Hola de Iquitos! We have now been working on our project for a little over two weeks under the direction of two local contractors, and are making great progress. The majority of our work consists of mixing cement for the contractors to use on the walls, digging holes for support beams, making support beams, and moving water and cement to the contractors. The work is hard and tiring, but incredibly rewarding. We have three weeks left and by the end of our time here we should have the floor and walls complete, assuming we are able to get door and window frames. We work each day from 8am-1pm and have the afternoons off. During our offtime we read, write, tan on top of the 50ft bird tower, hike, visit the local villages, or swim. On Sundays we go to the local community of Santo Thomas to watch the soccer games. Everything about the jungle is beautiful…..except the bugs. While some of them are interesting and cool to look at, most of the team looks as if they came down with chicken pox. We have seen beautiful butterflies, milipedes, flat worms, and many spiders. One of the first days we were at Madre Selva a tarantula wondered into our dining hall (joy). Other than the bugs we have seen monkeys, snakes, frogs, lizards, and many types of birds. We are on a short break in Iquitos until tomorrow morning when we will head back up the river to Madre Selva for the remaining three weeks of our project. Until next time, adios!
Hola! Buenos días! Three of our team members arrived in Iquitos yesterday afternoon. We have been exploring this amazing city while waiting for the rest of our team to arrive. We have a meeting scheduled this evening when the rest of our team arrives with one of Project Amazonas staff members who will be accompanying us down the river to the Madre Selva Field Station tomorrow morning. This will be our last update until we return to the city on June 15th for the weekend. So far the three of us who arrived early have been having a wonderful time. The food is delicious, the people are friendly and nice, and everything is beautiful. The hardest thing to adapt to so far has been the humidity (also for me personally the bugs), but we are getting used to it quickly! Pictures will come as soon as we return to the States. Until next time, Adios!
We embark on our adventure to Peru in 5 hours! We will meet up with the rest of our team in Iquitos, Peru on Thursday and venture to the Madre Selva field station Friday morning. Due to the lack of wifi at our project site we won’t be able to continuously update our blog, but we will call and check in with NINO weekly and update our blog whenever possible. 😀
Today was the fourth day that we have been at the work site! It’s quite a bit of work and we’re short two people this time. Olivia wasn’t feeling well and Summer started helping out at the school in the neighboring community. Last night I learned an interesting fact about the kids who go to school in Santo Tomas, they have about 33 kids that attend school regularly. Out of those 33 only three go on to secondary school in Yanashi, which is very expensive for them to attend because they have to pay a host family to stay with on top of their necessities for school. It’s such a small turn out, but it makes me realize how easy it is for kids in America to gain a proper education.
Today our workday consisted of leveling out more land for the clinic site. Edwin told us that we had to cut about seventeen meters worth of trees and in the couple of hours that we were there we cut about 10 meters, so overall it was a great workday, even with our group being so small! Upon arriving back to Madre Selva, the Rockhurst students (the biology class) were taking off. It was surprising how free everything felt with just six people there, plus I think it really allowed us to get to know one another better because we didn’t have to worry about random people giving us mean looks if we were talking too loud.
The rest of our day consisted of moving furniture that we took from the empty huts into our huts, napping in the big dormitory, eating and then playing charades at night. Sam W. found a weird bug bite/cut on his knee that looks really infected, if it’s not better by tomorrow he is going to let one of us cut it open and pour alcohol in it. After dinner we all had about an hour and a half to hang out so we decided to break up into groups and play charades. The greatest reenactments were: Jurassic Park and The Heart is a Lonely Warrior by Sam W. and A Bug’s Life and Johnny Tsunami by Sam H. Once the generator turned off we all waited in line to go to the restroom, but ALL of the bugs in the rain forest decided to hang out in our restrooms that night and attacked us as we tried to go in. There was only one clear one and even in that one we had to make sure there were no leaf cutter ants because Sam H. had been bitten by one before. Once we got to our huts, we thought that we were free from all of the bugs, but unfortunately Sam^2 were not. They had a beetle in their room and it was in Sam W’s bed, it got so bad that Brie went in their to kill beetle but it failed and we all just laid in our huts dying of laughter.
This morning our wake up call was a herd of cows passing by our huts. It was the most random thing ever, and if that wasn’t exciting enough Sam decided that his wound was too infected and wanted us to open it up and clean it. Summer played the role of surgeon and tried to keep Sam calm and she opened up his knee. All of us just stood around taking pictures and laughing because it was such a funny site to see. “Doctor” Summer advised Sam to keep it wrapped and then let it air out once we got back from the field site. At the work site today, we continued to chop trees and make burn piles. We have a little ways to go before we finish leveling everything out.
When we got back to Madre Selva Brie and I went in search for this spider that decided to hide itself in my mattress! It took us a while but we finally found it and really overkilled it because we freaked out so bad. This is where Brie and I lived for the past month! It was a lovely little hut inhabited by a large wolf spider and millions of mini ants. Regardless, I loved it and my moldy pillow!
Today and yesterday consisted of doing some more chopping and making large burn piles around the clinic site. We are trying to save all of the plantain trees and palm trees, but everything else gets chopped down. So far the land is looking really well! It’s going to be a nice large area where other things can be added on to in the future, should the community members find the need for them. From cutting all of the trees, the entire group has experienced millions of ant bites from the little ants that hide out on top of the trees and then fall on you once you tried to chop down the tree. The good thing is that the mosquitoes aren’t really biting too much; it’s really just everything other than mosquitoes that has been feasting on us since we have been here. Edwin, Emerson, and Devon come back tomorrow though so we will have a better idea of what to do since we’ve finished cutting the land for the clinic.
Every Sunday we have a rest day and go to the community to hang out with the members and play soccer. It is always so fun to get to see everyone in a relaxed state having fun and enjoying the company of one another. Everyone in the community is pretty close so being around them kind of makes you feel like you’re joining part of their family. Sunday is also the day when we get to talk with our family members! Everyone bought phone cards and tried calling but some of us weren’t that lucky, so we went back to Madre Selva with empty phone cards and more bug bites.
On Monday our materials for the clinic arrived! Yay! It was so nice to see people from all of the three communities get together and work towards bettering their health and communities. It was inspiring to see them care enough to travel the distance just to help us haul everything off of El Gran Yanashi. In the evening I went with Julio and his family to Yanashi to buy gas and we had the chance to talk about his family and different things that he thinks will help improve the community for his kids, the clinic being one of them. While we were coming back from Yanashi we got caught in a rainstorm and had to put bags over our heads so that we wouldn’t get as soaked, this made me realize the difficulties that people in the community can face if they have to make a late night trip to the clinic in Yanashi, which takes about an hour to get to in a slow motor boat. This clinic is really going to help everyone in the communities avoid nights like the one I experienced.
Greetings from the Madre Selva Biological Field Station in Peru! We’ve had an eventful first week, beginning with our landing in Iquitos, Peru. Brieanna Lara, Olivia Heath, Aurora Flipinski, and I arrived on the same flight. After disembarking, crossing the tarmac (and making acquaintance with hot humidity), slowly moving through customs, and grabbing our checked bags, we attempted to find an ATM that would allow us to take out local money (the Nuevo Sol) we needed to pay the taxi fare to our hostel. We would be staying a couple of nights in Iquitos before leaving to the Madre Selva.
Immediately, we were accosted by eager cab drivers. It was a bit overwhelming, but we managed to find an ATM and pay for a taxi to our hostel, La Pascana. Most taxis in Iquitos are mototaxis, essentially rickshaws pulled by motorcycles, and most vehicles of personal transportation are motorcycles or scooters. The streets of the city seemed to me a lawless and chaotic flow of traffic, where several vehicles drove abreast but no lanes lent order. Although we viewed it from the relative security of a car, I think it was an exhilarating introduction to Peru for all of us.
We arrived and checked into our hostel. A small kitchen and dining area, along with a front desk, greet visitors on arrival. Behind that, about ten or twenty rooms face an open courtyard. The rooms are pretty small and have two twin-sized beds and a bathroom. The showers, as I grew accustomed to during my stay in Nicaragua, do not have hot water. That’s fine; the cool showers are refreshing in the tropical climate.
Long story short: we three early arrivers spent a couple of days in the city, walking the streets and trying the food. Sam and Destiny were delayed a full day, so instead of getting some acclimatization time like we did, they arrived the morning of our departure to the jungle. Meanwhile, we met Summer Peete, who would be accompanying us on our boat ride to Madre Selva. She was supposed to start volunteering at a public clinic in the town of Yanashi. More on Yanashi in a bit.
The General Manager of Project Amazonas, Fernando, met with us in our hostel on the night of Thursday, the 23rd to discuss the next day’s travel. We would be riding in Project Amazonas’ 26’ covered aluminum speedboat, the Mai-Kai, on the ninety-mile, three-hour trip down the Amazon River. He also informed Summer that the new doctor at the Yanashi clinic was changing policy a bit, and she wouldn’t be able to volunteer there after all. She decided to accompany us to Madre Selva, where she was welcome to lodging, to talk over her options with Devon Graham, President and Scientific Director of Project Amazonas.
The next morning, Sam and Destiny finally showed up. Fernando met us at the hostel and accompanied us to the dock, via mototaxi (my first ride!). I enjoyed the boat ride, despite having to endure an uncomfortable wooden seat for three hours. The wind provided a nice break from the heat, and we were riding on a boat down the Amazon River! It was sort of surreal. I’ve heard about the rainforest and the Amazon River for my entire life, but it always seemed to far away and even mystic and intangible. Now I was here, on the huge, wide river walled in by rainforest on either side.
I’m attaching a map of the area surrounding the Madre Selva. It is on an Amazon tributary, the Rio Orosa. Getting there from the Amazon involves first entering another tributary. Along the banks of this river is the town of Yanashi, the largest community in the immediate area of the Madre Selva. I asked Devon what the population of Yanashi was, and I believe he told me it was 1,000 or so. That gives you a sense of the remoteness of the area. Yanashi is home to the closest medical clinic to the communities surrounding the Madre Selva, and it is twenty to thirty minutes away by speedboat, during the rainy season. During the dryer parts of the year, the water level recedes, making the channel we used impassible and the journey longer. Also understand that the communities have very few motorboats, and no speedboats, and that fuel is expensive. For locals, travel to Yanashi can take hours. That is why Nourish International, Project Amazonas, and the communities are teaming up to build a local clinic.
The Madre Selva Biological Field Station consists of a dining hall, bathroom facility with toilets and showers, two-story classroom building, a dormitory building with ten or so beds, and about eight huts, all on an acre or two of land. The buildings are all wooden platforms with the walls consisting of half wood, half screen, and open, thatched roofs. The dormitory has been occupied by a biology class from the U.S. all week. They left today, May 29th, along with Devon and some project Amazonas staff. It is much quieter, and the degree of our isolation has become much more tangible. It’s actually a pleasant change… anyway, back to our arrival and first week.
The day after our arrival, Devon took us to visit the work site for the first time. The site is a very short boat ride upstream. It is on a hill behind Julio’s (the Madre Selva Groundskeeper) house. Last year’s group had cleared and leveled the small plot of land. It is amazing how fast the plant life had re-colonized. We were given machetes, and started re-clearing. It became apparent how crucial last year’s efforts were. Although the amount of growth in so short a time was impressive, I could tell that getting it back to last year’s state would take only a few days of work. We worked alongside Devon, Julio, and Abram (an assistant groundskeeper and relative to Julio) that afternoon for a couple hours. In the humid heat the work was exhausting, but fun (in my opinion at least). I think our machete handling has been improving rapidly, but that day was the first time many of us had handled the tool, and it was probably amusing to watch from a local perspective. They basically use machetes from early childhood onward.
The next three days of work was much the same. Summer has enthusiastically joined us, at least for now. l was right, the re-clearing was fast. We have already begun the second stage of site preparation, clearing a space for building materials. We want construction to be well underway before we leave, and I think we’re on track!
– Sam W.
June 11 was our last full day in Yaounde. We left to return to Oku early in the morning for an 8AM bus back towards Bamenda.
June 12 (Wed) was a day for travels – heading from Yaounde back to home base. We arrived back in Oku in the evening and started preparing for our next part of the project.
June 13 (Thurs) we went around a few parts of Oku to check on the gardens we began in the first week. At this point, we found out that Simonkoh’s garden was doing the best. I don’t have any good pictures of the seedlings right now, but hopefully I can add some later once I get them. The rest of the day was spent doing individual errands. Some went to buy souvenirs and others went to the market to say hello to friends. Then, we left for Batibo, our next project site. That night, we met the 1st deputy mayor and had dinner at his house.
On June 14 (Friday)- Batibo is also a city in the Northwest, but it is farther west than Oku. We stayed in Hotel Arena by the newly constructed paved road leading from Bamenda, and we took most of our meals from St. Stephen’s Restaurant. Our accommodations were relatively comfortable. Our pluming was reliable and the decor was fun (there was a night club attached), but the odd thing was that we didn’t have sinks in our bathrooms. We spent some time planning our route with the officials at the Batibo Municipal Council and starting on the demonstration gardens. We also met a Peace Corps volunteer who lived in the area and did a little garden by the council as well as some farther away. We had a relatively long way to travel, but the farthest village, Ashong-Batibo, was also my favorite. The people were very welcoming and the garden was on the side of a mountain, so the view was great when we arrived and it was foggy.
That night, we met up with some of CAMAAY’s other volunteers (from Germany). We went to a fundraiser held by local youths for an orphanage. They sold drinks and had a dance competition, so it was fun to support them.
(Fundraiser, photo cred = Aubrey)
June 15 (Sat), we held a discussion for sports animators in the same community hall as the fundraiser was held. It was also within walking distance of our hotel. Maxie agreed to do some more stretching demonstrations for the local groups the next morning. When we did go out to the garden spots around Batibo, we took another truck borrowed from the Council and went with our development guide, Naomi. We also did a few needs assessments and talked with groups around town. With the upcoming local elections, we went to an SDF rally to talk to people. That evening, we went to the mayor’s house for dinner.
June 16 (Sun) was a busy day. Maxie started earlier than all of us, heading to meet the sports group for their weekly meeting. We started the day with some more presentations. This time, we covered our main three- Violence Against Women, Group Dynamics, and Menstruation. At the final presentation, we were able to pass out some more of the reusable feminine hygiene kits to the heads of the “Girls’ Corners” (discussion and meeting groups for women and young girls in the area). Naomi cooked us a delicious lunch from the food we received from the people in Ashong – plantains and a chicken. We took the rest of the evening to see Batibo. One group went to check out a local tree nursery (riding 4 to a motorcycle!) and the rest of us went to the Guzong Market.
(Warm Up Demo by Maxie)
June 17 (Mon) we left Batibo with 8 gardens completed. We passed through Bamenda, but the goal was to head back to Oku and pack our bags and say our goodbyes to friends and officials before we took our last inspection through the city. We went to the radio station and Aubrey went to get photos for the school partnership project.
June 18 (Tues) we went back to Mbam-Oku to see the progress on the community center and do some last minute work at the tree nursery. It was great to see new paint and the bathrooms being built, but of course – there work was not all complete.
June 19 (Wed) I don’t think we did too much of anything. We also said our last goodbye in person to the mayor and people who helped us at the municipal council, and then took a bus to Bamenda. We were planning on stopping in Limbe, a coastal city with black sand beaches, on our way back to the Douala Airport. However, the bus we needed to take was overnight… so we had a lot of time to spare in Bamenda. Most used the internet, some made copies, and others needed the ATM. We even had a chance to say goodbye to some of CAMAAY’s German volunteers that were That evening, we were invited for dinner at the house of a local director of an NGO – one of our coordinator’s friends. It was nice seeing the inside of another home. After that, we took our bus to Oku.
June 20 (Thurs) we left our spot in Oku in the morning to travel to Bamenda. We spent most of the day in Bamenda, just chilling. Most used the internet, some made copies, and others needed the ATM. We went to a fair trade store for souvenirs and just ended up at the cafe next door. It was great. That evening, we were invited for dinner at the house of a local director of an NGO – one of our coordinator’s friends. It was nice seeing the inside of another home. After that, we took our night bus to Limbe. Just getting there was an experience… but not the most comfortable xD…
June 21 (Fri) we arrived in Limbe. It was a bit rainy, but we still trekked around. We stored our luggage at the bus station, and then hit the market, a local lava flow, the beach, and then the primate reserve with a good cafe inside. We were happy about the final stop. They even had vegetarian burgers… a great start to returning to the US. But we did have to say goodbye to everyone. After we took a bus from Limbe to Doaula, we went straight to the Airport… and then were on our way before we knew it!
Here’s a recap of our third week in Cameroon!
We spent some more time setting up some demo gardens in Lui-Oku, Elak-Oku, Simonkoh-Oku and did a presentation in Jigijem-Oku on seed saving along with a garden this week. We were also in Ibal-Oku and did a variety of community activities, plus horseback riding.
(Lui-Oku Garden — what a trek!!)
On the 7th of June, we had our International Youth Leadership Camp in the Elak-Oku Community Hall. All were welcome to come and discuss various topics such as community development, globalization, and youth participation. We also took the end of the gathering to distribute more of the Days for Girls menstruation kits.
But the highlights for this week involve the varying bouts of sickness we all passed around. It ranged from varying stages of nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite to endless vomiting and full-blown parasites. But for most cases, we were able to handle it with a first aid kit, medicine and good ol’ R&R. But it’s true – poor Maxie had to go to the local hospital and have an experience with the health care in a developing nation. She was held for a few days and treated for malaria (though, can’t tell if that was the final diagnosis).
(Maxie in the Elak-Oku hospital! Aww = photo cred. Grace)
And me (Ash) personally dealt with about a week of “mango worms,” fly larva lain on damp clothing and hatch under the skin. It was gross and varying degrees of itch and pain – if you are morbidly curious, Google it. This was all leading up to our trip to the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, to meet the Prime Minister! He hails from Oku, so he was interested in hearing about our projects. We met him in the morning at his office and then we dined together in the evening. It was all very interesting and surprisingly pleasant.
So, that covers up until about June 11, our last night in Yaounde.
Sorry for the delays in posting. This is an entry from the second week of the trip.
Written June 3 (Mon)… Week 2
Here’s to another week full of multiple projects. In fact, it’s going to take some serious concentration for me to recall everything that we’ve been up to in order, but I can say that this week was full of presentations, youth activities, demonstration gardens for the seed multiplication project, and preparation for our Youth Camp. For the most part, we follow a schedule, but honestly, the concept of time and punctuality is different here. Today, for example – we woke up to rain. It rained for hours, so we decided to delay our departure to the gardens in Simonkoh. We said “let’s leave between 11 and 12”… and we ended up leaving at 1:30 J
So, today (June 3) we sent two of the team members (the organic farmer, Joan and me –UNM’s student) out to Simonkoh village along with Castro (our guide from the local council here) and 7 interns from a university in Bamenda. The others stayed behind to work on preparations for the Youth Camp, as I said, and are now very excited. Once the two gardens with an elderly group and a women’s group were set up, the team returned back to Elak.
(Prep for the Youth Camp)
Yesterday (June 2), some of the group went to church, and in the afternoon we all went to the field near the Community Center in Elak and played several games with the kids here as part of CamAAY’s “All kids should play” campaign. We tried several things – from Duck Duck Goose to tag. But it was hilarious to watch the kids reverse the objective in tag… we tried teaching them, but there always seems to be a bit of a language barrier… so instead of running away from the person who was “it”, they all ran towards Aubrey. The throng of children tackling the lone “white man” was spectacular J It definitely reminded me more of American football. But we all had fun.
(Playtime = photo cred. Aubrey)
Saturday (June 1), Maxie went to the radio station at the crack of dawn to do a Q&A with curious callers about what we’ve been up to. I’m glad she was willing to represent us at such an early hour! She also advertised for our presentation that afternoon on Sports and Fitness. We had some technical difficulties setting up, but we presented information about the benefits of sports and prepped for some demonstrations in the field. The local women’s handball team and the soccer team were there. We also introduced sports jerseys that Aubrey’s high school donated for the community to use. It was great to see everyone’s face light up and to connect with everyone via common clothing. Once we were all dressed up, we went to the field for the demonstration portion of our presentation. OSU’s Maxie, Grace, Abby, and Aubrey led warm ups, conditioning, cardio, and cool-downs in a big circle. I loved the feeling of community we had, and I’m so pleased that the women were so willing to do the (probably crazy-looking) exercises they prepared with us. Plus, the footballers (or – the paid soccer players) stuck around to give pointers and even ask questions on certain stretches.
(Community Sports Day = photo cred. Aubrey)
Friday (May 31), we went to Jigijem village to give presentations on violence against women and group building. Joan was sick, so we postponed the seed sharing and demonstration gardens for later this week. We had some big delays though, due to the people expecting us later this week, and then the electricity going out. So, before we presented, we ended up doing impromptu activities with the local children. We danced and played until the community was ready to receive us. Then we gave the presentations and distributed pens and notebooks. This time around, there seemed to be more trouble between language and cultural differences – especially when it came to the perceptions on rape, but Castro translated everything into Oku and we tried our best to answer questions. After the presentations, we served food to the group.
(Jigijem = photo cred. Maxie)
Thursday (May 30), we also did presentations, but this time we did them in the council center in Elak. Before we began, we met with a women’s empowerment center funded by the government that offered trade classes. We talked and did a needs assessment. Then we went next door to the council’s hall and overcame our technical difficulties to present 4 different topics along with Oku translations: group building and dynamics, violence against women, ecofeminism + climate change, and seed saving/organic farming practices. It took several hours, but in the end, the message seemed to be well-received and we served food. The goal is to get hard copies of all the presentations to distribute to all of the groups we’ve talked to. The seed saving instructions are vital, so we’ll work on making that information especially clear.
Wednesday (May 29), we were still in Mbam. The OSU portion of the team worked with local schools to plant thousands of seeds in “polytine” bags for pre-germination. All of the trees will be planted into one of the sub-division’s major water-catchment zones that have been affected by deforestation. Joan and I went to do a demonstration garden nearby and one on the top of a mountain. We met a nice herbalist and had to ride 3 people to a bike to get to the top. There, we worked with another women’s group to plant the 15 seeds.
So, tomorrow (June 4) we’ll head to neighboring villages like Lui to meet with the communities and do some more demo gardens.
Hopefully you’ll hear from us again in about a week. Our internet hasn’t been working properly for the past few days, so if I really do manage to post this on Tuesday, it’ll be a job well done! Beating the odds, for sure.
I’m not exactly sure what our focus for this week is, but I can tell you that we are almost done here in Elak-Oku. Our next destination is the sub-division (I think) Batibo. We’ll leave for there on the 9th!
Greetings from Cameroon,
It’s been a long journey, but the project teams have arrived and are finally getting comfortable. We landed in Douala, a major port city on the west coast of Africa, on the evening of May 16 (last Thursday)… and from that moment on, it has been an adventure. We were unfortunately delayed in our departure from Douala, due to Swissport employees going on strike… our baggage and the donations did not arrive with us.
(Douala = photo cred. Maxie)
Although we were quite uncomfortable, stuck with the same clothes for… well, a week… we learned some valuable lessons about packing essentials on your carry on as opposed to hoards of American candy and junk food :] Luckily, the team persevered and gained a great bond from the communal atmosphere. “Be real about your needs.” From hand sanitizer to malaria pills.
The trip to our project site, the subdivision Oku, took at least a day’s journey. The crowded car-bus ride gave a good perspective on how difficult it can be to get around in Cameroon due to poor road conditions. It took us about 6-8 hours to get to Bamenda, the big city of the Northwest province + headquarters to our partner CamAAY, and then about 3-5 to get to Elak-Oku, the main village of the subdivision we are staying in.
Douala had us sweating in our sheets, but Elak-Oku is much higher elevation, located in the mountains around Mt. Oku (a “touristic” volcano), so the weather here is cooler. In the afternoons and evenings, it pours rain, and at night, when there aren’t any clouds, the stars could take your breath away. The intense green with the snaking brown roads draped with clouds gives the distinct feeling of being in the middle of paradise.
The flip side is the sheer remoteness and underdeveloped infrastructure of the area, but the hotel-esque flat we’re staying in fits most of our needs. Running water and electricity are patchy, but we do have toilets. Toilets are definitely a luxury here, so we’re grateful. When the water is on, the tap is fairly clear, and probably potable, but most of us still stick to the bottled water, iodine tablets, or filtration + purification systems. Electricity and working lights have been available about ¾ of the time, and the two cell phone network providers here in Cameroon usually work. It’s due to an “internet stick” that I am able to update this remotely.
(Elak-Oku = photo cred. Maxie)
Based on our experience and several interviews and meetings with community groups and schools around Oku, we’ve been doing needs assessments. With the information we’ve collected, our plan is to digitize the reports, summarize, organize and eventually make the immediate needs public. We hope that this will help other Nourish chapters and interested parties to come up with project ideas and connect resources with the appropriate people. It has been great meeting all of the community members. Oku has been very welcoming.
From day one, we began an educational campaign about menstruation, pre-marital sex and pregnancy. The Ohio State Nourish chapter partnered with Days for Girls to bring hundreds of reusable (washable) sanitary napkins to women groups here. Traditionally, these topics are taboo, but we have been able to bridge the topic and answer a lot of questions and misconceptions related to these topics. One of CamAAY’s goals is to set up regularly meeting Girls Corners to talk about these subjects and other hardships that women in particular face, along with providing a means for continuing this educational campaign when we’re gone. These groups will be in charge of distributing the sanitary napkins and, hopefully, working towards making their own here in Cameroon.
So, most of this first week was dedicated to getting to know the community, greeting officials, visiting schools and community groups for needs assessments and giving presentations on both women’s health and school partnerships. May 20 was also Cameroon’s National Day – celebrating the unification of the former British Cameroons and French region of Cameroon as the (United) Republic of Cameroon in 1972. We marched in the parade as CamAAY, promoting our educational campaign.
(National Day Parade = photo cred. Aubrey)
Finally, yesterday marked the beginning of the community empowerment center construction. It was great to see so many people come out to greet us and work on the center. We purchased materials and helped to deliver stones and sand in the heat, but the center belongs to the people of Mbam-Oku. Their dedication was impressive. Plus they plaster so much better than we do! Thank goodness no one left the construction and piping to us!
Hopefully by the end of this month, significant progress will have been made, and the center we’re helping with will be fully operational. It already serves as a temporary school and gathering area, so with toilets, and completed side rooms, it can gain significant capacity to hold other resources like books and computers.
We also visited another school to distribute the first of our pen-pal letters to begin the connection between a New Mexico elementary school, and a primary school in Mbam-Oku. We listened to the kids read their penpal’s letters and their responses.
(Mbam school pen-pals = photo cred. Joan)
I am very excited to work some more on the center tomorrow and begin the next portion of our project – seed demonstration gardens. We’ve packed 15 different varieties of seeds from Seed Programs International to test in small quantities in at least four different community gardens. The goal is that with this and our presentations, the various groups can increase their crop diversity and seed security by learning to tend to the soil needs and save the seeds. Our organic famer is super excited to start, and I am looking forward to getting in the dirt.
We also visited the tree nursery to talk with the community members setting up the different varieties (pre-germination and planning) for a water catchment project. With educational campaigns and renewal of the trees in the naturally forested areas here in the mountain, the communities will regain an important area for water catchment.
So, that’s the plan for this week. Next week or so, we should begin working on training “sports animators” for the women groups and preparing for the International Youth Camp.
Until then, feel free to leave us a message.
Welcome to the University of New Mexico (UNM) 2013 Peru Project Blog.
This year, the UNM chapter will be continuing our partnership with Project Amazonas, a Peruvian non-profit organization dedicated to serving the communities and natural environment of the Amazon Rainforest, and local Peruvian communities in the Loreto region, to continue working on the construction of a health clinic on the Rio Orosa in the Peruvian Amazon. We began working on this project last summer, and I encourage you to visit our past blog posts to see what we accomplished. This year, our chapter has raised $8500 for the project and we will begin actual construction on the facility. This clinic is essential because the nearest government-run health clinic lacks basic supplies and is often inaccessible for long periods of time due to the variability of river levels in the area. This clinic will serve approximately 1500 people in nine communities (Comandancia, Santo Tomas, Nuevo Israel, Santa Ursula, Puerto Fujimori, Santa Rosa, San Pedro de Orosa, Pobre Alegre, and Nuevo Paucarillo) in one of the most remote and isolated regions on the planet. Improving healthcare among the various communities will help raise the standard of living and also help alleviate many of the hardships associated with daily life in the jungle region.
We have 6 team members this year: Aurora, Brie, Destiny, Olivia, Sam H., and Sam W. Each week you will hear from a different person as we progress through the project. Due to the remote location, however, blog posts will be posted once we return to the United States in June or July.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the entire Nourish-UNM chapter for their hard work, support, and dedication this year. This project would not have been possible without them.