#IStandForGirls: Kurandza’s Mission to Help Girls in Mozambique Go to School

“I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.” Queen Rania of Jordan

Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.

Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.

In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.

This month, Kurandza has launched the #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 100 girls to school in Mozambique.  

What is the campaign?

In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 100 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.

For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.

I have just signed on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.

Why girls education? 

I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

How Sunshine Nut Company is Transforming Lives in Mozambique

“Providing hope never tasted so good”. – Don Larson, founder and CEO of Sunshine Nut Company

I am always inspired by the amazing people out there who are making the world a better place and giving back. Meet Don Larson, founder and CEO of Sunshine Nut Company, a cashew company that is harnessing the food industry to create lasting economic transformation in Mozambique. In 2011, Larson and his family left a 25-year high-level career in the food industry to launch Sunshine Nut Company with the belief that a food company can be the catalyst for lasting economic transformation in some of the poorest countries in the world.

When Larson and his family left the comforts of their home in the US to set off on a new adventure in Mozambique, many thought he was a little nuts. However, in the past six years Larson has done amazing things to help the community in Mozambique and change the world, one package of nuts at a time.

Sunshine Nut Company grows, roasts and packages cashews in Matola, Mozambique where they operate a world-class cashew factory and are able to go from tree to package in just three weeks. Thirty years ago, cashews were one of Mozambique’s top cash makers however almost two decades of civil war and poor economic conditions nearly destroyed the once lucrative industry. Larson found this as an opportunity to not only bring back the cashew industry but create lasting sustainable change by empowering the local community.

Sunshine Nut Company directly employs over 50 people at their factory, hiring primarily adult orphans and promoting from within. 90% of their distributed profits are reinvested back into the community: 30% to orphan care, 30% to farming communities, and 30% to replicate the business model elsewhere. Now in over 3,000 stores across the US, Sunshine Nut Company hopes that when you purchase their cashews, you taste the difference in the freshness and quality, and find hope in knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of the poor and orphaned in Mozambique.

I had the opportunity to interview Don and here is what he has to say about the mission behind Sunshine Nut Company and what his visions for the future are.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Kurandza: One woman’s quest to #FeedMozambique

Meet Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder of Kurandza, a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. I have featured her work and organization before on my blog and include their products under my Gifts that Give Back Guide. Kurandza uses education, entrepreneurship and sustainable development programs to help create opportunity and change for women and their communities. A devastating two-year drought in Mozambique has caused widespread hunger inspiring Elisabetta to shift gears and focus on hunger relief. Here is her heartwarming story. 

Percina and Elisabetta. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography

Percina and Elisabetta, two wonderful friends who met in a village in Mozambique while Elisabetta was a Peace Corps volunteer. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography

“Kurandza: To Love”: Written by Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder and Designer, Kurandza

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 my non-profit organization, 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 were 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.

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Goodbye Malaria

Save a Life in your Sleep: Goodbye Malaria

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito”.‐ African proverb

The figures are staggering. According to the World Health Organization: “About 3.2 billion people – nearly half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. In 2015, there were roughly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths. In areas with high transmission of malaria, children under 5 are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death. More than two-thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group. In 2015, about 305,000 African children died before their fifth birthdays” making malaria the leading killer of children in Africa. (Source: WHO 2015 statistics).

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Although these figures are frightening, what is even more shocking is that these deaths are entirely preventable. Per the World Health Organization, “Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 60% reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2000”. This is amazing progress that brings hope that we will be able to wipe malaria off the face of the earth forever.

Eradicating malaria is the dream of South African-based Goodbye Malaria, an organization  I interviewed the last week to learn how a team of African entrepreneurs, predominantly women sprayers and socially minded businesses, are coming together to “save a life in your sleep” and eradicate malaria in their lifetime. Here’s their story.

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Kurandza

Gifts that Give Back: The Inspiration behind Kurandza

 “Kurandza” = “to love” in Changana, the local language of our women in Mozambique

Last fall 2014 after returning from serving three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, Elisabetta Colabianchi an American from California fulfilled a long-term dream of founding Kurandza. Kurandza is a purpose-driven fashion company that creates handcrafted jewelry and accessories with women in Mozambique. Their mission is to empower women, the majority of whom are HIV positive, through education and employment opportunities. In addition to receiving fair wages for their work, profits from sales go back to this community to fund development projects.

Kurandza got its start while Elisabetta was a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching HIV-positive women the skill of sewing so that they could earn a sustainable income and provide for themselves and their families. Today, Kurandza sells online and are supporting nine women in Mozambique.

Kurandza

Elisabetta with two women from her “Mother to Mother” support group at the local hospital where she worked.

Although I have already added Kurandza to my permanent page of “Gifts that Give Back”, I wanted to learn more about the story behind it. I had an opportunity to conduct and interview with Elisabetta to learn more about her inspiration behind Kurandza and what she hopes to achieve. Here it is.

Elisabetta in Geneva where she participated in a study abroad program at the United Nations through NYU.

Elisabetta in Geneva where she participated in a study abroad program at the United Nations through NYU.

A Conversation with Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder and CEO of Kurandza 

Me: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What did you study and why did you choose to be in the Peace Corps?

Elisabetta: I’m from San Francisco, California, but have lived in many different places that I still consider home. During college in San Diego, I studied Biology, foreign languages and Peace and Justice Studies. I was so fortunate to be able to study abroad in Mexico, Argentina, and in Italy, where I spent my junior year. In Milan, Italy, I took several courses in International Relations at the Italian university and also studied fashion. After college, I moved to New York City where I worked for an anti-hunger non-profit, helping low-income residents apply for public benefits and learn about financial literacy and nutrition. There I realized that I wanted to do similar work abroad, teaching people skills that would help them have a better future. I’ve always loved learning new languages, traveling and adapting to different cultures and making a difference, so I thought Peace Corps was the right next step. I was thrilled when I found out that I would be a Community Health Volunteer in Mozambique and would be learning Portuguese (the national language) as well as a local language, too!

Me: What inspired you to start Kurandza? 

Elisabetta: As a Community Health Volunteer, I worked at the local hospital counseling HIV positive women on treatment adherence and the prevention of transmission of HIV to their babies. I noticed that many of the patients weren’t able to reach the hospital every month to pick-up their treatment because they didn’t have an income to pay for the transportation expenses. I wanted to help these women stay on treatment and continue attending their support groups and counseling sessions so that they and their babies would remain healthy. This is what inspired me to start an income generation activity for these women. My friend, Percina, thought that teaching these women how to sew would be a beneficial skill for them for their entire lives, and I’ve always been interested in fashion and creating jewelry, so we thought starting a sewing cooperative was a perfect choice!

Kurandza

With her friend and co-worker, Percina, at Elisabetta’s “despedida” going away party.

 Me: What were some of the challenges you faced in starting Kurandza? 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD