Last year’s Concern Debates champions – Presentation De La Salle College, Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow – visited some of Concern’s programmes in Mozambique. Here, they tell us of their experience.
To us, the idea of travelling to Africa has always been similar to that of winning the lottery; we would always hear of people winning it, but it would never be anyone we knew, and there was no way it could ever happen to us. But after winning the Concern Debates Final 2014–15, we were delighted to get the opportunity to see Concern’s programmes in action in Mozambique.
We all expected to see extreme poverty juxtaposed with extreme wealth; we expected to see people who worked very hard to live on very little; and we expected to see something that might inspire and influence our future careers and ambitions. But most of all we expected a life changing experience — and we got one.
Thriving enterprise and dire poverty
Mozambique has huge potential, but sadly, it is an extremely unequal place. Impoverished neighbourhoods consisting of wattle and daub huts and road-side stalls exist alongside extravagant hotels and new government buildings: a thriving hub of enterprise amidst a sea of poverty. The people of Mozambique amazed us with their generosity, contentment, determination, and zest for life despite the hardship. Witnessing such extreme poverty as an Irish person really put our ‘problems’ into perspective.
Farmer field schools
In Manica province we visited a junior farmer field school sponsored by Concern which aims to empower young people and provide them with the skills needed to ensure long-term food security.
Concern mothers and babies groups
Following on from Manica, we met with a Concern women’s care group. The group comes together once a week to share advice on best nutrition practice during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life as part of their 1000 Days programme [link]. We also had the opportunity to meet with members of a local child parliament made up of young people aged between 10-18. The group campaign for children’s rights in their own districts and each member is nominated by their school to represent their interests in the parliament.
Seeing the people sharing amongst themselves knowledge about various aspects of living, be that farming, nutrition or gender equality, it has made us think about how our self-worth should be measured on our willingness to help others. The people of these communities, as little as they have, give back in handfuls to those who have helped them. These projects truly are a testament to the fantastic work Concern does here.
Concern has given us a lifechanging experience, and for some of us, has even inspired a new career path after school. Meeting with EU delegates and the Irish Embassy while in Mozambique has instilled the necessity for aid and development assistance from our own country to programmes all over the world.
Seeing the fantastic work that Concern does, meeting the amazing people that they work for and experiencing important life lessons will stay with us for a long time to come.
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