AU, its Alumni Respond to Cyclone Idai

Emily Giwa and her two younger children sit amidst boulders and the remants of household goods in cyclone-ravaged Nyangu TownshipEmily Giwa, 33, is dejected.

“I lost my two older children.  The bodies of Adore, 14, and Ashley, 10, were found a few meters from here,” Giwa said. “This is where our home used to be.  It was a four-room house, nothing remained after the cyclone.”

Giwa, her husband Arthur, and their two young children have been living in the Ngangu United Methodist Church since mid-March. They are one of nine families housed at the church in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

Rev, Viagem Tivane, pastor of Dondo UMC in central Mozambique.and AU alumnus.Cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique on March14th and quickly moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing hundreds, destroying homes, crops and livelihoods, and leaving thousands homeless.

In the ongoing disaster response, affected communities in the three countries are reaping the benefits of Africa University’s ministry.

Rev. Eurico Gustavo, a Mozambican, graduated from Africa University in 2013. He is the assistant pastor at Beira United Methodist Church and communications director of the North Mozambique Conference.

“Almost all the roofs from churches were blown away. The walls of some parsonages collapsed, leaving pastors homeless,” Gustavo said.

Gustavo is helping to register the most vulnerable survivors of the cyclone and preparing to distribute mosquito nets, food, and farming tools to hundreds of families.

Rev. Daniel Mhone is co-superintendent of the Malawi Provisional Conference of The United Methodist Church.A fellow pastor and Africa University graduate, Rev. Daniel Mhone, is one of two superintendents overseeing the Malawi Provisional Conference, where Cyclone Idai devastated 15 of the 29 districts.  Mhone, (BD 1997), described the south and southeastern parts of the country as hard-hit.

“Cyclone Idai brought unprecedented floods and, as a nation, we were caught unaware,” said Mhone. “Houses collapsed, and family belongings, livestock, food and crops were swept away by the floods. I visited one site where the day’s food for a child was just a cucumber.”

Mhone is coordinating relief efforts with support from partners and friends.

Rev. Sophirina Sign is the connectional ministries director for the Marange District.

“We are distributing food…not only to our church members but to entire communities,” said Mhone. “We are mobilizing for more resources to help with the recovery and rebuilding program so that we can contribute in alleviating the suffering.”

Rev. Sophirina Sign (BD, 2001 and MTS, 2008) is the connectional ministries director for the Marange District in Zimbabwe. She pastors Mt. Makomwe United Methodist Church. Sign is supporting, counseling, and encouraging bereaved families.

“I have been to Ngangu three times to pray with survivors.  The disaster was bad, it caused heavy and painful losses,” said Sign.

In the weeks following the disaster, Africa University students, faculty and staff collected cash, clothing, and other goods for immediate relief and offered psycho-social support to survivors. On May 7th, Prof. Munashe Furusa, the vice chancellor, and key university leaders, faculty and students visited the Chimanimani area about 75 miles southeast of AU’s main campus. The team met and prayed with survivors, surveyed the damage first-hand, and distributed food, clothing and other donations.  Now the university is journeying alongside these communities as they rebuild critical infrastructure and re-establish livelihoods.

Africa University is providing $50,000 for the construction of a new classroom block at Hlabiso Primary School. This gift is just the beginning.

“The University will partner with The United Methodist Church to build a sanctuary and parsonage in Rusitu,” said Stephene Chikozho, director of advancement and public affairs.

Africa University’s college of health, agriculture and natural sciences is offering communities access to soil testing and impact assessments on future land use.

Story by Eveline Chikwanah, a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Conference. Photo credits: Eveline Chikwanah and the Office of Advancement and Public Affairs (OAPA), Africa University.