A new School for Cameroon - part 3

This is the third part of our Cameroon blog. If you missed the first part you can read it here or the second part can be read here.

Day 3 - 14/11/2018

Today most of us were woken early to the sound of the rain hitting the tin roofs on the houses and shops that surround the hotel. It was rain like I had never seen before. It didn’t last long but while it was raining it was incredibly hard.

The days plans were a little in the balance, unfortunately the SHUMAS 4x4 had some technical faults which meant they couldn’t pick us up until about 3pm. We managed to fill this time by exploring the local area and discussing ideas on how we can do more to assist SHUMAS.

Eventually our driver Vincent and Berri from SHUMAS arrived to take us to visit a school in need of funding. We got to the school but sadly all but 3 children had already gone home.

The school was in quite good condition in comparison to Bapes Mondail’s old school. But it was in need of some repairs and a method of taking rain water away to stop the corrosion of the land leading to the school building collapsing in a few years’ time.

This school was also vastly overcrowded with 120 children in a classroom that in the UK would hold around 20 children at a push.

 

Day 4 - 15/11/18

SHUMAS arrived and we set off to visit some schools.

The first one we arrived at was Akok-Ndoe which is an Anglofone school. The area was clearly very poor and the school was set up in a rented building. The building was very basic with little to no furniture and the nursery children sat on concrete blocks as chairs. It was a very emotional experience to see these young children being taught in these conditions.

The head teacher was paying for the rent out of the small salary she obtained from the government because she was passionate about the children getting an education. We asked about the cost of the rent and quickly realised that between us we could easily cover a few years rent for the school building. We discussed with Marianne from BSFA about us giving the rent money to the school, but it would have an impact on the SHUMAS model who want to provide a hand up and not a hand out. However, we have agreed we will fund SHUMAS with the money to provide furniture to this school. This works well for SHUMAS who will pay a local company to provide the material and the community will help make the furniture. This adds a social impact to the whole community which is far better than just providing money, especially as they will look after the furniture better if they have made it.

Before we left we handed out pen, pencils and note pads that had been kindly donated by our supply chain partners. This moment was amazing as the children reacted to the gifts like they were the best Christmas present ever. I have never seen anyone so grateful for a pencil, something we all take for granted.

The second school we visited was occupied with both Francophone and Anglofone children but run as two separate schools. It was typical of the Cameroon political situation, as the French part was quite a nice building that did not seem that overcrowded whereas the English school was cramped and in need of repair. The nursery was just a timber shed.

We got to speak to all the children and even managed a kick about with a flat football whilst Fran engaged the nursey children in a song. It once again pulled on the heart strings and made us more determined to help this brilliant charity.

That evening we were kindly invited to dinner at the High Commissioners house, where we were made to feel very welcome. We were joined by another fantastic charity called Ascovime. This charity was set up by Georges Bwelle from Yaoundé who is a doctor. He and his team work in a government hospital during the week then on Friday evenings they undertake private work to raise funds for medical supplies. They then travel out to rural communities and perform surgery on people who really need it but have no means of paying or travelling to the cities. This was truly humbling as they do this every week and have treated hundreds of people to date and plan to keep doing it.

It was great to have them there and talking to SHUMAS and they have now started building a relationship where they can assist each other in improving rural Cameroon.

 

Day 5 - 16/11/18    

Our last day had come around so fast and although some of us were feeling a bit under the weather we were all excited and determined to make the day as full as possible.

We headed off to undertake some feasibility studies at four schools in Soa. These schools were all in the same area and made up of a nursery and a mixture of Francophone and Anglophone schools. It was again clear the Anglophone school was in the worst state of repair, but all the schools required some help. They had no water at this school and the toilet facilities were in an awful state.

However as always, the kids were happy and so pleased to greet us with high fives and lots of smiles.

In the car journey back to the hotel we discussed with Berri from SHUMAS how we could help as if we provided funds for one school and not the others it would cause riots. Berri suggested that if they were given a bore hole they would all benefit from the water and that might inspire them to work together to put a joint bid in for help. At present they were not well supported by the PTA so is unlikely they will do their bit making it almost impossible for SHUMAS to help.

Once all showered and ready to go Berri gave a little speech and thanked us for coming. This was then followed by the announcement that the Fon of the NKwen tribe wanted to make us Princes and Princess of his tribe. This is a huge honour and it really ended the trip on a high. We were presented with official robes of our new tribe.

After one final mad drive across town by taxi we reached the airport. This may have been the end of our trip, but it felt like the beginning of our new passion for this country and these fantastic charities.

Kevin Dundas - Supply Chain Manager
Willmott Dixon