Touched by the resilience of the people of Mozambique

Richard Monkhouse had been advised to keep an open mind when visiting Africa for the first time.

He’d read about Mozambique and had seen sufficient documentaries and news items on TV to have a good idea of what to expect, or so he thought.

The 39-year-old from Stretton, in Stamford said: “I thought I knew a fair bit, at least enough about the place because of what I’d seen in the media,  but being there and experiencing it is completely different. People were really, really poor.  They have to walk miles to get the water. When you see it on TV you think you are being shown the worst case scenario. It’s not. But the way they deal with it is incredible. They seem so content, and always had a smile on their faces.”

The audit manager for Peterborough accountants Rawlinson’s went to Mozambique for The Leprosy Mission (TLM) England and Wales who had had asked Richard to help their counterparts in the southern African country with their accounts on a new project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID’s) UK Aid Match.

Richard said: “The aim was to ensure that suitable systems were in place for recording how the money from DFID was being used. It was a case of checking the systems in place and recommending improvements. The accounting side of things were exactly the same as they would be in the UK. It’s just a principle, so no matter where in the world you are it will be the same.”

He spent five days in the coastal town of Pemba at TLM Mozambique’s offices then travelled to the remote northern province of Cabo Delgado, which has the highest number of leprosy cases in the country.

Richard said: “The five-hour journey there was an experience. Only half the route was tarmacked after that we were on dirt tracks for miles and miles. I had seen it on TV but experiencing it was something else.“

His first stop was the UK Aid match-funded project where farmers are trained in new, sustainable agricultural methods to help them improve yields and grow crops that generate income as well as food for their families.

“I found it really interesting as my background is in agriculture,” said Richard who worked as a dairy farmer until the age of 23.

The project also includes providing footwear for people with leprosy to protect their feet – the disease affects the nerves meaning there is no feeling in hands and feet – and teaching them self-care in order to heal their ulcers.

Richard said: “Because of the sort of things you see in the media, you never quite know whether the local people really want our help. But it was obvious that they really appreciated the help they were getting. They are really shy people and it was difficult to get them to say anything, but when you asked them about the project they really opened up. It was obvious that it was making a massive difference to them.”

Katapua village was his second stop, where TLM run the Iphiro Yohoolo project. It provides free education for children and encourages parents not to encourage their daughters to get married too young, instead letting them continue their studies.

Richard said: “The welcome we received was wonderful. The children sang songs for us. Then we shook hands with the entire village. We asked the kids some questions and anyone who answered got a biscuit. The first biscuit we handed out to a child he broke into pieces and shared it with those sitting around him. It was very touching. I can’t see that happening here.”

The torn clothes and lack of footwear among children and adults were a sobering sight for Richard who said: “One of the guys with leprosy had ulcers on his feet. He had no socks but was given a pair of shoes. He cut the sleeves of his shirt to use as socks.  Seeing such poverty was heartbreaking.  The extent of the poverty is almost impossible to explain to anyone here. Despite it all they were decent, lovely people.

“Mozambique is a beautiful country, the coastline is stunning. But the way the people conduct themselves, their friendliness and the principles they live by and how content they are despite having so little, is what will stay with me. It has been a very humbling experience.”

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