Skills instruction offered in Africa

  • May. 11, 2011 9:00 a.m.

A Summerland-based organization called Mercy Tech Mission is helping local residents make a difference halfway around the world.

Founder Rick Cogbill, an author and former automotive shop owner recently joined forces with volunteer Bob Denesiuk, a building contractor, and traveled to southern Africa where they spent five weeks using their skills in Mozambique.

“My goal with Mercy Tech Mission is to take skilled trades people and professionals over to Third World countries where they can not only work on important projects, but also teach basic skills to the local people they’re working with,” Cogbill said.

He has found that when people living in the Third World gain a new skill or trade, they become empowered to find better jobs and thereby improve the standard of living for both them and their families.

For the entire month of March, Cogbill and Denesiuk worked on building and maintenance projects at a mission base operated by SAM Ministries, a Canadian organization engaged in holistic ministry and development work in Mozambique. SAMM’s programs include orphan and widow care, rural clinics, a primary school and preschool, sustainable agriculture, training for church leaders, feeding programs, women’s literacy, and much more.

Both Cogbill and Denesiuk spent a great deal of their time teaching the basics of their trades to the local men they worked with.

“We call it, ‘Skills with a Purpose,’” said Cogbill. “There are folks here in North America who have been practicing their trade or profession for many years, and yet have this desire to go somewhere in the world and make a difference. Providing those opportunities is what Mercy Tech Mission is all about.”

Bob Denesiuk had previously taken part in building programs in Mexico, but this was his first time to Africa.

From all accounts, it was a life-changing experience.

“He tells me that he’d definitely like to return some day,” said Cogbill.

Rick Cogbill has now been to Africa three times, and will be returning again in August of this year to begin an automotive repair training program, since any type of trades training is almost impossible to get in Mozambique. Traveling with him will be an automotive technical instructor from SAIT, a major vocational institute in Alberta, as well as a fellow Canadian based in Paris, France who also has a background in automotive repair.

“On my last trip we identified about five prospective students who are anxious to start training. We’re quite excited for this opportunity to create an actual trade school in such a rural area.”

Cogbill hopes that in future years other trades, like carpentry or masonry, will be taught as well.

To find out more about the work of Mercy Tech Mission, visit their website at

Cogbill and Denesiuk will be presenting photos and video of their recent trip to Mozambique on Sunday, May 15 at 7:15 p.m. at Summerland Baptist Church. Everyone is welcome.