Radios are Lifeline for Stranded Mozambicans

by Sharon Maeda, GBGM Mission Communication
Would you walk dirt roads, ride a small boat, forge-knee deep across flood waters, or ride a tractor for a radio? That's exactly what volunteers did to deliver radios to displaced people in Mozambique. Devastating floods have left thousands and thousands of people with no means of receiving vital survival information in the settlement camps. When fleeing for their lives, almost none of the flood victims took radios with them. The few who did soon had no battery power left.

Enter the General Board of Global Ministries and the manufacturer of self-powered radios. The government of Mozambique requested that the Freeplay Foundation, the charitable-giving arm of a radio manufacturer, donate 5,000 windup, solar-powered radios. Freeplay donated 1,000 but sought financial donations from elsewhere to cover the other 4,000. Out of funds designated for a new radio project, the GBGM purchased 2,000 radios from Freeplay's factory in Capetown, South Africa. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) contributed a matching 2,000. This will provide at least one radio per village for the people who go back home after the flood waters recede.

Bishop Jo=E3o Somane Machado and the people of the United Methodist Church of Mozambique will help to deliver the radios. Each radio bears a large decal in Portuguese naming the United Methodist Church of Mozambique. "Oh, this is wonderful!" exclaimed Bishop Machado as he saw how the radios would help minister to all the people displaced by the floods. The UMC of Mozambique has already been involved with UMCOR in the delivery of portable water purification plants.

The radios are AM/FM and shortwave. They can be powered by a small internal generator activated by a crank, a solar panel on top of the radio, or regular alternating current. What are popular boutique items in the U.S. are a communications lifeline for the people of Africa. Radio Mozambique will broadcast for the flood victims vital information about health, weather conditions, timetables for returning safely to their villages, and plans for reconstruction of their homes and communities. The government has enlisted popular radio personalities to help with the survival broadcasts.

The first radios were given to heads of women's groups, teachers, and religious and community leaders. The distribution of the radios will continue as weather and travel conditions permit. According to Freeplay Foundation director Kristine Pearson, there are still 15 inches of water covering once fertile agricultural land weeks after the initial rainfall, and some places are impossible to reach. UMCOR's Paul Dirdak projects that they will be working on Mozambique flood recovery for up to three years.

Long after the flood recovery has been completed, these radios will continue to serve the people of Mozambique. They will become tools for education and culture, to expand the minds and lift the spirits of the people. And, yes, the radios can be used to provide accurate information about HIV/AIDS prevention once the flood emergency phase has passed.