Monthly Archives: July 2011
As I walked through the Pittsburgh International Airport, a song by Lady Ponce played inside my head. The beats of “Ca la” are inescapable. I hummed along with a spring in my step. I was physically in the States, but mentally I was 5,000 miles away still in Cameroon.
After nearly 40 hours of travel, sleep deprivation would convince me I was on any continent. With plenty of time during my travels to begin digesting our experience in Cameroon, I reflected on the challenges and accomplishments of the past two months. We have done much in this short time – building a solid foundation in Kumba, extending our hand to schools in the community for partnership, and creating life-long friendships with members of the FSS soccer club from Montreal, Canada.
Our local management team is fluent with our Training Manual and Handbook which contains 30 complete lessons on life skills and HIV education including guidelines for leading discussions and reinforcing activities. Working with FSS Salaberry, we trained a handful of sports masters from local schools to join forces in the next year. We practiced our weekly session model in the field when we hosted 3 days of youth camps in Kumba. FSS was there all the way to critique and support us, and we are forever grateful! Everything is in place for our weekly after-school programs beginning in September and our monthly community soccer camps starting this Saturday.
There is still so much more to share! Stay tuned to the blog over the next month for a complete summary touching on all aspects of our experience this summer!, and, most importantly, thank you for your support!
While it’s nice to have fast enough internet to post these video updates here in the US, I have to say that I’m absolutely livid that I’m missing out on all the stuff that’s been happening in Kumba over the last few weeks. Having the team from FSS Salaberry get involved with the CFDP has been incredible, and we are so happy to have the opportunity to work with such fantastic athletes and people.
That said, this week (albeit a bit late), we have a slightly different video update. Instead of anything CFDP related, this weeks clip focuses on a ubiquitous activity in Kumba and beyond: the preparation of Eru (pronounced similarly to the word “arrow”), the so-called national dish of Cameroon. Making this delicacy is extremely labor intensive, as it involves shredding greens into filaments so small it’s almost impossible to tell where one ends and other begins. This process, combined with long, slow, cooking causes the otherwise nigh indigestible plants to become soft and delicious. The end result is reminiscent of collard greens, but totally different at the same time.
Four Days. Two Cities. Over 200 youth engaged. CFDP and FSS collaborated for a fantastic week of soccer camps for youth which kicked off last Monday in Kumba and rounded up on Thursday in Buea, the capital of the Southwest Region. The camps served not only Cameroonian youth, but allowed new CFDP leaders to practice all they had learned in the training sessions the past week, CFDP management team to refine their planning and management skills, and the FSS players to stretch their legs and show CFDP some fun games and excellent soccer drills.
CFDP ran the first three days of camps in Kumba. In those three days, we realized massive progress and growth. Day 1 we succumbed to African Time getting started 2 hours late (rain did not help!)! Tuesday, we started about 10am – just an hour after we planned. Wednesday, we started at 9:07am. RIGHT. ON. TIME. CFDP management team and leaders were ready and the youth were at the field EARLY and ready to start on time! On this day, FSS could easily see the fruits of their labors!
Thursday we traveled to Buea to work with another group of youth from Bokova Village, outside of Buea. We partnered with United Action for Children for this day-long youth empowerment event. FSS took the lead by engaging boys and girls in exciting drills. CFDP closed the day with some small group discussions.
On Friday, we moved to the beautiful beaches of Limbe to celebrate our great success! Pictures coming soon!
I set off for the local Barnes and Noble yesterday in search of some new summer reading material. Naturally, it wasn’t long before I found myself in the World History section, where I happened across this scene:
The inadequacy of my cell phone photography skills aside, something looks a bit wrong here. First, the entirety of the African History “section” at this, an otherwise very well-stocked store takes up a grand total of two and a half feet of space on a single shelf. There is almost as much real estate dedicated to the life and times of Snooki as there is to thousands of years of history of an entire continent. Granted, the small selection is understandable; not everyone is into this type of reading and there’s not a huge market for it here.
More unfortunate is the specific books on the shelf. If you look at the picture, you can really only read three of the titles, and you’ll notice they’re all just basically variations on “Africa”. Big bold letters, little to no elaboration, just “Africa”. I picked through the other offerings looking for anything more specific, and found a single book about the Belgian Congo, a few others about the Middle East, and nothing else.
This shelf highlights one of the biggest problems facing western understanding of development in places like Cameroon. Africa is not, as these monolithic books would imply, a country. It’s a continent made up of some 50+ different countries (and, as of this weekend, a new one), each with its own unique people, lifestyle, and culture. It’s critical that these great places get recognized for their own sake, not just as part of one big geographic blob. Before addressing any of the many issues facing Africa as a continent, the world has to start treating it like one.
We awoke to rain…and lots of it. In Kumba, everything stops when it rains. Forget your appointments and engagements…or at least postpone them. When the rain slows down, people slowly begin to move. Maybe it’s the mud. Maybe it’s the fact that okada (motorbike) taxis that dominate the domain of public transportation. Whatever the reason, there is no denying it.
We scheduled our Women’s Empowerment Soccer Camps for this Saturday morning in July to precede a friendly match between FSS Salaberry and the Kumba Ladies.
We got off to a late start (African Time) and had a great turnout. Nearly 40 girls from Kumba participated in the activities which included ice breakers, group discussions, and soccer drills. The underlying theme was that girls (young women) can and should be appreciated for playing soccer amongst anything else they do. The FSS men furthered this notion by sharing their experiences coaching and playing with the FSS girls. They are truly one great family!!
We moved the friendly match to the more secluded – and much safer – soccer field at St. Francis College, Fiango, Kumba. We got started right around 3pm with the singing of the Canadian National Anthem followed by that of Cameroon. CFDP Founder, Akwo, represented the organization with the formal kick off before the match could begin.
The match was a serious one, with Patrick Godin, of FSS – Montreal, scoring in the first half to take the lead. Because FSS came with 15 players (3 men), each team was allowed to play three men – the rest ladies – to represent their country. The second half proved more interesting than the first, with the Kumba Ladies capitalizing on an opportunity created by the award of a penalty shot. Despite a local referee job, the match ended in a draw, 1-1.
A traditional animation group participated to keep the crowd of over 200 spectators engaged with live drumming, songs, and dance. Stay tuned to see more about this match and the cultural exchange created by CFDP.
Starting today, 5 days of youth camps in the Southwest Region of Cameroon!
Enjoy the photos!
We all know that Dan is a talented photographer. His work documenting the CFDP’s activities with both stills and video have helped us bring the details of life in Kumba to audiences across the globe. However, did you know that Dan is also an accomplished chef? Since our Cameroonian friends had never tried it before, he decided to show off his skills and bring a soul food classic back to its roots. Okra is very common across this part of Cameroon, but it’s never served like this. Dan put together an complex battering assembly line that Henry Ford himself would have approved of. I helped by standing around near the fire extinguisher, just in case. The end product was delicious, though we weren’t sure if a one or two of the taste testers may have just been being polite in their effusive praise. Check out the footage below!
FSS is having a great time here in Kumba, Cameroon. In between the classroom lectures and the time on the field, the kids have introduced us to a great soccer game called World Cup, where you for a circle, and each person touches the ball one time. If you miss, or kick it to far, you are out. Countless hours have been spent playing this, and it is a blast.
Yesterday they got to take a trip to the Kumba Market. I know the boys bought Cameroon soccer sets for around $6 each, and the girls bought material, and a seamstress will be coming to the hotel to take their measurements and make them dresses.
If you are just now following the blog, be sure to check back through the archives to see what we have been up to here. You can also follow our photographers personal blog @danspeicherblog.com. Dan will be posting photos on his blog of life in Cameroon, while we will be talking more about the program here. Be Sure to check out the photos from the past weeks on both blogs.
Coach Isabel will also be making a guest post here in the near future… Stay tuned…
FSS Salaberry has been so beneficial here in Cameroon. Isabel’s coaching style and experience rival anyone in this country that we have met so far, and her drills, and understanding of youth will be helping CFDP and our sports masters gain an incredible amount of knowledge, and to help them really make a difference in the lives of the children that we will be working with.
Enjoy some photos from our training camps so far.
guest post by Dan…
We would like to offer a big warm welcome to FSS Salabery, a soccer club from Montreal, Canada, and let their friends and family know that they are here in their home base of Kumba, Cameroon, safe and sound. Thank you for letting them leave you for two weeks in West Africa. While I write this, they are having their first soccer practice of the trip! Not even 24 hours in country and their coach is already working off the large quantities of food that Cameroonians make guests eat.
This afternoon we hosted a Unity Meal at our home, and the team got to meet their pen pals that they have been writing to since January, for the first time! It was amazing to see the kids interacting together, Canadians asking about life here, and Cameroonians asking about life in North America.
The purpose of a Unity Meal is to build relationships on a common ground, while fostering solidarity and exchanging ideas, and it went great.
Here are some photos from the first 24 hours, and more will come soon. Including some guest posts by their coach, Isabel.
Thank you to Soccer Dreams Without Boarders for connecting CFDP and FSS, this is going to be an awesome two weeks. Our first training session with the sports masters of the schools we are working with this year, starts tomorrow morning at 8am!
Enjoy the photos
We’ve got a new video update straight from Kumba! Justin, Dan, and I attended the graduation ceremony of the local women’s empowerment center. Dorothy, the center’s administrator, is a great friend and supporter of CFDP and she invited us to this great event. The morning featured live music, a fashion show put on by the dressmaking students, a tour of the campus, and lots and lots of pictures. Justin was even invited to give a short address to the Class of 2011! Stay tuned for more video updates coming soon.