Reflections from Mozambique

By Eoin Cleary

The people here aren’t poor. The word ‘poor’ is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in society”. The lives the people live here are normal, normal to them. Just because we sit in Ireland and think about ‘The poor starving people in Africa’ doesn’t mean that it is necessarily true. Our interpretation of what it is to be normal impacts upon our view of the people here. The people here aren’t poor. The people here aren’t unhappy. I can’t speak for everyone but I know that I’ve always had this image of Africa as this warm, barren place, packed full with starving, sad little children that you’d see on the front of a charity box. This image is miles and miles away from the truth. Everyone here is so happy, especially the children. The smallest things can keep the kids entertained for hours. I played a game of catch with a group of kids for two hours with just one, hand-sized ball. This ball contained within it hours upon hours of entertainment. It is the equivalent of an Xbox to the kids here and whether it be a ball, a frisbee, or just an empty water bottle, the kids are delighted to have something to play with.

The people here aren’t poor. They make do with what they have. Working on the construction site with the locals has really made it clear how everything and anything can be used. Planks for the boundaries of concrete are used, and reused, and then used again. The paper from the cement bags is used to cover holes in said planks. If a shovel cracks, it’s brought straight over to the welding department and patched up. They don’t have the money to buy new tools or equipment so they simply keep the ones they have going for as long as possible.

The people here aren’t poor. They know no different. If they were to live in Ireland for a couple of years and come back, they probably would feel like they’re poor, but for a Mozambican that was born here and grew up here, this is normality. This is how things were done always and how they will keep doing things. Sure, they’re not driving around in Lamborghini’s but is that necessarily a bad thing? They work hard and make enough to keep themselves fed and watered and so long as they’re happy isn’t that all that matters?

There is of course people here that do not have enough to live off, and struggle to feed themselves, and these are the people that need help but I think that for a large portion of the people here, their lives are happy. My point is this; the people here are poor, in the sense of how much money they have, but this doesn’t mean that they are unhappy. Money does not equal happiness and I think that this is epitomized in Mozambique. Happiness can be found anywhere on this Earth, regardless of economic status and this is something that really surprised me when I came here. The people here are poor, but their lives can be made easier, and this is the kind of work being done here by Young Africa and SERVE and loads of other organisations, through education and training. The aim is to improve the quality of life for everyone here by providing them with skills that they can use in the wider world. By training even just one person to be, say a mechanic, then the wider community gains a new mechanic who can then fix their cars. Then this in turn improves life for all the people around, so even though they are happy now, they can always be happier.

The people here aren’t poor.