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  • Open Dreams

Community Action Project: Paying it forward – Empowering the IDPs

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

It’s the reality in some communities in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon; Sporadic gunshots here and there, houses being burned down, people fleeing from their homes, mothers burying their children, children burying their parents, girls being raped, students being kidnapped and tortured for going to school. We have been there and we have seen it all. For Men and women of workable ages, it is important to learn a skill to, later on, enable them to support themselves financially. Now with the ongoing sociopolitical crises in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, the need for IDPs to learn a skill for the above-stated reason is even more urgent. This is because this crisis led to the resettlement of many people from those two affected regions to safer regions, where they find it hard to integrate and support themselves financially. With this in mind, Madza Eugette ran a three-week during which about thirty people were taught hairdressing, manicure/pedicure, and beading in the Center Region of Cameroon. Most of them were internally displaced persons, ranging between the ages of 9 to 32. They underwent three weeks of training in the domain of their choice from the list above, and learned those skills for free.

After the three weeks of training and counseling, our beneficiaries all got certificates of accomplishment. Some were handed cash award while the first two of every category were awarded an internship in the domain she was trained in during the program. The program ran from the 21st of June to the 9th of July 2021, from 8 am to 12 pm every working day of the week. We had 6 volunteers who helped us run the program smoothly by helping us to find our beneficiaries, purchase training equipment such as beads, hair extensions, and other things needed for the training. During the program, we had a talk from Open Dreams Scholar, Forsi Ferdinand, who walked them through the path on how they will successfully bring their acquired skills to the job market.

Patience Sombang and Ayuba Garba of the Open Dreams Family smile as they volunteer supporting the IDPs in the skills-acquisition process

On the last day of the program, we had a small celebration where we thanked everyone for working together for the success of the program, and also recognize the progress of the 30. The project required much more materials than Madza could afford for this project since she wanted every beneficiary to get hands-on experience during the training. Also, there were some machines required for the teaching of some techniques in these trades which were quite costly. However, she remedied this challenge by making a learning curriculum between the hall she was using and the place of work of the teachers, every week. This means that in a week taking manicure/pedicure, for example, the beneficiaries learned in the teacher’s workshop twice a week during the weekend and the other five times in the training hall. That way the beneficiaries got a full work experience, use the machines available there, twice a week and observed the teacher for the weekdays.

As a short-term outcome, they acquired skills that will eventually help them to get a job, hence attain financial stability. In addition to the skills they acquired, they had the opportunity to network with the other people who helped them throughout the project, hence expanding their network. This network of people may work with them in the future on projects for the betterment of their lot and that of the community. In the long term, hopefully, some will have their own salons and other work spaces where they will also teach and improve the lives of other needy people in the community. To make this impact even more pronounced, Madza is currently working with them even after the project is completed to make sure that their internships are going well.

Demonstration on-going

A week after her project ended, Animbom Odette carried out a project in the North West Region of Cameroon which impacted over 52 young girls with leadership and professional skills. In 2019, as a requirement for their scholarship, they wrote a proposal for a community project. After a lot of brainstorming, she landed on the idea of teaching young girls in the North West Region how to use beads to make sandals, necklaces, and bags.

The question many people asked was why young girls and why that skill-need? She had seen what the crisis had done to the intelligent girls with big dreams and she knew how it felt to be frustrated with no hope of redemption. Some young girls had given up on their dreams and some even resulted in prostitution to earn a living. She wanted these young girls to learn a skill they could use to earn some money and she wanted to give them just a little hope to hold on to.

With an approved budget of $1000, she traveled home in June to carry out her project. Her project was initially meant to help 30 girls and that seemed like quite a small target to attain. In July she was all set to start the project and she began walking from one house to another looking for participants but most parents did not want their children to be part. After days of searching, she was finally getting frustrated, she could not understand why no one wanted to be part and she decided to stop searching and just run the project with whoever showed up. She woke up on one cold Wednesday morning and went to the training center she had rented. She was scared no one would show up and she was already feeling like her project was a total failure but that day ended with about 30 girls showing up. The number increased over the week to about 52 and she had the hardest time keeping up and managing her budget because she had a plan for 30.

Training session in Bamenda, North West Region. The project ran smoothly for 3 weeks with 6-7 hours spent daily.

Parents even came asking if she would run a similar project again next year; about this, she definitely has a plan in progress. “At the end of the day, it is not about what you have or even what you have accomplished. It is about who you have lifted up, who you have made better, and what you have given back” Denzel Washington. She quotes, “I feel so happy that I could give back just a little bit of what has been given to me. Always learn to pay it forward”.

Please, visit this link for the second part of this project

Odette & Eugette strategizing, while a trainee looks on

Project by Animbom Odette and Madza Eugette,

Mastercard Foundation Scholars at the University of Botswana,

Majoring in Civil Engineering and Pharmacy Respectively.

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