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Empowering the locals in Batoufam, Cameroon

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Needless to say, our visit back to the region of Batoufam was very much appreciated by many to include his majesty King Innocent.  In particular, Tom our engineer mentioned the need to stand back and work alongside our new found friends, listen to their requirements and advise and guide, but let them take some onus of responsibility for the project work, which also helped to give them a self- belief and sense of achievement with oversight from the RZ team.  This new adopted approach, also helped our bond closer together and create a true friendship that we hope will continue for many years.   This year, our fundamental aim for each project was to ensure that after our departure, whatever we had helped put in place was sustainable, which would ultimately lead to the success of each project that we had identified in partnership with Mr Samuel Komgom, Chairman of the Development Committee of Batoufam.     

Our brief meeting and working with Mick Toolan was also inspirational, his charity focuses on ‘water for Cameroon ‘ and the building of well’s.  Strangely enough, he does not get involved with repairing the wells, they have to do this themselves, again passing responsibility back to the people he is trying to support.    I admire his courage and inner strength for venturing up to the north western province of Cameroon, and meeting with the rebels in the war torn Anglophone region, an area which is still fraught with danger but where Mick handled himself well and talked down the rebels, convincing them that both he and his team were there to help the local people.  With 29 years of experience in the country, Mick was also very much of the mindset that one has to ‘shut up and listen’ if your presence and work undertaken in the area is going to be a long-term success.

The people of Batoufam have very little, they want for nothing yet are some of the kindest people I have ever met, proud with their ancestry and history which dates back hundreds of years.  Even the young children keep smiling, the pupils in the school sing beautifully yet many ignore their hunger and thirst as they are so happy to see us back and want to ensure we are not disappointed with their performances. 

The week literally flew by, there is always plenty to do and so many people to meet and greet and spend time with, and never enough time to play cricket or teach my Irish colleagues how to hold a hurly stick.  On my last day, as I sat somewhat exhausted by our newly dug drainage trench, a young boy came up to me and in a clear but softly spoken manner said ‘thank you and Goodbye.’   Those words struck a chord with me, his words made me think to myself, have we done enough, what more can we do, and I hope we don’t let these people down..….. We have to continue to support them however best we can.

Empowering the locals in Baoufam

Earlier blogs have mentioned work being undertaken on the school and in the hospital, another vitally important project that RZ are involved in is that of the Multi Media Centre.  With 12 computers with internet access now operational, a further 4 were deployed following the slightly late arrival of the container.  Thank you to Doney Flinn and Druids Glen for donating the computers and printer, which was very much appreciated.  

We also have an overhead projector set up for classes,  printers, photocopying are now all available for local businesses and pupils to use alike.  Within this recent trip and moving forward, our focus has now been geared towards working with the local manager of the MMC and developing a business plan to ensure that in the months and years ahead, the MMC will be utilised to it’s maximum potential.  This will include creating a syllabus for the school children to help develop their computer skills, the level of IT training dependent upon age of pupils within each class, with further training for the ‘trainers’ and teachers also planned.  Again, the key has been to listen, without their feedback and our understanding of their requirements and abilities, the MMC would be under- utilised.  The ongoing work at present is to now help them structure a programme accordingly that best suits pupils, businesses, villagers who use the MMC with our support in the background. 

Education, learning and development is vital, the people of Batoufam appreciate and understand that, RZ in this project simply gives them the resources to train and educate themselves with our ongoing support. Which leads me on to a big word of thanks to our CSR sponsor for the Multi Media Centre, the Fercullen Whiskey Club, without whose ongoing financial support, the ongoing development programme would not be possible.

Finally, we too can learn a lot from our new found friends in Batoufam, not only how to break up a huge boulder into fragments overnight, but also to appreciate and be happy for what we have when our friends in Cameroon have so little yet seem so happy.

‘Very little is needed to make a happy life, it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.’

Marcus Aurelius.