Open Center International was formed as a sister organization to our first center, Centro Aberto de Nhamatsane (C.A.N, or Open Center Nhamatsane). CAN is an open community center, health post, and preschool in the village of Nhamatsane, Mozambique.
Built from the ground up by local Mozambicans with a passion for change, C.A.N. provides services to hundreds of children and adults throughout the area. Over the course of a decade, C.A.N. has truly become the Center of the Community. It serves as a model organization for grassroots change world-wide by empowering every community member to stand up and fight for something better.
As CAN grew over the years, we also grew and learned from our experiences - we find that the best people to tell you what a community needs are the people that live there. We founded Open Center International with the goal of propagating the idea that true and sustainable development comes from empowerment of communities. This is why our entire model is based on establishing sustainable income generating projects and community-to-community sharing of resources, rather than "have" to "have not" charity.
2006: It all started in a village called Nhamatsane in rural Mozambique. Inacio Cesario, born and raised in Nhamatsane, was a twenty-something year old natural born educator. He noticed that children from the village were having difficulties matriculating into primary schools, which were all mainly located close to the nearby city Chimoio.
With some help from the community and an international volunteer passing through, he was able to build the first Escolinha, preschool, of Nhamatsane. It was a big round hut with a grass roof close to a water well where many women gathered with their children.
Enter Elyse, an 18-year old international volunteer with little to offer but some broken Portuguese and a lot of spunk.
Inacio and Elyse cross paths and join forces teaching preschool and working to create a garden to grow nutritious food to feed the children.
And over the years....
We get a library and classrooms.
and a schoolyard
We start art classes...
Our garden grew into a farm big enough to feed our students and fund the bare essentials of our community center.
In 2011, in response to local outcries for better health, we read a lot of books and asked a lot of really smart people and came together to form our first Health Activist Training Course.
which also grew and evolved over time.
And at some point, Elyse goes to medical school and becomes a physician. She trained in Internal Medicine, and went into primary care in the US.
way down the road.
and then we took our work on the road.
providing preventative health and primary care, and training more Health Activists along the way.