Greetings from Maroua
A few months ago, I visited the EFA regional office in Maroua, Cameroon. I participated in many meetings (sometimes in insufferable heat!) and yet spirits remained high and laughter and lively discussion was the menu du jour. It was a joy to be with group members reporting their progress and results; young Cameroonians who exuberated pride and confidence. I was honored to be in their presence – that they would let me in, and give me a glimpse of their realities, experiences, and accomplishments with EFA International.
One meeting out of many that I attended, still stands out. ASSYSGOD, the association in Godola, is about 20 extremely bumpy miles north of Maroua. Alim, Amada, and I arrived to the warm greetings of several members of the association including Mairamou, the female president of the group and also a local community health worker. After an orientation to the group’s activities and finances, I was invited to see their enterprise projects; onion fields and grain storage.
As we wound through the small town, our discussion was interrupted by many greetings to Mairamou, and also children scurrying to cower in shadows and doorways as we passed – her humorous explanation was, “They all know me as the nurse who comes to give vaccinations!” We arrived at a field of blue, knee-high stalks as far as the eye could see…Onions galore! Then we went to a small barn, and Miramou threw open the doors so that I could count all 32 huge bags of grain being stored until the price rose for re-sale at a profit. I was astounded and delighted!
This group of about 15 women and men had, in just a few years since their group’s formation by EFA, turned a small grant that enabled them to embark on a collective enterprise, into two income generating machines! ASSYSGOD now manages several acres of various crops each season: onions, tomatoes, couscous, millet, etc., and they buy and sell grain at a profit. From the small initial grant, the group established and continues to increase their savings account (used as insurance to take care of members and their families who fall ill, and to reinvest in new enterprise projects) to the point that they are now self-sustaining and even dispensing small amounts of profits to each member! Members use their income to send their children to school, buy medications and food – all things that would have been impossible before their membership in ASSYSGOD.
Another day, almost all 52 Peer Educators came to Maroua to give their feedback on the community health talks they had conducted in the previous three months through the Trust Africa grant focusing on Sexual & Gender Based Violence (S-GBV). I was completely overwhelmed with the Peer Educators’ (PE’s) gratitude for the S-GBV training sessions (given by EFA staff and the Peace Corps volunteer) and the fresh message they were giving to their male dominated communities. The PE’s found the theme empowering and refreshing – and no wonder! For once the focus was on the value of women, and of creating more balanced and equal relationships between men and women. PE’s reported that members of their communities wanted to learn more about gender equity and wanted repeat community talks on the same subject!
My time in Maroua was short, but I was once again honored to work with Alim and Amada, the Regional Director and Program Manager, and again witnessed how tirelessly these two work on behalf of EFA International. Peace Corps Volunteer Gena Barnabee (like each of the PCV’s before her) truly serves EFA International and beneficiaries, with passion and enthusiasm. These three spend long hours in the office and also attend meetings that are hours and hours along bumpy dirt roads in 100+ degree heat, sometimes spending the night in villages with no electricity and little food, and they do it all with a smile! I felt like a weak and too privileged person in their presence. They are genuinely knowledgeable, thoughtful, and invested in their guidance roles for EFA International and the Youth Empowerment network.
Education and enterprise truly do fight AIDs. It may not sound innovative, but when you witness (like I did) the simplicity of the EFA model of content delivery and support, EFA’s strong partnerships with local government and health centers, and the unparalleled positive outcomes, you easily understand that EFA International is a unique resource for those who need it most. And you are proud to be a part of it all!
Thank you for helping EFA come so far! Did you see the 2010 Annual Report? Without friends like you, we wouldn’t see the results we have already attained. Can you help us take this a step further today? Could you consider becoming a regular monthly donor? Spreading the word of EFA’s good work, and continuing your valuable support, will ensure that EFA International is able to continue to support African youth in their want and right, to live positively. Please support EFA International in the best way you can, today!
Secretary, Board of Directors