Writing Creatively With Spirit

A journey of psychic discovery


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Cameroon Update – Chicken Celebrations

Sunday 23rd February 2014

So, the last nails were hammered in and, as is traditional, the roofers have to be thrown a chicken to mark their achievement in bringing the building to this stage.

Last nails going in

Last nails going in

Fred throws the chicken up to the buiders

Fred throws the chicken up to the builders

They have to catch it and bring it down to be cooked and shared with everyone as part of the celebrations of the fact that the building has reached a definitive stage.

Nearly there

Nearly there

Safely caught - let the celebrations begin

Safely caught – let the celebrations begin

Fred sends his sincere gratitude to all who have helped to get the school to this stage. Wish I could have been there to share in the celebrations. Settled for a glass of wine instead.

While this is a significant achievement there is still much to do, but for now we can all give ourselves a pat on the back for getting this far.

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Cameroon Update – The end for the roof?

Friday 21st February 2014

Just a bit more to go on the roof

Just a bit more to go on the roof

 

 

 

 

 

Fred’s comments says it all.

Hello Predencia (Bongkiyung)

What a great move?. We got the money and did not get to the office. We passed straight through the building material shop and bought one and half bundle of zinc which is now completing the roof. It wonderfully appreciated and a surprise to many.

The roofs will be completed today and we will throw a Chicken up to the carpenter as a tradition before he would come down from the roof. This is a sort of celebrating an achievement of the roof being completed. The chicken will be eaten at the site. I am sending you the progress pictures and  will send to you the completed one later.

All filled in!!!

All filled in!!!

I am just very excited as I cannot wait until it is finished this afternoon before I get to you. You are really a star. God has given you a wonderful gift for fund raising. I cannot imagine that only three of you raised that huge sum of money. If you did not come to Cameroon who would have done this to us? God alone knows why he really directed you to SeReP.

I will use the other 5000frs to buy the ceiling to cover the veranda, as you can see from the stair way in front of the office. The one which you supported to be put into use last time. We really thank you so much for what you have done. I hope others will follow and get on with the ceiling, plastering, fitting of the windows and doors, painting and so.

The students will have to welcome you at the bus stop if you will be coming in November in the morning. May you really be blessed.


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Cameroon update – The work goes on

Boy working outside the building soon he will be working inside

Boy working outside the building soon he will be working inside

Tuesday 19th February 2014

I’m very excited and bowled over by the way this project has touched people. I was able to send a donation of £450 to the SEREP (Self Reliance Promotors NGO) yesterday – thanks to some very generous donations. Thanks a million CH for stepping at the last minute.

I’m reliably informed by Fred the director that this should be sufficient to complete zincking the roof.

They will also be able to provide a kind of awning that will protect the roof from gusts of winds which could take the zinc off from underneath. (I am no builder but some of you may understand what I’m trying to say).

I was able to speak briefly to one of the pupils at the school. She said they’re very excited by the progress. Soon there will be no risk of the rain coming into their classrooms.

It’s not time to break out the champagne yet, but I did have a wee glass of wine. Thanks again to all who are supporting this project.


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Cameroon update – Nearly there with the roof

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to post these pictures that Fred, the director of SEREP (Self Reliance Promoters NGO) sent me a couple of weeks ago. The progress has been very rapid, but they need another £350 to finish the roof. It would be great to achieve that before the rainy season returns.

Shiney new roof

Shiney new roof

Hei Predencia,
It is my pleasure to update you again.  You can now see that the upper front has been roofed and then part of the upper back part almost half way gone.  
Only a bit more to go

Only a bit more to go

 
Yesterday we had a staff social and send off for Niki and I passed your greetings and all what you have done to make the roofing go up to this level. They were all happy and send you greetings to extend their appreciation to the donors.
 
Your efforts has given us a lot of hope and bright future for this project.
 
As soon as we get more zinc to continue, I will still get back to you with the progress.
 
Yours sincere.
Wirkom Fred

Please let me know if you would like to contribute to this phase. To nick a well know supermarket’s phrase… every little helps.


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Cameroon update

I received some pictures today from the director of SEREP showing that the work on zincking the roof has already started. Below is an extract from Fred’s email.

Roofing has begun

Roofing has begun

I am very very delighted to inform you that the roofing proper started yesterday with the zinc we bought using the donations.  We can boast that 1/2 of it will be soon be roofed in the next few days and you will be able to see the pictures of the completed back part.
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He also sent  pictures of one of the newer volunteer (Niki) who is teaching in one of the older classrooms, and one of Charlott who was there when I was there. She’s teaching in one of the newer classrooms.

Niki

Niki in class 1

Charlott in one of the new classrooms

Charlott in one of the new classrooms

It looks like they are experiencing warmer weather as there is no evidence of jackets or jumpers.

 


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End of week message

15th November 2013

2013-10-09 14.09.00After a really challenging week I received the email below from a friend. It’s at times like this when I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be blessed with amazing friends. Thank you so very much Simon.

As it comes to the end of another day, as you kick back and recline on your sofa.  You ask yourself that question,’ Was I really 5000 miles away just the other day? Were you really changing lives, building schools, changing the world?

Then you hear the rain singing your name. Rain drops like small feet stomping a rhythm and your intuition knows the rain echoes the voices of the lives you’ve touched.   Staff, parents and children are singing your name right now and for a long time to come, it goes without question.  It’s amazing how dreams, praise and happiness travels great distances – listen can you hear them?

It’s a grey day Predencia but you put the sun in the sky for a lot or people.  I’m not even thinking of the ones that you saw, but the ones that will be there in the future…. generations.  Wow!!!  What a legacy.   How are you going to trump that then?  I’m also wondering how to emulate that.  I’ve done what you’ve done but I haven’t built a class room or a school.

It’s the end of a long day and I thought on the whim to send you an email that I hope would bring a smile to your face whatever the type of day you’ve had.

Keep smiling; it only gets better.

Simon

Cameroon Experience – Reflections – What I will and won’t miss

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Wednesday 23rd October 2013

Just before I left Cameroon someone asked me what I’ll miss. As I thought about my answer it seemed that most of the things I’ll miss have a counterbalancing thing that I won’t miss.

1.     Cleanliness

Garbage waiting for the council to collect

Garbage waiting for the council to collect

I won’t miss open garbage. The way rubbish is dropped on the streets, although it does form a rather interesting mosaic when mixed into to the red mud.

Every first Thursday of the month is ‘Clean-up’ day. I was happy when I heard that it was a day for making the environment more beautiful. But sadly it seemed to only apply to people’s cars, frontages and homes. The communal areas remained neglected.

Garbage waiting to be trodden into the red earth

Garbage waiting to be trodden into the red earth

I won’t miss open urination by men – however much rain there is. Neither will I miss outside toilets. Although I’m no stranger to doing my business outside (years of hiking in Britain) I prefer not to be exposed to the elements in the middle of the night when I need to go. It’s one of the reasons camping has never appealed to me.

I will miss the intense cleanliness of the interior of people’s houses. It seems as if there’s one rule for the inside and another for the outside.

2.     Sharing

A school girl offers me some of her lunch

A school girl offers me some of her lunch

I will miss the ethos and practice of sharing. I witnessed children who barely had enough for themselves sharing with those who had nothing. There’s a line in a Bob Dylan song that says ‘people who suffer together are more connected than those who are most content.’ It was certainly in evidence in Kumbo and in Mbosha. I can’t speak for the rest of Cameroon.

I was always offered food

I was always offered food

Whenever I visited a home I was offered food. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if the family had enough for themselves so I would only take a small amount. ‘Add more,’ they’d say. I was warmed by their generosity and hospitality.

3.     Education

The long road to school

The long road to school

I will miss the thirst for education and the extent to which people will go to secure a good education for their children. Education is not compulsory so school fees are applicable to all children. Many families make great sacrifices to enable their children to go to school. Some children walk for up to two hours to get to school in the mornings, and repeat the journey again at the end of school.

I will miss the way the children were responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of their school and did it willingly. There was a rota for cleaning each class at the end of the day, and for sweeping the school yard.

I will miss the enthusiasm with which the children at the school help with the building work.

Educating girls

Educating girls

I will not miss those who are still arguing for girls to be married as soon as possible which curtails their education as early as ten years. I applaud the young women in my sixth form group who made impassioned presentation for the right of girls to be educated in the same way as boys are.

4.     Connection to the earth

Cooking food fresh every day

Cooking food fresh every day

I will miss the connection to the earth that people have. This is maintained in several ways.

  • Walking barefooted maintains a constant connection with the red earth and its constant nourishment.
  • Growing food locally and eating it fresh. Lack of fridges means that food is cooked and eaten fresh each day. More of the life giving energy is made available to the body. Meat is also freshly killed. There are no microwaves to annihilate all nutrients from food.
  • Living with the rhythms of the days and the seasons. Being woken by the cock’s crow.

I will not miss the 5 a.m. Muslim call to prayer every day of the week, or the fact my neighbours began their day at 6.a.m. with dance music.

5.     Trust

I will miss the trust people have in each other to do the right thing. This is because they trust in a higher power, an all seeing power who will right all wrongs. I first experienced this the day after I arrived. It was my birthday and I went to Squares for a meal. We bought the food from a street vendor who brought it to us inside a bar. She was not affiliated to the bar and no one came to collect money for the meal. When I enquired of my colleagues as to how to pay they informed that we pay on the way out.

‘But we could just walk away without paying!’ I exclaimed.

‘I guess we could, but nobody here does,’ she replied, ‘it’s a trust thing.’

6.     Tolerance

Muslim mosque

Muslim mosque

I will miss the way Muslim, Christians and traditional spiritual practices co-exist in harmony.

 

 

 

Traditional juju man

Traditional juju man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Kumbo Catholic cathedral

Inside Kumbo Catholic cathedral

 

7.     Family

Father and son

Father and son

I will miss the sense of family. People here know who they are. They are firmly grounded in family and have a strong responsibility to their families. A family member is an extension of oneself. There would be no question of one member having a lot and someone else in the family going without.

A young man of 25 years that I got close to became the head of the house aged 15 when his father died. For the last ten years he’s seen it as his responsibility to ensure his mother and younger siblings are taken care of.

A welcome embrace

A welcome embrace

When I mentioned this to one of the teachers at the school as an exceptional case, she shrugged and said ‘that’s not unusual here.’

That sense of family is one of the things that systematic attempts were made to eradicated out of the Africans who were taken as slaves to America and the Caribbean. It was successful in part; especially the part where the men do not have the same sense of commitment to their children. Note I say only in part because some men are still very committed to raising their children as a family unit.

I will not miss the custom of girls being married at a very early age (I met two mothers who had their first child aged 12, and by age 28 had five children). There did not seem to be any religious leanings toward this practice as one was Muslim and one Christian.

2013-10-05 19.46.40AMost of all I will miss the way they accepted me as one of them. Gave me a new name and treated me as a long lost relative.