Spotlight On…Nicky Gouder

Nicky Gouder, Tax and Accounting Partner of Capstone Group; is a chartered accountant and a member of the MIA. He is also director of AT Corporate Services Co Limited, a joint venture between Capstone Group and FFF Legal.

Waste not, want not

After many months in full swing at the office it was time to take a short break, and whilst most of us would opt for an upmarket destination, Nicky and his girlfriend Maxine decided to swap the sandy beaches with the shabby slums in Ethiopia for a trip with a difference. In this article Nicky shares his experiences with the readers the Accountant.

I started doing missionary work in 2009 when I went to Kenya with a group of youths to help on the project ‘Ġesu Fil-Proxxmu’ by Dun Ġorġ Grima, the Maltese missionary priest who is now synonymous with enormous transformations in various villages around Africa. My first experience was shocking. I couldn’t believe the state that people in other parts of the world live in. When we wake up in the morning, we have grown up to take a lot of things for granted. In Kenya, people wake up not knowing if they will work and eat that day, if they will be able to feed their children, and whether the roof over their heads will stay there. That was a huge eye-opener for me. I started to become more aware of the ‘luxuries’ my family and I are blessed with, every single day; I paid more attention not to waste as I realised that my excess may be someone else’s necessity.

When you deal with poverty at such close proximity, you realise that the problem is much bigger than you ever imaged. You want to tell everyone about it, encourage everyone you know to help, and return there at the next available opportunity. A year later, I returned to Kenya for another voluntary experience. I wanted to see the progress made on Dun Ġorġ Grima’s projects, which we had contributed to, and most of all to visit the Kenyans who have such a special way of relating to us ‘muzungus’ (white people).

So when the opportunity came to do voluntary work in Ethiopia with my girlfriend Maxine, I knew I had to take it. Having worked on Dun Ġorġ Grima’s projects twice before, we decided to visit the villages he is currently taking care of: Tulema and Jimma in Gingo, Ethiopia. As soon as the plane touches ground in Ethiopia, it hits you straight away. You begin to realise that this is a completely different world than yours. For as far as our eyes could see, there were no decent buildings in sight, no stable roads, and no traffic organisation – nothing at all. All we could see where people without clothes and shoes, and young children running in the streets, looking for food. In such voluntary experiences overseas, the challenge is to help as much as you can in a relatively short amount of time, and so, we barely had time to settle our bags before we headed off to work. Prior to leaving Malta, we planned our tasks with Dun Ġorġ, which tasks mainly included painting at a kindergarten school and building a water facility. But when you’re there, no amount of money and time seem to be enough to cater for all their needs.

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We could immediately see that most people do not live in adequate conditions and did not have enough food to eat or water to drink. So that had to be dealt with first. One of the major shortages they faced was the supply of water, so we put all of our efforts together to build a water pump so that everyone could access clean water. A huge task, but thanks to the funding we collected from donors in Malta, such as Alliance Trust Company Ltd; Capstone Advisory Co. Ltd; Capstone Assurance Ltd; Fenech Farrugia Fiott Legal; TAP-K Resources Ltd and Corinthia Group of Companies amongst others, we managed to finance the project and see it through to completion.

Seeing water come out of the pump for the first time was an incredible moment, we were all emotional. People were overjoyed and thanked us with tears in their eyes. I remember very clearly an old lady telling me that she used to walk for 3 hours a day to supply her family with clean water – “Now it’s here! I can’t believe it!”, she said. Would you believe?! It’s second nature for us to assume that water will come out of the tap when we need it.

To celebrate this moment (having easier access to water for the first time), people came from every corner to thank us. It was something out of this world, they walked all the way to tell us how appreciative they are, they made bread for us and together, they prayed for us – all in their own respective religion. Some were Muslim, Hindu and Christians, but we all prayed together. It was remarkable!

Another project was buying and distribution of food supplies to families. Thanks to the funds we raised in Malta, we could provide 50kg of food for each family. This was enough to feed a whole family for a month, including grains, beans and wheat. You cannot imagine the happiness this brought! For them, eating is a matter of ‘if we eat’, for us, the dilemma is ‘what we’ll eat and where’.

Nonetheless, despite all their challenges and extreme deprivation, I believe with complete certainty that they have something that we don’t – a relationship with God that fulfils their life in depth and with so much happiness. Whilst we live life at hundred mph and never seem to feel like we got anything done, they celebrate every moment of life – because that is all that they truly have. Everything else is abstract. Before leaving Malta, both Maxine and I were anxious about the diseases we might come across. I have met people who would have loved to join us, but were discouraged by the fear of getting a disease like leprosy or malaria. Although we took every precaution I can honestly say that it really becomes irrelevant once you’re there. The joy of getting a hug from an innocent child is well-worth ‘the risk’, if there was any at all. However for the record, the Health Department in Floriana is very up-to-date and the staff make sure that you take all the necessary preventative measures in the circumstances.

Going forward, I hope to continue to contribute to the projects being managed by Dun Ġorġ Grima and ‘Ġesu Fil-Proxxmu’. I believe that a little goes a long way and with a little effort and awareness, we can reduce our own waste by providing the basic necessities to a family elsewhere in the world. It really is as simple as that. What we throw away today, could have been someone’s dinner tomorrow. Now that’s food for thought!

If you wish to contact Dun Ġorġ Grima to see how you can contribute to this noble cause, visit www.gesufilproxxmu.com

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