From Civil War and Drought, to the Promise of School Days


Today we’re spotlighting ASEM (Association Pour Les Enfants de Mozambique), a partner that provides education, shelter, food and a new start to students in Mozambique.

ASEM’s founder, Barbara Hofmann was a financial manager in Geneva in the late 1980s. She was about to start her own business when the stock market crashed, and instead she took a job in Mozambique. It was during the final years of the country’s brutal, bloody, civil war, and Barbara was struck by the sheer number of children who were orphans or who had simply lost their parents during the chaos of war.

She started by founding a Swiss nonprofit, ASEM, while at the same time daily scouring for food scraps to make enough soup to feed the children who came to her. (If you know the children’s story “Stone Soup,” the tale in which every member of the village contributes an ingredient, you’ll have a sense for these meals.)

After the war ended, Barbara was able to put together a few tents, safe places for the children to sleep and go to school. These were children who, she remembers, had to adjust to the idea that they wouldn’t be murdered or raped in their sleep. Many had previously prostituted for food.

After the war there was a three year drought, and more starvation and suffering, the ravages of HIV/AIDS, and more orphans.

It’s a story that began in tragedy, but with incredible perseverance, and a staff powered by a pure-hearted duty to Mozambique’s children, today ASEM is supported by affiliate foundations in Italy, Portugal, and the U.S.

ASEM grew, with more schools and centers to support orphaned children. Over the years, more than 20,000 children have come to ASEM for school, health care, food, shelter and psychological support. Hundreds have been reunited with their families or extended families, to help them reintegrate into a more normal life. As they graduate, students are enrolled at vocational training colleges or given help finding jobs.


You can support ASEM’s students at The School Fund, and get to know what life is like today for children in Mozambique.

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