Tzu Chi construction volunteers from Taiwan guide local builders to build the Kura Great Love Village in Mozambique. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

Building Great Love Villages after Cyclone Idai

Tzu Chi volunteers with the engineers and team leaders of the Kura Great Love Village project. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation 

In March 2019, the devastating tropical Cyclone Idai twice hit East Africa, including Mozambique. In the aftermath of the disaster, many residents' mud and brick houses collapsed, forcing them to live on the side of the road, mostly in dangerous low-lying areas. Since then, Tzu Chi has been busy planning and building four Great Love villages in Sofala Province, central Mozambique, to house more than 3,000 families. Three Great Love Villages are currently under construction, and the fourth is scheduled to start construction in 2024.

Self-Reliance and Improved Living Conditions

Tzu Chi volunteers have been helping Cyclone Idai survivors become self-reliant. From initial distribution of building materials, agricultural tools, and seed packets, they have learned to use the tools to build their own houses, cultivate their own land, save the seeds they collect for planting the next year, and even have the concept of saving money.  

Sixty-year-old Carlos (left), moved into Kura Great Love Village with his family at the end of 2022. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

Sixty-year-old Carlos Domingos Jocene moved into Kura Great Love Village with his family of six at the end of 2022. Before Cyclone Idai, he worked as a carpenter and also found odd jobs at the market to make ends meet. After a few years, he finally saved up money and bought a piece of land to build a house; it happened to be in a low-lying area.  
However, the devastating cyclone brought floods that washed away the home he had worked so hard to build. His family had no choice but to shelter in a nearby elementary school. More than two months later, the government gave him a piece of land, but he had no idea how he would survive the future.  
When Tzu Chi volunteers came to the area to provide emergency relief and care, distributing seed packets and building material packages, Carlos and his wife started working in the fields, planting sesame and corn. Their lives gradually stabilized, and they were able to grow enough food to eat. But what would they do after they had enough to eat? Due to climate change, Mozambique experiences cyclones every year. Whenever a cyclone hits, mud houses and brick houses collapse again. So they have been looking forward to owning a sturdy and permanent home.

Lives Transformed, Hope Restored  

Carlos and his family used to be ridiculed for being poor, but now are seen as a symbol of success. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

Life in remote areas of Mozambique is difficult. Most people make a living by doing odd jobs, selling peanuts, or simple farming. They can save about US$8.3 a month. The Great Love Village built by Tzu Chi is worth about US$10,000, equivalent to 105 years -- or nearly three generations -- of work.  
When Tzu Chi volunteers announced that they would build Great Love Villages, the locals were skeptical. They said: "We know Tzu Chi, we know about the Jing Si Aphorisms, and we know that Tzu Chi will give away food and tools, but that's still a long way from building houses. The government has been saying for so many years that they will build houses for us, but they haven't been able to do it. Could a non-governmental organization actually deliver as promised?"  
Seeing that Tzu Chi had really started construction, Carlos said with disbelief: "It was as if I saw hope in my heart. Tzu Chi volunteers said they would do it, and they really did it!" With his dream come true and a new house, he now uses the money he earns to invest in agriculture and his children's education. He has also used the money he originally saved to buy bricks and building materials to buy new farmland.  
Now, the family's life has completely changed. Carlos works in Tzu Chi's construction projects through the cash-for-work program; with the income from farming, he no longer needs to worry about the family's livelihood. With a stable income, their lives have improved significantly. They can now afford to buy more furniture and even solar panels, and have electricity to light their home.

With a stable income and a dramatically improved life, Carlos can now afford to furnish his new home. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

Their children love the Jing Si Aphorisms and attend the tutoring classes at Kura Great Love Village. When his daughter was in fourth grade, she still could not write Portuguese, not even the 26 letters of the alphabet. However, after a year of tutoring, her grades gradually improved. He said, "When we were poor, we were often ridiculed, but now everyone can finally see our family's success."  
Thanks to the love of Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi volunteers around the world, the villagers in Kura Great Love Village are the pioneering residents to receive new homes as part of Tzu Chi's multi-village project in Sofala Province. They feel happy and fulfilled to be able to live in a safe and loving environment.

2024/02/12| Pi-hua Wu & Feng-Ying Peng/Report from Mozambique