By Jeremy Gomez
The Gibraltar-based charity, GibMissionAfrica, has worked endlessly for the least fortunate on our planet for the last 15 years, but have worked to raise money for those in need for decades prior. The scope of their work has always has been in the southern hemisphere but from their conception, collecting and donating to children in the Brazilian region of Minas Gerais, they have moved eastwards to the African countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, where they now help a multitude of communities.
The second rung from the top in Maimonides’s ladder is to give to those you don’t know and to do so anonymously. There is only one step left to the top and to know what that is, we can look to GibMissionAfrica as they begin looking to the future to help those who have only known hardship and scarcity to become self-sustaining communities.
Two babies were left at the doorstep of his parish on the morning of his first Mass.
The beginning of GibMissionAfrica finds its roots forty years ago when a group of locals began raising money through collections and BBQs and supporting mission work of the late Father George Grima, who founded an international movement called ‘Jesus in Thy Neighbour’. It was soon after his ordination that Fr. Grima sought to go and work alongside the poor in Brazil. He soon realised that the most vulnerable in these poverty-stricken areas were the Brazilian children, as two babies were left at the doorstep of his parish on the morning of his first Mass and so he served his first Mass carrying an infant in each arm.
Many years later due to illness, Fr. Grima was recalled back to his homeland of Gozo, Malta by his Bishop and on his way home, he stopped in Gibraltar to visit his brother Fr Coronato Grima, Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Church, and met Mario Hook and his wife Marie. Together with a group of friends they started to help Fr. George in his work in Brazil with regular donations and forming officially, an independent charity in Gibraltar. It was around this time that Fr. Grima learnt about the dire need of those in Ethiopia and Kenya and since forming GibMissionAfrica, many in our community have sent enough funds to help thousands in numerous Ethiopian Towns, where they support 225 kindergartens, and in Kenya. In total, 20,000 people are fed regularly through the support of those donating to this cause.
The relentless seeking to help further culminated in five local men who went over to carry out the major project of installing corrugated-sheet roofs that could be used to collect water during periods of rainfall. These individuals collected money to make their way to the African continent and their monetary efforts were doubled by AquaGib, who had not only matched their donations to the penny but also advised on the works. This project was an encapsulation of the ethos of GibMissionAfrica, in which all the funds received by donors are given entirely to supporting the poor and any administrative costs or needs, which are a regular part of maintaining an organisation, are personally covered by the volunteers.
They hope to give these villages the ability to take care of their own.
As is already well known in Gibraltar, after a life of charitable giving in word and deed, Fr. Grima sadly passed away in 2017. Thankfully, his work continues through Fr. Alex Cauchi of Gozo. Father Grima acknowledged shortly before his death that Fr. Alex would have been his preferred predecessor and GibMissionAfrica were pleased to hear of his appointment by the Bishop of Gozo. It is under the new leadership of Fr. Alex, that GibMissionAfrica are looking to take the next step and are hoping to help push to not only continue supporting these various communities but to ensure that they can soon sustain themselves. Mario, who has been at the helm for much of GibMissionAfrica’s life, explained that the hope is to create opportunities to train locals in Ethiopia and Kenya, to build wells, and to teach forms of agriculture that suit the terrain. With these aims, they hope to not only give these villages the ability to take care of their own but will also allow GibMissionAfrica to seek to reach further to help more villages and towns that may be needing the support to feed and care for their inhabitants.
GibMissionAfrica holds an annual flag day (this year on 30 August), jumble sale (28 September), and also have various other events throughout the year alongside receiving monthly and annual donations. As Mario told The Gibraltar Magazine, what they are doing is ‘a labour of love for the least fortunate in this world’.
If you would like to play a part in this labour of love, please contact Mario on +350 56819000 for information of their volunteering opportunities and how to donate. With your help, they may be able to reach the next step.