoring for pre-school, elementary school, and high school girls who would otherwise not be able to attend school because of financial restrictions.
If you would like to contribute, please click here: https://www.tilt.com/tilts/percinas-second-trip-to-the-us
From the Petaluma Argus Courier:
Though Mozambique is thousands of miles away from Petaluma, Elisabetta Colabianchi found a way to create a thriving bond with women in the African community that remains strong despite the distance.
The 29-year-old Petaluman has traveled the globe, but found herself drawn to the southeast African country where she was stationed for three years with the Peace Corps. In the small village of Guijá, she served as a community health volunteer working with HIV-positive pregnant women to educate them about how to prevent the transmission of the virus to their children and encourage them to keep on track with treatments.
Despite their desperate need for care, she found that many women didn’t return to the hospital on a regular basis because they couldn’t afford transportation. HIV and AIDS pose a major public health concern to the country, with an estimated 1.5 million of the more than 25.83 million population living with HIV, according to 2014 data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS.
Working with Percina Miocha, a 27-year-old Mozambique native and community activist who Colabianchi kindled a friendship with, she tried to scheme up a sustainable way to help the women, most of whom also had no education or financial independence.
Colabianchi, who spent parts of her childhood in Petaluma before studying biology, language and peace and justice studies at the University of San Diego and global affairs at New York University and working with various nonprofits, said she always valued giving back, and found herself compelled to empower the women she’d grown to know personally.
“I’ve always liked volunteering and I’ve always felt good about doing it,” Colabianchi said. “When I was in the Peace Corps, I loved it. I felt like it was a good fit. Before, I wanted to work for the United Nations and change the world, but then I thought ‘what if I focus on one group or village and really help them?’”
They decided to create a sewing collective, and after interviewing community members and seeking grant funding, they selected a dozen dedicated women to participate in the collective, housed in a workshop they built from sticks and mud. The effort gave the women a chance to generate an income by selling goods locally while learning about marketing, managing finances and health literacy.After laying the groundwork, such as training and securing donations of bicycles for the women to get to work, Colabianchi launched “Kurandza,” a social enterprise with an online marketplace to showcase the women’s creations, after returning to Petaluma in 2014. Speaking in her native language with Colabianchi translating, Miocha said that “kurandza” which means “to love” in Changana, the local language, encompasses the essence of the mission.
“The organization is intended to encompass a harmony and union and love, and we needed to show these values,” Miocha said during her inaugural visit to the U.S., an effort funded through an online campaign to give her an opportunity to learn English and promote the organization by sharing her story and organizing trunk shows while traveling across the country.
Kurandza showcases accessories made from “capulana” fabric, a cloth closely woven into Mozambique’s culture, with the proceeds channeled into paying the women a sustainable salary. Through the business, the women have not only been able to get to the hospital for routine treatment, but have also earned enough to improve their homes and send their children to school, Colabianchi said.
She’s now in the process of filing for nonprofit status for the organization, which she says has seen increasing success. Miocha, who acts as the program director in Mozambique, smiled broadly as she said her new income has allowed her to buy her 2-year-old daughter diapers and other necessities, and will pave the way for her to go to preschool. Miocha, who was the first girl in her village to gradate high school, also hopes that she can use her paychecks to help her study accounting or medicine at a university.In upcoming months, Colabianchi and Miocha hope to fundraise to expand the program to encompass high school scholarships, health education, and support more entrepreneurship classes for women, who can become leaders through sharing their skills. The organization has also funded the creation of a convenience store in the community, with hopes to give women the tools to open their own small businesses to generate additional funds to channel back into the community.
Though getting the enterprise off the ground has been challenging, Colabianchi said it’s worth it to see the positive impact on the lives of the women involved.
“In the U.S., we’re pretty ambitious about the future — we look to the future and have goals,” Colabianchi said “Sometimes it’s hard for those women day to day … they can’t really dream of wanting to do things. With this organization, they can dream big.”
For more information about how to make a donation to benefit educational, health and vocational skills programs, to find ways to get involved or to view the marketplace, visit www.kurandza.com.
Elisabetta Colabianchi created the social enterprise in 2014 to allow Mozambique women, most of whom are HIV positive, to sell handmade goods to make an income so they could improve their lives and their communities.
This year Kurandza is going to be showing up a little differently from what you’re used to. In the past we have been able to impact our community using funding primarily from selling handmade products that our women in Mozambique make! This form of funding has been an amazing way to raise seed funding for our organization, and we have seen that by shifting models we can make even more of an impact!
Our product-based model enabled our women to earn a fair wage, providing for their families, and it also helped us start our social programs on the ground in Mozambique. Our social programs have been so successful that we want to focus even more on them this year!
We have been running our nutrition program since the hunger crisis hit a year ago. It has saved hundreds of children in the community. The community leaders are thrilled with this program and the difference it’s making in our village. We plan on increasing our impact with this program by training more program leaders, performing more cooking demonstrations, and providing more nutritious food supplements for malnourished kids in the community. Lindsey wasn’t even 6 months old here, and now she’s 3 years old and starting pre-school!
Our third goal this year is to raise funding to create more small, local businesses like the convenience store that was built in 2015 after a generous Kurandza donor contributed $2,000 to start this small business!
With $1,000, we can help a woman start a meat business or a small produce stand. With $2,000 or more, we can help someone build a hair salon, bar, or convenience store. So much is possible with so little money when it’s in US dollars. Starting these businesses helps provide income for a family for their entire life– and it also helps develop the community and spurs local commerce. So what’s happening to the women of Kurandza? Percina M. continues to run all of our programs in Mozambique while I’m in the US (we get to run things together when I’m in town!). Gina is her counterpart, and Percina C. is the head nutrition facilitator. The other ladies continue to facilitate the nutrition programs and are using their earnings from Kurandza to start their own local businesses
TODAY MARKS THE 2ND ANNIVERSARY OF WHEN KURANDZA BEGAN! WE’VE COME SO FAR IN THESE LAST TWO YEARS, AND WE WANTED TO CELEBRATE ALL OF OUR MILESTONES WITH YOU!
We’ve provided steady employment to 9 women in Mozambique, which means more women were able to reach the hospital every month and get their medication, more children were able to start school, and more families were able to improve their homes and save for the future.
We built a small grocery store with a family in one of the rural villages. This means that one family is one step closer to economic independence, and that the community can now save time and money by having a store nearby instead of traveling miles to the closest city.
We raised $4,000 in less than one week to pay for Percina’s first trip out of Africa to the United States! This was a dream come true for her, and a cultural exchange for everyone who met her.
We raised awareness about the drought and current hunger crisis in Mozambique and raised over $7,000 to help the community. We were able to provide immediate food assistance to over 35 families, trained 20 HIV+ mothers how to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies, and started a nutrition program in the community.
WE COULDN’T HAVE DONE ANY OF THIS WITHOUT OUR AMAZING SUPPORTERS! SO MANY OF YOU HAVE DONATED TO PERCINA’S CAMPAIGN OR THE #FEEDMOZAMBIQUE CAMPAIGN OR BOTH, HAVE BOUGHT THE WOMEN’S HANDMADE ITEMS FOR YOURSELF OR TO GIVE AS GIFTS, AND HAVE SPREAD THE WORD AND SUPPORTED US WITH YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT AND BELIEF IN OUR CAUSE.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING US GET TO WHERE WE ARE TODAY! MUITO OBRIGADA! KHANIMAMBO SWINENE! 🙂
I recently got back from being in Mozambique for a month to help with the current hunger crisis. The #FeedMozambique campaign was something that I started because of how I felt after hearing stories about the hunger crisis on phone calls back to Mozambique, but after seeing it with my own two eyes, I truly understand what the situation is like and how important this work is. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the campaign in some way– either through spreading the word, attending a event, or donating your own personal money to the cause. In the United States, we have the power to use our voice and our money to do whatever we want in the world. It touched my heart to know that so many of you used that power to help the people of Mozambique. Thank you.
With the money we raised, we chose to focus on one group of people: at-risk and malnourished babies. We lead a training of over 20 mothers who either had malnourished babies or who were HIV-positive and still nursing their babies past the recommended time period, putting their children at risk to contract HIV. The women of Kurandza taught these mothers about HIV prevention, nutrition, hygiene, and other health topics. It was inspiring to see the ladies lead this training on their own with little help from myself–I felt super proud to see them leading in this way.
We made the training as interactive as possible with fun ice-breakers to get to know the women better, and skits so that the women could show what they learned. We also awarded the women for participation with prizes such as toothpaste and soap. Each training day ended with a cooking demonstration of how to cook enriched porridge for their children.
Several of the mothers stood up to thank us for teaching them. They had never learned about nutrition or about HIV prevention, and most didn’t even know that their babies could get HIV through nursing. One mother stood up and said that she remembered learning about this from me back when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. She said that I had sat next to her on a minibus heading back from the district hospital to our village one day, and I had asked if she had already stopped nursing because the baby was old enough to eat regular food and avoid risk of HIV transmission. She stopped nursing thereafter and said that this baby was the only one that didn’t die because of what I told her. When she stood up, I didn’t remember her because I had talked to thousands and thousands of women. But she remembered me. I made a difference for this one woman and her baby. That showed me that even helping one person is worth it. Even though we weren’t yet able to help everyone in the entire village, we still made a difference with these 25 women and their babies.
At the end of the training, we had 5 mothers volunteer to lead the nutrition program at the hospital. They will be leading these enriched porridge demonstrations, giving health presentations to the community, and visiting other mothers for support. We asked all the HIV- positive mother participants if they wanted to stop nursing. Almost all of them raised their hands. We were able to counsel each one of them and give them 3 months of baby food so that their babies could get a headstart on nutrition before eating the sporadically available food with the rest of their family. We also gave baby food to the mothers of malnourished children in hopes of them regaining strength and staying alive.
We distributed food aid and seeds to select families as a test to measure the impact, and will be monitoring the success of our programs to gauge what direction we will be going in next.
Thank you again for joining this cause and for helping a total of over 35 families. Your support is already making a difference in the lives of women and children in Mozambique.
If you’d like to get more involved in our cause, e-mail me (Elisabetta) at email@example.com.
I’d known there was a hunger crisis in Mozambique, but what really got to me was hearing that HIV positive mothers were faced with choosing between letting their children starve or nursing their children past the recommended time despite the risk of passing on HIV.
Prior to founding Kurandza, which means “to love” in the local Changana language, I lived in Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. While there, I worked at a rural hospital counseling mothers on the prevention of HIV transmission to their babies, and had successfully prevented the transmission to hundreds of children.
At first, I thought that maybe the mothers who continued to nurse despite the risk, where doing this because they forgot their training. Or I thought perhaps I hadn’t taught them very well after all.
But when I counseled one of these mothers over the phone last month from my home, now living thousands of miles away in California, I realized she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it hurt her to do so. She knew that by continuing to nurse her child past the recommended time, she was putting her baby at risk to contract HIV. She knew that when a child contracts the HIV virus, it often leads to mortality.
This mother has already successfully raised five HIV-free children because she followed the prevention techniques. But this time is different. This time there isn’t any food for her to feed her child because of the two-year drought. There isn’t any water to grow crops on her farm to produce the food that her child desperately needs to survive. Water is a life source and they are without. Like all the women in her community, she knows that if she stops nursing, her baby will most likely die of malnutrition. So she is making the best choice for her baby by nursing despite the possible outcome.
The women facing this impossible choice is what made me pause and reassess the work I was already doing in Mozambique through Kurandza. Even though we’re in the middle of creating new educational and entrepreneurial programs for the women there, we’re refocusing our energy to something more urgent this month because I know in my heart that we need to address the hunger crisis now.
Our goal is to raise $250,000 in the month of June to provide immediate food and baby formula, plus sustainable water and agriculture projects to this community. It’s important to supplement humanitarian assistance with long-term solutions such as building multifunctional water wells so that the community will be able to continue farming and growing their own crops even if the drought continues.
Please help us help these mothers in Mozambique by contributing HERE
When the floods came and destroyed my house and all of my belongings, Peace Corps wanted to send me home or to a new site up north. I didn’t want to leave my community– I had spent a year learning their language and getting to know their culture. I spent time creating programs in the community and I didn’t want them to be abandoned.
I called my friend, Percina, and she told me to come live with her in her hut in a small rural village a few miles from my original site.
After pleading with Peace Corps to let me live there despite the lack of running water, electricity, market, or reliable transportation, they agreed. They agreed because they saw such kindness and generosity in Percina, her family, and her neighbor, Gina. They knew that these amazing people would take care of me.
It was a transition moving to this village in such a traumatic time when I felt like I had lost everything. But it immediately felt like home. They taught me how to cook using fire wood, how to cart water, and how to wake up with the sunrise and go to sleep with the sunset.
They helped me when I had nothing. Now it’s my turn to help them.
I had been talking with a lot a people back in Mozambique lately and they told me that the situation got worse. I knew that they were experiencing a drought and that food prices were on the rise, but they had always laughed and played it off like things would change and everything would be ok. This time it was different. I could tell that they were worried about tomorrow.
The drought in Mozambique has been going on for two years. Why is this relevant? Because there are very little jobs in my community (the community where I lived for three years in the Peace Corps), and the population depends on the rain to grow crops on their farms so that they can harvest their own food and eat. They don’t have money to buy food, which is now more than triple the price because of the food shortages.
My friends and colleagues are eating one meal a day of just rice or bread and cucumber– this is not OK. Knowing that they are only eating one meal a day really hit me hard. I mean, think about it: ONE meal a day? Try putting yourself in their shoes for a minute and imagine what it truly would be like if you only ate one simple meal a day… It would be horrible.
These are real people who laugh, dance, gossip, make jokes, get embarrassed, have good and bad days– they are people with names and stories. To me, they arn’t people in Africa who show up in a news article about how bad the drought is. They are my friends and family.
I knew that I needed to do something about this. I needed to do more.
Yes, I’m already helping nine amazing women in Mozambique learn skills and earn a sustainable income through our handmade items. Their income allows them to buy food and continue eating despite the drought, but their neighbors and extended families can’t. For me this wasn’t enough.
There are thousands of families without food and without hope.
Not many people help small villages in Mozambique. There is help sometimes from the government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but right now no one is doing anything.
I know that millions of people in Africa are in the same situation– suffering from hunger because of droughts– and it can sometimes get overwhelming to think of how to help them all. It’s almost impossible to help everyone. But it’s not impossible to help someone.
We’re going to focus on this one small village of 12,300 families. Raising $250,000 in the next month will provide immediate food for these families and will provide sustainable water and agriculture projects that will allow the community to withstand future droughts.
I can’t do this alone. Please help me spread the word about this campaign and consider donating! Any amount, big or small makes a huge impact. Thank you