Not Just Another Moz Workshop

I attended or helped organize more than a handful of workshops here in Moz during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).  Certain things are always the same: organizing lanche (mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee and snack), getting nervous about speaking proper Português during the abertura (opening), signing certificates on the last day, and Endearmints.

In those aspects, this workshop on ABS in Mozambique has been no different, and I have assured with Mamá that the white Endearmints, not the green ones, are on the plate closest to me each morning.  My comfort with the Português language and Mozambican culture has returned quite quickly, a graça de Deus.

In other ways, I have been quite surprised.  At first, I simplified the matter in my mind and assumed it was just because we were in Maputo, the capital.  However, as the workshop concludes I see that this assumption was a vast oversimplification.  Surprise, surprise.

Yes, all of these attendees have had the opportunity to seek higher education, which is not necessarily the national norm.  And yes, some of this opportunity probably came from the fact that they had the luxury to study more and pursue interests rather than cleaning the house or taking care of younger siblings 24/7, which is also not the national norm.

But regardless these students, department heads, and civil servants are also genuinely passionate about biotechnology, and they are genuinely interested in learning how to collaborate with each other and foreign institutions in order to move forward in their field.  And they are really good students, and they don’t even care about lanche.

With so much of PCV service being focused on the big things (health, education, and agriculture), I have only now had the chance to engage with Mozambicans in a specific field.  There are about 15 attendees.  Not hundreds.  And the workshop is only three days long.  But these 15 attendees have learned how to create ABS contracts, they now have examples and contacts (my colleagues and each other) as resources, and they will use them.

And Mozambique has taught me the same lesson once again: it is not big things that make big changes, but rather a series of small things, consistent and genuine, that start the inertia of change.  As a PCV, it was my daily conversations and interactions that affected me (and I think my colleagues, students, and neighbors as well) the most, and those are certainly what I miss most.  As a UNESCO intern, it is this short, informal, three-day workshop, with 10 students, 3 heads of department, and 2 civil servants that has chipped away at my jadedness with development work.


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