A Day in Kumbo, Cameroon by Jon Betson.
The cockerel wins the race to wake me up this morning. The other competitor comes in a close second as prayers from the loud speaker echo around town. I make a fresh ginger and lime tea and take in the striking views from the staff apartment.
I head to the market to purchase a few goods for the day. The Kumbo market is a fantastic network of fruit, vegetable, nut, seed and meat stalls. The butchery area is real and raw and an eye opening experience for the pre-packaged Briton. I buy two avocados for 300cfa (38p) and seven bananas for 150 cfa.
Outdoor balloon fun with the children in Kumbo.
My first assignment today is to visit a school in the remote village of Takijah. I meet two extremely dedicated members of the project who work full time to help local people to help themselves out of poverty at the charity’s base in Kumbo. This is the organisation that I work for. Also joining us on the trip is Phil, another volunteer. After a fifty minute taxi ride along a bumpy road we arrive. I was of the understanding that there were going to be about ten children, this turned out to be a misinterpretation. I was later told that there were one hundred and fifty pupils. If you are ever unsure of what to do when you have so many little faces looking at you, then just start chasing them and instant joy will be created. First we are introduced to the teachers of the school and also the nursery children. We move outside and the next five minutes create a memory that I will never forget and it that is caused by the simplest of actions. Surrounded by about eighty children I inflate a balloon and release it in the wind to a chorus of hysteria and a stampede of wild faces trying to chase the floating object of desire. Fantastic.
(For more information and ideas on how to organise young children on community projects).
Next we head back to Kumbo. I have a two hour English lesson at the project’s own school. The students aged ten to twelve are in an energetic mood but they soon settle into their work. Today’s task involves the students listening to a song by Barry Louis Polisar, ‘All I want is you’. We then discuss the music and replay it in stages so the pupils can write the lyrics into their exercise books. I only have a tiny speaker to play the song so it is quiet but there are no complaints as we all huddle around to hear. After a thirty minute break it is time to take a practical computer lesson with the same group. We use Microsoft Word to type up the song we have learnt in the previous English lesson.
With school over it is time to relax. I go to the sports field with my German friend Johann. In a land where football is a religion, owning a football is strong currency. We take a football and within a minute we are playing a game. It is a nice pursuit after an eventful day.
Back at the apartment the volunteers are cooking. We usually eat as a group in the evening and recipes are based around ingredients bought earlier from the market. To end the day a group of us take taxi bikes to a local bar and watch a game of football.
There are many things I would like to include about my time in Cameroon but this was more of a daily account. My time so far has been fulfilling and I hope that during my small amount of time here I can enrich the students in some way. I still have two weeks remaining here and already I am feeling sad. If you say yes to Cameroon, learn to say yes to everything and dive in head first. You will love it. It beats a day on a building site anyway.
For more information on the Cameroon volunteer programme see programme page on the website.
Jon Betson. 35. Electrician. Bury St Edmunds, England.