Having just returned home from his annual stay in Mozambique, Rick Cogbill is once again experiencing a bit of a culture shock.
Cogbill is the founder of Mercy Tech Mission, a Canadian charity that takes teams of professionals to developing countries, to assist with building projects, while at the same time, training local workers.
Their mandate is to teach.
A key project over the last three years has been the construction of an automotive shop, built on a farm, owned and operated by SAM Ministries.
“It’s just about finished. We were just doing some final work on it this trip,” said Cogbill.
Also over this same three year period, Mercy Tech has been mentoring and training a young man named, Prosper Fernando, who had asked Cogbill if he would train him to be a mechanic. He was very eager to learn the trade.
“After a couple of our training trips, he went to a small trade school and graduated third in his class. We’ve been able to sponsor Prosper now, by hiring him as the shop manager and we are paying his wages for the first year to try and get the shop up and running so it can be self-sustaining.”
Cogbill went on to explain that as Fernando becomes established in business, they want him to then train other young men in the village how to do basic mechanics.
Mozambique is a very poor country that has been devastated by civil war and is just now starting to see economic growth. It is a place where eighty per cent of the population live in rural areas, in mud huts. They eat a maize meal, porridge made of ground up corn, three times a day. It’s a place where children die of simple diseases and from drinking dirty water. It can be very hard on the teams that volunteer to go there.
“You have to become realistic and understand that even though you’re not changing everything, you are changing something. That’s what I have to remind myself,” Cogbill said. “I’m not changing the whole village but in essence eventually I will be, because this family will change and then their children will change and that will affect the next neighbour and eventually in a number of years the village is different, because there is somebody in there who has an education, who has a trade, who has an income. As we say at Mercy Tech, changing lives one skill at a time.”
Cogbill also explained that the whole experience is a life changing event.
“We say to our volunteers, once you go you’ll be ruined for life.”
Some say their hearts will be in Africa forever more.
After spending six weeks in a third world country, it is being back in a first world country that is the biggest culture shock for Cogbill.
“Coming back home and walking in my front door, it hits me every time just how much we have,” he said.
Mercy Tech is looking to grow.
Funds come from individuals, churches and businesses.
A national advertising campaign is being planned.
“My hope is that industry, especially the trades begin to get behind it, because sponsoring an apprentice half way around the world is something I think they could do,” Cogbill stated.
He plans to go back again next spring for sure. He says it is like a “big home reunion,” when they return.
“Part of what keeps us going is the people. They are just so receptive and appreciative.”
He also encourages anyone who can, to become involved.
To learn more and to see photos of the work being done, go to mercytechmission.com.