After 4 hours sleep on our first night we awake to a call to prayers from the local mosque. The calling works well with the breaking of dawn giving the early morning start a sense of wonderment and anticipation. We learn that Cameroon is mostly catholic, about 65% of the population.
The bus collects us as 6.45 am and we head off through an increasingly busy city. The poverty is everywhere, the litter piled high from overflowing skips. There are no dogs on the street, people can barely afford to feed themselves let alone a pet.
We stop once on the 6-hour drive to Batoufam in a street market by the road. We’re immediately surrounded by an army of people offering to sell us an incredible variety of local foodstuffs. It’s a wonderful atmosphere though we decline the food offers. Looks like we are all going vegan for the week.
At 1 pm We arrive in the local Kings compound to an incredible reception. All the village elders have come to meet us, wearing their Sunday best. Its really quite moving. We are guided through a series of walled gardens to the Kings main residence.
The king, La Majeste Nayang Toukam Inocent, takes his seat on the throne and we all introduce ourselves, A number of the locals and the King gives speeches and then we then head to the dining room for lunch, most welcome after not a lot to eat in over a day. The King has been in power for over 30 years the 14th in a direct line from his fore fathers. He has “over 10” wives and hundreds of Children.
As the week in Batoufam evolves we get to know the King and his close inner circle. Most nights we have dinner with him and learn more of his life and the customs of his people. One interesting requirement is that the King cannot leave his residence, when he first takes power, until he has Fathered both a boy and a girl. So that’s about a year minimum.
We then move on to view the projects we are going to be working on. First up is the hospital. We are told that the local people had been waiting there since 8 am that morning to meet us. What a welcome, we are met by maybe 50 local women singing and dancing. Also by the Doctors, Nurses and patients all lined up to meet us. Hugs, kisses and handshakes in abundance. Its really hard to express the incredibly wonderful reception.
The hospital is small though needs to serve all the medical needs of the community. A lot of work we are sponsoring has commenced; bringing a water supply into the hospital, constructing showers and toilets and a water run-off that will stop the compound turning into a mud bath in the rainy season.
Thankfully the container has arrived. We are helped by maybe 30 locals, mostly men all wanting to do their bit. Its packed to the brim with the generosity of so many back home.
Next up is the primary school. This is going to be our major renovation project. No toilets, no water, no windows, partially mud floors and no electricity. We’re not sure where to start to be honest. It’s a bit overwhelming.