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"Inspire for Peace", Daphne Chebesi

According to a UNESCO Report, half of all out-of-school children live in conflict-affected areas. Sadly, children in Cameroon have become a part of these statistics. Education is a fundamental human right and every child deserves at least basic primary education. This is farfetched for thousands of children in Cameroon whose education has been disrupted by the crisis in the English-Speaking regions of the country.

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to attend school in safe spaces. I have never for once imagined myself studying and being disrupted by gunshots. Worst still, I have never imagined being kidnapped or killed because I decided to go to school. But on the other side of life, this is the reality for so many young people especially children who are most vulnerable. So, here I am thinking to myself in my university dorm room about how I can be of help. I realised that it was not enough to think, talk about or feel bad about what is happening at home. I had to take the smallest step to change something. Then I thought of thousands of children who have had to escape the crisis to pursue an education in safer regions and I decided to find a way to help.

This birthed the project “Inspire for Peace”. I named it so because it is my own way of shedding the light on the adverse effects war has had on the education of children in Cameroon, to encourage people to choose peace over war in times of crisis. Through this project, I wanted to support the education of internally displaced primary school pupils from the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. With support from the Melton Foundation, I was able to set up a GlobalGiving fundraising campaign where I raised about $1380 for this project. This money went into purchasing school bags, books, and stationery for 100 internally displaced primary school pupils from the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, who have braved the odds to pursue an education in safer regions.

With the help of some friends and an organisation called “Smiles Africa”, we were able to identify some of these internally displaced school kids who were most in need in Douala and reached out to them with these school supplies. Even though we had planned to reach out to only 100 children, we had over 170 children in need of what we had to offer. We had to make up for this by taking out some of the books we had put in the bags and handing them over to children who had received nothing.

Someone might ask why school bags and books? Why not food, toiletries, or shelter. I am looking at the future of these children and the effect not going to school may have on them. Giving them a school bag and books may not change a whole lot, but it will change somethings, if not for the 100 children, for 1 child. It is a way of telling them that someone out there is proud of the fact that they have braved the odds to continue going to school and is supporting them. It will serve as a donor someone is interested in their future and is donating the little, they have to see that they have the resources they need to go to school. In the midst of the conflict in Cameroon, a school bag is a sign that education cannot wait, and stakeholders need to act.

I am hopeful for the future of all of these children. I definitely cannot change the world. What can I do is take one action that will have a ripple effect. I am hoping that this is it.

I want to say a big thank you to the Melton Foundation, the donors, Smiles Africa, friends, and everyone for their support throughout the project. It will not have gone this far without communal effort. I tag lined this project “It takes a village”. This is because when I thought about the whole project, it seemed impossible to do it on my own. I needed a community to help. So, it took a village to get this project done. In the same way, it takes a village to raise and educate a child. A reminder from Michelle Obama, “When you’ve worked hard and done well and walked through the doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed”.

You can learn about the projects Journey here

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