Michael and Rachel

Cameroon - August 2010

"Imagine yourself sitting on a small stool, outside of a traditional mud built hut, with a thatched roof, empty of anything except a basic bed and your backpack, It's about half seven in the morning, its nicely warm, a blue sky, and you're in a remote village, living with the people you want to be with. It's a beautiful place, and a peaceful morning. Two children cautiously approach you and not surprisingly they are a little nervous. They are aged somewhere between three and five. As they approach they hold out their hands and each offers you a mango, which you take and say thank you for. Breakfast is simple, only a little bread dipped in chocolate spread and a cup of tea (we are English!!!), the chunk of bread being the size of your fist. You break it piece by piece and share it between the four of you, until the bread is gone. The children do not say a word, but then give you a huge smile, turn and continue on their way. This happened to us, and it is possibly the one meal we will take with us to the grave.

It would be easy to say that the two schools we have worked on, or the medical centre, (let alone all the other things that we have supported with the funds we have raised), in the villages of Mbande and Vikovi, have brought a smile to our faces and changed our lives. But none of them gets any where close to sharing some of the most basic of things with the people who you come to regard as friends, and in particular, the smiles from the children when they see a school, or the village women when they have a new well from which to drink clean water, or a clean bed to lie on after childbirth or illness, or have soap to wash with, and the list goes on and on and on.......

We are now planning another trip to Cameroon, again as Independent Volunteers. The work we have done has varied each time, but consistently we have learned about ourselves and how working together can make what seems like a small contribution in reality a huge and significant difference. The feeling of reward after a hard day of manual labour, and looking upon what you have helped build for an impoverished community, or after a day of learning about the needs of  that communities people and being able to help them achieve what they genuinely dream of (and what we take for granted). Things like clean water, basic education and medical provision and enough income to make their community self sustainable. All with an eye to the environment!!!!!

It would be fair to say that many of the experiences we have had (being emotional types) have made us cry. Both because we had not realised what much of life is actually like and what drinking dirty water, for example, really means. But also because it is so inspiring to be part of something where people simply want to help themselves and each other for no other reason than because it's the right thing to do. But be warned, for each time you cry, you will laugh a hundred the things you see and at yourself!!!!

Since my first visit (Rachel joined me on the second trip), we have continued to raise funds to assist the communities in which we have worked. Our slogan is Change for Change... small amounts can make a big difference. For us this sums up the whole experience of Volunteering. Every little effort you make, means a big result somewhere. But also the small step taken in volunteering and becoming part of a project or team, has had a big impact on our lives, how we live it, how we view it, and what we now get from it. Without doubt, it is the best thing we've ever done. And would we encourage any body else.....oh yes."


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