Building Schools for Africa

This is our third guest blog and this time it is written by our retiring Trustee, Marianne Johnson. She tells of the inspiration behind our sister charity Building Schools for Africa; all that they have achieved to date and just how rewarding the journey has been so far!

I was already a trustee and co-ordinator for AidCamps International, having led several group projects in India and Nepal, when I volunteered to take part in the AidCamp project at Bamali, NW Cameroon in November 2006.  The plan was to undertake an ‘understudy' training role so as to be able to lead groups in this part of Africa in future ... but the trip turned out to be so much more than that!  Part of ‘the job' was to find an appropriate project for the 2007 AidCamp and we visited three possible villages – one of which, Ntseimbang, was just too remote and too impoverished to accommodate AidCamps' volunteers. 

Once back home, my husband and I and two other friends made a New Year's Resolution to find the funds to construct some classrooms for Ntseimbang.  It was going to cost £7,000 so we thought we would give ourselves a year to raise it.  That's when Building Schools for Africa was created - and my life hasn't been the same since!  The £7,000 rolled in within 2 months – people really wanted to help – and, eight years later, money is still coming in.  BSFA has, to date, raised sufficient funds to construct 226 classrooms at 71 schools in the most remote parts of Cameroon.  It means that children who used to study either in grass huts or mud huts now have clean, weatherproof, airy and hygienic classrooms – and they really love it.  It's been amazing – and so rewarding – and I still can't quite believe our success!

We work exclusively with SHUMAS (AidCamps' partner NGO in Cameroon) and it's been such a privilege for us to watch this amazing NGO grow in size and influence, and know that we have a role to play in each new development in their school building programme.  I have learned so much about Development challenges and strategies, and have met so many fantastic people who like supporting the work we do, that the charity is now firmly embedded in my heart and certainly is one of the things that gives real meaning to my life.

Of course, I now have the excuse to visit SHUMAS every year – which is fantastic.  Our charity prides itself on giving really good feedback to our funders, so someone has to go out to visit the schools, make plans for the future and generally join in the singing, dancing and celebrating ... and I volunteer for that job as often as possible.  I have now visited almost all of the Regions of Cameroon and have met many hundreds of utterly delightful villagers, regional officers, government ministers and even the Prime Minister.  Who would have thought it??  AidCamps International has a lot to answer for!!  It has certainly changed my life – and absolutely for the better!!

Marianne

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