Countdown to Cameroon

Friday, March 15, 2013

American Embassy Posts Story

The American Embassy in Yaounde has posted the story of our journey and trip and displayed how 5 CofC Enactus Students can be ambassadors of goodwill. To view the post go to:

Channel 4 Charleston Features Project

We have been seen by a projected 41,000 people in the Charleston area thanks to ABC Channel 4 News - we were given an entire 2 minute to describe the work and what it meant for the students who participated in the project - We are ENACTUS!

To view the video go to:

Great Article in Post and Courier

Got some great press from the local newspaper, the Post and Courier about our project and impact!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Home Sweet Home

After 26 hours of traveling we are finally home safe in charleston already missing our adventures, but happy to see electricity, air conditioning, and many other things that makes America so great.

We were glad to have been able to have made a difference including the 1625 kids who were exposed to hygiene education, 15 women who were provided micro loans, and 25 students who applied entrepreneurship principles in the business plan competition.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Last Last Shopping - Really

Just had to visit the local craft market for some very unique prices of music instrument, wood craft, bags and more. Of course we had to negotiate all our prices but under the watchful eye of Soule we got unique pieces to bring home. Good rules of thumb - 25% of offered price. Carolyn almost got a banjo but got another loud instrument instead.

We showed our appreciation to our driver for all he did for us (including keeping us alive - New York driving is safe compared to Cameroon driving).

Shopping for Local Goods

We visited a small boutique to buy Papua jam, coffee and spices for our respective families and friends (including some hand rolled cigars).

We followed by visiting the coffee roasting facility that included piles of coffee and view the coffee roaring process and labs with the plant manager - it was nice to see how the great coffee we enjoyed this week was made.

Journey Back Start

We depart in an hour from Yaounde to make the long trip back to the US via Douala.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Well not the 4 Seasons but after a long week of hot, humid, insect filled places we are sleeping in amazing accommodations - dinner was traditional but everyone was exhausted from travels, long week of activities and waking up so hearty this morning.

BizPlan Competition

We had our last biz plan competition in some on godly warm conditions (at the catholic university). We did hear all five finalists that had both diversity in scope and depth - the winner was a consulting business with a lot of potential. These were masters students who had already taken the step of forming the business and getting registered.

It was cool also talk to the coordinator of the entrepreneurship curriculum who was so inspired by our presentation on entrepreneurship two years ago that they now have it required for all masters (175 students a year and an elective course for another 70 a year). He used the materials and books we shipped to him after our visit and implementation it immediately.

Also the biz plan competition was conducted in the large hall that had our smartboard from our last trip and all our laptops are being used for in class projects too - we gave them the three new ones to offer more options for classroom technology integration.

Visited America Today

Well, for an hour we felt like we were back in the US. We arrived (thanks to our amazing driver Soule) early at the American Embassy where we were welcomed by Mika (Economic section) and Jonathan (Public Office) with whom we shared our project details and itinerary, but also some great ideas on how we could work with the embassy in the future.

They were impressed by our work and also the fact that we focused on empowerment which they say is the key to the future and successful development of Cameroon. They liked that we also realized that rural development is through agricultural programs like our micro loan program for women.

We talked about progress in the country and some of the limitations but more importantly the opportunities available to the people of Cameroon and also to some of the student team members. Carolyn who has been in this trip before is showing great interest to work in a French speaking country in some capacity and Michelle appears to see some opportunities for internships too. Of course well guarded facility but a fully air conditioned facility with fully functioning bathrooms - we are happy campers!

As Revoir Plantation

We must say good bye to our friends on the plantation, our home base for the last 6 days where Maggie made some amazing food, Abdou worked to provide some of us warm water for showers among many things but more importantly we had to say au revoir to Mubarak the team's adopted son (we did teach him some not so amazing American culture including high fives and yo yo yo) and Pedro the dog.

As we departed very early through the country side of Foumbot, we left with an amazing feeling of accomplishment but also looking forward today to wrapping up our work but also visiting the American Embassy, US land abroad.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Checking out the Local Market

We spent our last afternoon in the country side to check out the fresh produce market - future market for our micro loan recipients.

The market is actually known regionally for providing some of the best produce for Yaounde and Douala. We saw many women manning their riches and produce for sale - we are told that the market takes on a mob size on Fridays.

Joining Forces

We delivered our last supply bag (1625), distributed the last poster (120), and gave out the last soccer ball (108), and realized that kick it forward's main mission has been accomplished in the context of the local villages we were set to help.

Through hygiene education and emphasizing the importance of education, we have kicked them forward. They have been empowered and can now focus on developing their potential.

Picture below shows the important that hygiene was given in the daily life of the school by the local educational authorities who assigned hygiene as a responsibility/goal.

We have joined forced with the local villages to prevent water sicknesses (largest killer of people in Africa). Mission accomplished!

Friendly Game of Soccer

Because we had to deliver on the reward of soccer for going to school, we played a friendly game of soccer with a perfect draw - 0 - 0.

This made the trip all worth it to see them enjoy the game.

Well Deserved Rest - La Pause

Team takes a break from the unloading of supplies and hygiene lessons where we found a constant reminder that corruption is their key battle in a country where everyone wants a piece of the other's.

We were stopped by the local police force although we were traveling in a diplomatic vehicle and point blank asked to hand over half of what we had - we refused and forced the stop. All is good of course now an we are back at the plantation.

Water is Available but not Accessible

We got a painful reminder that although water systems are in place they are not accessible - we found this water well locked under key right next to one of the schools where children are forced to bring water (which was not very sanitary)

Big Around the Village

We spend the rest of the morning making a big splash in the village. We displayed with pride the CofC banner and colors with all the school supplies loaded (we had too load three times thanks to all our donors and more importantly sponsor Possibilities Without Borders - we could not have done it without them).

We conducted lessons in three schools with the reward of being in school getting each a school bag and supplies, and to the joy of kids the most important part, soccer ball for each class and the additional ones for the school administration to distribute on a need basis along with pomp.

The Power of Hygiene and Education

We made an immediate connection with the kids and their teachers this morning as we walked through our first hygiene education program one class at a time (6 classes). We emphasized that good hygiene would mean not missing school, and staying in school (providing them with school supplies) would mean they would succeed on their own - empowerment is key. Of course the kids were thrilled when we provided each class with a soccer ball for recess as their reward for being good students.

Ready, Set, Go

We are so excited for today - we have spent time working on our supplies for each of the three schools yesterday and have our piles ready (we have three schools to visit, teach at) plus the soccer tournament is going to be a lot of fun this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When in Cameroon

Tonight we were excited to experience getting our hair braided by the women on the plantation! it was a little bit more painful than we were expecting, but in the long run, definitely worth it!

Afterwards, we got the chance to try on the dresses that we had made by the women of the plantation! We purchased the fabric in a local market just two days ago, and these hardworking women finished four outfits in just two days. We were surprised and excited about how quickly the dresses were completed.

As you can see below it was an eventful day, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Merci College of Charleston

Well today was simply amazing and we are so greatfull to be able to have so much and offer so little (but know it will go a long way) - so much more to come tomorrow!

Pour la femme

This afternoon we completed our micro finance loan project. We hosted 15 women at the plantation who each signed a 1 year contract to pay back the loan for 100,000 cfa in quarterly increments. The loan will enable the women to invest in 5 agricultural projects that will help them provide for their families. At the end of the session, the women embraced us and told us how grateful they were. As a group of women ourselves, we were truly touched by their gratitude and feel so lucky to be apart of this project that will have a great impact on their lives for years to come.

Audience at the Palace, Visit of Museum and more

Wow, we were simply amazed by the history of the kingdom of the Noun and the culture surrounding the people of the Noun.

Of course a semi private tour of the museum helped us understand their history across the years: Through the centuries and through the various changes in kings - some amazing relics and pieces of art/craftsmanship.

We witnessed the process of family succession with the nobles coming to get her to review the wish of the head of family who passed away, families getting into a circle, the king approving of the successor, and the designer who at this point does not know is hand picked from the family group. That person is formally dressed and again presented to the court as the chosen one and on occasion if the family status demands, a symbolic gun is fired (like we were honored with before).

Finally we were granted an audience with the king who welcomed us to the Noun and wished us great success in our work.

Why Hygiene is so Important

We drove through the country side and saw exactly why we are here - during our stay we have seen people use the rivers as a source of drinking water, laundry, bathing, and even car washing (all at the same time).

We are glad we found instructional materials that uses pictures to explain why water is important, how to use it safely, and hoe to change day to day routines to safeguard the water.

School Visit and First Distribution

Under the patronage of the Queen we were welcomed with open arms in her village where we had the opportunity to meet all the local nobles and the director of the school with whom we discussed the importance of hygiene and the link to education and how soccer can be used as a reward for advancement and attendance in school.

The women were screening and changing to celebrate our support for their children with some occasional dancing. Of course the most important event was the hiring of the celebratory gun after discussing hygiene which was a surprise to the group and a true honor to the group as this is usually fired in the presence of nobles. We were honored and simply thankful to provide these kids with the tools to education - thanks to our partner Possibilities Without Borders. We also visited each classroom and posted hygiene posters in each class. Next we get to visit the palace and meet the Sultan.

Another Great Day Planned for Today

We are going to visit with the Sultan today and have an audience with the Queen in Bafoussam but before we will be heading to the Queen's home village to complete the hygiene education through soccer program.

We are also doing a full inventory of our school supplies who just arrived from Douala (at last after being stuck in customs) before we spend the afternoon at the local elementary schools to distribute the school supplies and organize a friendly soccer tournament between the various schools.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Power for Women and of Women

We had a great meeting with the local women of the village organized by Anadou who was able at times to share valuable insight and translate questions in the local dialect.

He said the most important part is to work to offer women who are honest the right opportunity - we were very impressed by the group of 15 women who came to share their stories and limitations.

The key blocker is not the desire to work but capital to be able to purchase fertilizers and rent land to provide extra income, and the key is to improve the quality of the crop. Better product = more income = independence, we were so impressed by their resilience and understanding of this basic concept.

We realized through our interaction that the women in the village, who are responsible for the children and household maintenance, are also expected to make extra income two days a week after working the field the other five days.

What the micro loan could mean for them? They want to be able to hire men to do the digging for them to make money to be able to afford education for their kids and reinvest in more things for the family, so they could own together one day a plantation - this was inspiring and we knew we could make a direct impact.

We explained that we had resources but that they would have to apply for a loan- to be repaid within 6 months (allow for money to be used through two growing cycles) - a good crop has yield a 50% return on average and they historically have been able to recoup all money during a bad season. We charged them to return tomorrow with 5 pods of women and a detailed budget each - we have forms ready to go and so ready to provide these women the opportunity.

First business plan competition

Our group was thrilled to have the chance to watch the medical university students present in the business plan competition, and even more excited to hear their ideas.

We were given the opportunity to watch three groups present, and engage in conversation with some of the students. There were some great ideas presented involving agriculture, and animals. We were amazed by how put together the final presentation was. It involved reproducing rabbits and selling the meat to different cities. It was clearly communicated that the students had put a lot of effort into their final presentation, thus they became the first winners of the business plan competition and were awarded $1,000 (or 500,000 franks) to start their business.

We were also excited that the winners used the "five steps to a business plan" concept taught on the Tech for Africa journey two years ago, and emphasized the importance of it in their presentation.

Overall, we enjoyed watching the presentations and are excited to see the progress of their business in years to come

Campus visit - meeting students

What an amazing experience we had today! We woke up early and had to drive two hours to finally visit the campus of UdM (new and old) including a personal tour of the limited resources they currently have and where some of our previous donations of technology have been put to use (computer labs, xRay machine). We were inspired by the conversations and inspirations of many of the students when our team had the opportunity to meet with student government body representatives. Questions asked where: what clubs both schools had and what ideas they have or would like to make happen. Many students thanked us for coming back (as we continue to return every two years) but said no, and thanked them for welcoming us every time and offering us a true partnership. We shared our school colors and look forward to this afternoon's business plan competition where we will see what they might apply what we presented on last time we were here.

Competition and Financing

We are up bright and early today, (6am here) to travel to UdM to facilitate our business plan competition, we are so excited to meet the students there who are around our age. Some even know English! And as helpful as facial expressions are, it will be nice to ask questions in our native tongue instead of French today. After the business competition, we will be meeting village women to begin the micro finance loan process as well. We better wake up, because its going to be a long day!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Applying Free Enterprise - Starting with Us

We are working with some local seamstress to develop a local business as part of our micro loan effort and have decided to venture to the local market under the careful eye of our guide, Abdu. The ladies got a lot of great items and will be fitted by the local entrepreneur based on some design.

Economics 101

We are learning today about the economic life cycle of the plantation and surrounding economy as well as the power of the US dollar (it is amazing how much a dollar can get you around here - a family of 4 lives in a dollar a day) - there is so much economic potential as people really really want to work to better themselves and their families.

The kids attack!

This afternoon, we made a surprise visit to the catholic school elementary and kindergarten students who are receiving some of our educational packages later this week. I think we may have been more surprised than they were though, within seconds of arriving we were surrounded by hundreds of children who were so excited to meet us, it was incredible.

This Morning's briefing: The Plantation and today's mission

The Plantation:

Just a little information about the plantation the team is staying on: The goal of the plantation is to be self sufficient and not to necessarily make money. On this 338 acre plantation, it produces high quality coffee beans but they are trying to not only produce coffee but have other options as well incase something may happen to the coffee beans such as disease. This past year they lost 80% of their coffee beans due to a fungi. Luckily they also grow corn and raise cattle which they are trying to do more of, and they also have their own monstrous chickens. The plantation also have their own schools and are provided with health care which they feel makes them rich compared to people who do not live on the plantation.

Today's Mission: Micro Finance Program
The plantation manager (Anadou) arrived early this morning from France. He is very tired yet very excited about the micro finance program we will be starting today. We will be going into town to talk to the women about how we can arrange for them to set up a sustainable business program.

Stay tuned for pictures and information about what kind of businesses the women choose to set up.

Day One - preparing training materials

After a great breakfast we are reviewing our training materials for the Hygiene and Micro loan training materials - also looking at applying our materials out self by empowering one of the local woman by having her make dresses (as a souvenir). We are trying to see what are the blockers to offering each woman in the local village a chance to free enterprise.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Making new friends

We found out very quickly that we are sharing the space with a lot of different critters - made for a very interesting dinner (in the outdoors). We are so excited to get started tomorrow - we will be meeting with Anadou in the morning (the plantation manager) to discuss the micro loan program (got some great information from our guide today about what the needs of the women might be and what are the limiting factors). We have arranged the transfer of the schools supplies to us (we are crossing our fingers that customs clears our shipment as planned). More information will come tomorrow.

Arrived at the Plantation

We have arrived at the Peptnoun Plantation, our home away from home which is simply pictures - beauty and peace. We are looking forward to exploring the plantation and meeting some of the families we are going to help over the next few days (we saw so many kids)

Water Fall

Enjoying the beauty of the West of Cameroon with an amazing water fall.

Local Fruit Market

We had to make sure we had all the fruits and avocados Carolyn could eat (our vegetarian) - of course being able to sample your purchases was a lot of fun for everyone.

Rubber Plantation

What a cool place - to see harvesting of natural rubber was really cool - our first attempt at leaving a CofC mark (the flag)

The Adventure Begins

Today after a great breakfast with friends of Patrick and his daughter we had a briefing and loaded our cars for the travel to our home base, the Peptenoun Plantation near Bafoussam. We are excited to finally see what the country is all about - we are still working to finalize our logistics as we got word that our container is still "stuck" in customs. We are going to learn to adjust at take it all in of course. Things do not work like in the US.