17 November 2017
Willy Monnier, an obscure Swiss customs clerk, raised more than $5.5 million dollars to help leprosy victims between 1961 and 1981. He referred to himself as a nobody, and I can almost guarantee you have never heard of him. But across the African and South American continents, there are over 20 hospitals with several hundred Land Rovers and two planes that were financed by his persistence and vision.
He is the best friend that the eleven million leprosy sufferers world wide have. He first visited lepers in Greece and reflected he had no peace or sleep until he settled on a course of action. He wrote personal letters to all 116,000 fellow Swiss public servants. He became exhausted with the effort that took every waking moment.
He then sought permission from the government payroll, and on the fifth appeal, was successful in being able to offer an automatic deduction option from the Swiss public servants’ pay slips towards his leprosy project. Violinist Yehudi Menuhin gave a benefit concert that raised over half a million dollars. Monnier’s wife died of cancer and he then focused every spare moment on his beloved lepers.
He remarried some four years later and he recalled the special moment when they were visiting a leper victim in Kenya. His wife sat down beside an emaciated woman with one leg left. She put her arm around her shoulder. The woman tensed and then relaxed. It was the first time in many years that someone had touched her. “I will never forget that look on the leper’s face.” Willy stated.
He has since passed away, after spending some years on dialysis because of the heavy toll his work schedule had taken on his body to further the cause of his beloved lepers. The quiet achiever. He never sought recognition. For him, it was enough to simply care and share. His life could be summed up by that word ‘Humility’. How would your friends sum up your life in one word? Would it be that positive? What changes might you wish to make?
Dr David McClinktock
Avondale School Principal