As of January 2010, Mozambique had over 500,000 children orphaned by AIDS, a number that is projected to double by the next year. The luckier orphans continue to live in the houses their parents died in. Others are taken in by relatives, sometimes as a beloved family member, sometimes more as a servant. Still others cluster into family pods, with the eldest assuming the task of caring for the younger. There is little government infrastructure or safety net for them. Community members and organizations such as Reencontro, people with large hearts and seemingly limitless stamina, visit house to house and address their needs.
African Millennium Foundation is sponsoring “A Nossa Casa,” a center for these children. Designed as a village, it will contain housing, primary and secondary schools, vocational training, a clinic, gardens for the study of farming, and gathering places not only for the orphans, but also for the larger community. I am an American architect who, in conjunction with the African Millennium Foundation, USC Institute of Global Health, Dr. Andrea Kovacs of the USC Maternal Child and Adolescent/Adult Center for Infectious Diseases and Virology, and Reencontro, a Mozambican Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to the care of orphans, is developing this village prototype, designed to be repeatable both in concept and program. It is an idea that uses a holistic approach to an enormous problem. This book is a brief introduction to the team working on this, as well as some of the issues and solutions we propose. The project is still evolving in many ways as we learn more and as more people step up to help it become a reality.
We want to create a safe place for these wonderful, but often stigmatized children, giving them an environment where they can grow, be nurtured, and become valued members of society. Malena Ruth, director of African Millennium Foundation, conceived this idea and I have felt passionate about it ever since she suggested I work on it.
Joaquim, one of the orphans we met in Mozambique suggested we call this new place “A Nossa Casa,” Our Home. A perfect name, because we want them to have a place of their own.