Yesterday we visited 4 schools to witness Project Hope’s Youth outreach in the form of Health Clubs. Project Hope goes to schools and organizes health clubs for children of all ages to learn how to avoid diseases that are prevalent here. In villages where there is no running water in the homes, it is important to teach children about the importance of personal hygiene in preventing disease.They teach HIV/AIDS awareness, how to avoid diseases that are caused by contaminated food and water, and preach abstinence and fidelity as the only way to insure avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. They give the children free HIV testing and encourage everyone to know their status. If positive, they offer resources for treatment. One in ten people contract HIV/AIDS in this area of Cameroon. Most children have lost someone close to the disease. The clubs aren’t all serious. They also play games, sing songs, dance and work on being role models of health among their peers. They talked about the difficulties they face in telling people about the dangers of HIV, peers don’t want to listen. There is still a stigma about the disease even though it is rampant. But these kids understand through the work of Project Hope that ignorance is their enemy.
Sylverine is 16 and lives alone with her little sister, Camerika. Their mother died giving birth to Camerika, 4 years ago. They used to be at the orphanage, arriving just after Camerika was born. At a certain age, children are sent back to their village to re-assimilate with their people; aunts, uncles, cousins. The thinking is that children should not live their whole lives in an orphanage. It is better to go back to family when they are older and require less care. To go back to where they belong. So they were sent home. But Sylverine’s family sent her back, insisting that she would be better off here because she has a school sponsor who pays her fees. They sent her little sister back with her. Camerika waits at the orphanage for her sister after school and then they go back to a rented room. There are many children who are in far worse situations, but we were so very touched by this young girl. We walked them home and asked Sylverine to describe her day. “I get up at 5am, walk to fetch water. Then I make the fire to warm the water to bathe the child. I make something for Camerika to eat and then for myself. We dress and go to school. After school, I fetch my sister and head home. Sometimes we eat at the orphanage. Sometimes my aunt sends money and I buy food for us. Sometimes she helps with the rent, which is equal to a few dollars a month.” We told her she is very brave and strong. She said, “No, I am afraid and alone.”
One of our favorite things to do is to walk through the village to the town of Njinikom. The people we meet on the road, which is more like a trail, and at the homes by the side of the road are so warm and friendly. “You are Welcome, Welcome”, they shout out as we pass by. Sometimes we stop and chat. At the hospital, everyone is sick or caring for the sick, and there is a heaviness…but on our walks, it is such a delight to encounter people in the course of their daily lives. Click on any image to go to Gallery Mode.
Yesterday we had a morning meeting with the directors of Project Hope, discussing the implementation of the Orphan Project that we are sponsoring. We left the meeting with a greater understanding of their process and full confidence in their skill and the level of transparency that they offer in regard to the use of funds. We are scheduled to visit a school tomorrow and go with them to a remote village on friday (by motorbike) to witness the process of identifying and checking in on vulnerable children who will become part of our sponsorship. After the meeting we hung out at the Hospital Orphanage and interacted with the kids. They hunger for attention and touch. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to give it to them.
These children have all had surgery for “crooked legs”, a common occurrence here. They remain in the hospital for many weeks with the stick between the casts, then a few more weeks with the sticks removed. Often they require more than one surgery to fix the problems. Mass surgeries are performed every year by doctors from Holland. Click on any image to go to Gallery Mode. (P.S. Sorry for the inconsistent formats…I’m having problems uploading decent size images here so am trying different things.)