THE FINAL BLOG POST:
Okay, everyone; the project is done (it has been for a while), we’re home alive and safe (albeit injured), and it’s time for one last blog post, cuz you all deserve it…
So What Exactly Did We Do Again?
We did kind of a lot of things on the ground, so we don’t really blame you if you can’t remember it all or don’t even try to keep track of all that stuff. We can hardly remember ourselves! So we decided to create a small, handy, week-by-week overview of all the stuff we did on our project. See below:
Week 1: Arrival, BFF meetings, attend funeral, begin work on water project.
Week 2: Continue work on water project, begin volunteering at orphanage, attend community leader meeting at local politician’s house, begin planning and preparing for marriage seminar, meet Egyptian volunteer Abdallah, set up for marriage seminar, marriage seminar begins.
Week 3: Marriage seminar continues, attend child sponsor meeting, interviewed by local radio station, visit hospital, travel to nearby city of Bamenda, daytrip to Lake Oku (crater lake) and tea plantation/nature conservatory.
Week 4: Prepare and paint BFF office front room, assist with materials for future nutrition seminar, attend traditional Kom wedding ceremony, meeting about youth workshop, visit Fahn (local royalty) at palace.
Week 5: Set up and begin youth workshop, assist neighbors in making Cameroonian breakfast.
Week 6: Visit hospital again, finish youth workshop, meet owners of the house we are staying in (Dennis and Rose), water project completion ceremony in neighboring town of Alim, edit workshop manual, birthday party for Nathalie, travel to Limbe, stay with Dennis and Rose in other house, get transported to airport, depart.
Ring a bell? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Reflections/What We Think We Did:
So the project was pretty awesome. We completed so much more than we were expecting to accomplish: painting and the orphanage just kind of happened, and we had no idea how many close personal connections we would eventually come to make in the community. Our expected outcomes were also pretty amazing: the water project, despite a few setbacks, was successful, and both the marriage seminar and youth workshop seemed to get a very important conversation about sex and STIs rolling.
Through our work at the orphanage, we hope we were able to provide a brief couple of weeks of entertainment for the children; we certainly learned a lot from them, and they certainly made our experience so much more full of laughter and joy. For a “tangible” benefit here, ask Atika about her foot! (Okay, maybe not an obvious benefit, but it was a story we will remember forever, and it did allow for a few extra laughs down the line). Through our work painting the office and helping with materials for future workshops, we hope we were able to help BFF tackle all the important issues it is hoping to address within the Fundong community; even with this small work, we hope we were able to improve the image of their organization and better communicate their intentions to the community at large (Tangible Benefit: painted walls, laminated foods). Through our work at the water project, we hope we were able to help an important task reach completion; although our “tangible” outcomes—the pathetic physical work we contributed—are minor in this project on a personal/individual level, the fact that we were able to assist in some way and show that we support the community at least on an ideological level—we were risking enduring blisters on our lovely hands for them!—provides a much greater benefit: the continuation of a cross-cultural conversation and sentiment of friendship and understanding between our community and theirs. Lastly, in the seminar and workshop, we “tangibly” distributed packets with important information and “tangibly” spent more than two weeks in a classroom discussing these issues, but a more important outcome is again the continuation of this dialogue of global health, healthy and caring relationships, and solidarity against STIs and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that affects us all. Intangible benefits > tangible benefits, period.
The food, the hospitality, the transportation, the project, the laughs, the pictures, the arguments, the injuries: it was all so wonderfully overwhelming and fun and new. Fundong has become a sort of second home for us, and we all would go back or repeat the experience in a heartbeat if offered the chance. To give an accurate written account that fully captures this experience and our lives spent over that six weeks is impossible, not to mention the innumerable benefits—both tangible and intangible—possibly gained on either side of the BFF-Nourish relationship. Therefore, I will leave it at that. If you want us to attempt to describe it to you in conversation, I’m guessing you’ll probably have the same amount of luck. Rather, see how this experience has changed us as people and in the way we act in day-to-day life; let us tell you about this experience and all of its benefits and complexities through our actions and transformed worldviews, rather than through words that can never do it justice.
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