GSS Mbveh Project

Cameroon - November 2014

This two-week project took place between 8 - 22 November 2014 at GSS Mbveh in North West Cameroon. The project provided three classrooms, a toilet block and tables/desks and benches. The following review was written by a returning volunteer, Margaret: it is an account of some of her experiences, in her own words.

"A ‘Very Boy's taxi experience"
"You're going where? West Africa? Why?" (followed by strange looks). These were the questions I was asked when I told friends I was going to Cameroon to help build a school. After a while I began to question myself. Why was I going? I guess if this had been my first project, I too would have been more sceptical, but having been on an AidCamps project to Cameroon 3 years before, I knew what to expect and had full confidence in AidCamps and their NGO working partner SHUMAS.

This was a 2 week trip, as opposed to 3 weeks previously and this was an inducement for me. I wasn't sure I could physically manage 3 weeks now (being of more mature years!) but also wondered if 2 weeks would give enough time to finish the project and also not seem too rushed.

An added incentive this time was that my youngest daughter, Hannah, was joining me and I relished the joint experience.

There was a familiarity about the journey – visiting SHUMAS en route, stopping at a Cameroonian style service station for grilled goat, the bush toilets. As we travelled in the minibus, we passed so many familiar sights. It really was a journey through Cameroon – some say a microcosm of Africa – the heat ,humidity and bustle of Douala, into the lush fruit growing areas to stop and taste juicy pineapples, then the vegetable area with the brightest orange carrots, rubber plantations and the minibus climbing hills with spectacular waterfalls in the distance to the rice fields and tea plantations. Wow, what a rich country! The familiar red soil that gets everywhere and the all too familiar ‘potholes'!

But my abiding memory is of the people – their friendliness and overwhelming gratitude to us. People who had so little but willing to give what they had. The constantly smiling children, waving to us, calling out ‘White man' and grabbing our hands, always wanting their picture taken.

We had our usual ‘understated' welcoming ceremonies, from the workers at the SHUMAS Rehab Centre, the schoolchildren waiting in the sun at the opening ceremony and a women's group. It was humbling. I remembered coming home last time and feeling almost guilty that I felt I was bringing back more than I had contributed.

Other experiences stick in the mind. The middle weekend was spent at the SHUMAS Biofarm, a wonderfully tranquil experience. Set in the hills, this provided a welcome break away from all the attention. Sitting on the verandah watching the sunrise or the multitude of stars at night, spotting shooting stars, was magical. Very different to the journey there!

We travelled in 3 taxis. Ours was a reasonably uneventful trip, only stopping a couple of times when the engine cut out and to cut a stray piece of rubber from a tyre that was flapping against the wheel arch! All the drivers painted nicknames on the back bumper. The people in ‘Very Boy's' taxi had much more fun. They had a puncture, (changed on a hill) and a flat tyre (that will last another week!) Dashboards were also lit up like Christmas trees, with all of us wondering just how much petrol was in the tank (no supermarket service station just round the corner). We had our fun on the way back when ‘Treasure' backed into a ditch, having reversed in order to take a long run up a very rutted slope.

Luckily our taxi was the first to leave, as we had to wait for the other 2 drivers to lift the car out. After a bit of shouting, the only time I saw anyone get agitated, they managed to lift the wheel onto our driver's foot – but he didn't complain and carried on driving, in his flip flops. Amazingly, we all made it back.

We did finish the project and had an amazing handover ceremony, full of dance, singing and speeches. There are so many other happy, fun and thoughtful memories to treasure. I would thoroughly recommend this experience to anyone. You need to be reasonably fit and if you like to meet people on your travels (and do something that is so worthwhile) then give it a go! If I can do it, then so can most others. You won't regret it.


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