Cindy Packard thought life was busy as a mother of six and part-time midwife in Gilbert, Ariz., but in the last 11 years this typical suburban wife bloomed into an international shepherd of hope and relief to the people of Mozambique.
Packard established Care for Life, a non-profit aid program focusing on teaching skills and work ethic. Care for Life has volunteers travel to Mozambique — a coastal African country — yearly and is always looking for capable individuals to help lift and serve the less fortunate.
Packard was introduced to Mozambique when she received a call from the prophet of the LDS Church to support her husband as an LDS mission president in an African country.
The gospel message she preached has matured into a love for the native people and drives Packard to serve them continually. It is evident she loves the Mozambicans like family. Since her mission service, Packard preaches “principles over presents” as she has been back to the country many times to help the villages in Mozambique become self-sufficient and self-reliant.
“We’re not just helping this one generation, once we’re in a village you begin to see hope and light and that goes on to the next generation,” Packard said. “They feel different about themselves. This goes down deep to the heart of self-esteem. We are so elated with the results.”
In the villages where Care for Life works, the death rate has dropped from an average of 22 deaths every six months to only five. The percentage of people with adequate housing is up from less than half to an average of 85 percent. Thirty percent more children attend school. Employment statistics have more than doubled. Adult literacy rates have increased from 50 to 77 percent.
In 2011 alone, Care for Life has helped more than 50,000 new people set and keep goals to improve their lifestyle and community.
Packard said when Care for Life pulls out of a village after the program duration of 30 months, the village continues to grow and flourish because of the skills and motivations learned inthe program. The leadership structure remaining helps the community to set and achieve goals.
“I want to thank Care for Life for coming to Nhamatanda,” said Celestino Alberto, a Mozambican in an online testimonial. “I could never have imagined that I would have this chance to recover my hope and realize my dreams.”
When Packard returned to Mozambique for the first time she had no idea how she was going to help. She attributes her first opportunity to serve as a divine placement from heaven.
She noticed a truck parked with the words “pro familia” written on the side. She found the owner of the truck to be the minister of health and she was invited to join him for dinner that night. Almost immediately Packard had found an exclusive connection to put her skills and compassion to work.
She said the people desperately need help. A 16-year civil war has left Mozambique the 10th poorest country in the world. Disease runs rampant through the population, where close to 60 percent of people drink contaminated water and 38 percent don’t use sanitation facilities.
“It’s the only county with an AK-47 on the flag,” Packard said.
About 1.5 million of Mozambique’s children have been orphaned by disease or abandoned because their parents were too poor to care for them, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Malaria, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea and vaccine-preventable diseases claim the lives of close to 124,000 children under the age of five every year.
Stephen Samuelian is a board chairman for Care for Life.
“Last year I was [in Mozambique] and it was amazing to see the celebrations for the 2-year-olds,” Samuelian said. “The life expectancy is so low they are just so glad to have children reach two years old.”
Packard said she knew the country needed a change to survive, but she felt overwhelmed with all there was to do and with how other aid programs seemed ineffective and not helpful.
“Billions of dollars are being wasted in aid in Africa,” Packard said. “Food is just handed out and the people become dependent on the aid.”
The foundation Packard created helps people learn skills and improves behavior which benefits the villages for generations. Packard described proper implementation to the program like a fire igniting in the people’s hearts, similar to the spirit of God.
The program is based off the principle of setting goals, working smart and receiving benefit only when earned. The layout of the program is similar to how early pioneers banded together with the aid of church.
Care for Life helps Mozambicans develop habits and rewards them for achieving goals. For example, if a community member sets a goal to build 1,000 bricks out of clay, the Care for Life staff will teach him how to harvest and cure the clay into bricks. When he has finally achieved his goal, Care for Life will reward him with something he could never get on his own, cement to lay a foundation for the house he will build with his pile of bricks.
This true story happened last year and the entire community is now working to build brick homes instead of straw lean-tos that fall over at the first sign of bad weather.
“We divide each village of about 200 into zones of 25 and districts of five and use key indicators to help the families,” Packard said. “They self-elect leaders. We have them set goals and when they reach those goals then we give them something, something so small they set more goals.”
The program outline may have spawned from her involvement as a Latter-day Saint missionary. She followed a similar program during her three-year mission, a program passed down from the teachings of Brigham Young.
Warner Woodworth, a professor of social entrepreneurship at BYU, commented on the program.
“Behavior is the answer to poverty,” Woodworth said. “Most programs discriminate or perpetuate dependence.”
He compared the Mozambicans to early pioneers.
“Brigham Young said, ‘The poor are only poor because of lack of opportunity,’” Woodworth said. “The saints settled in Utah with no education or seeds on dry land, and they made it with the right leadership.”
Woodworth said the program in Mozambique is strikingly similar to what it would have been like watching the early founders of Utah settle and grow with limited resources. He said he feels a responsibility to help those in Mozambique because of his religious heritage.
“We focus on a range and help the people to be accountable,” he said. “Our job as Latter-day Saints is to give them opportunity. We have a great legacy to follow.”
Samuelian asked for help from BYU students looking to get involved.
“We are looking for BYU students to help and volunteer wherever they can,” he said. “We need people here [in Provo] or if they want to go to Mozambique, we welcome any help.”
To learn more about volunteer opportunities or to learn how to donate money or time, visit careforlife.org, or call Stephen Samuelian at 949-292-6000.