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Friday
Jul012011

Alex's Trip to Cameroon: Women in N’gaoundéré 

After my adventure in the Lebialem Valley, the next major voyage on my trip was taking the train to N’gaoundéré. Unlike the roads to Folepi and Nkong, the train to Adamoua region is fairly luxurious: we slept in a four person sleeping car, we ate in the train restaurant and were offered “room service” for breakfast in the morning. Of course, you can also buy baton de manioc, peanuts, mangos, honey, mandarins and bananas from the train window at any of the station stops. We arrived surprisingly promptly at 8am and were greeted by Miriamou, a long time friend and recent WEP N’gaoundéré graduate.

After resting for a couple of hours, Paul and I set to work.  The goal of our trip was to see how the women who have received funding are progressing and to make plans for our future classes here. We visited as many of the grant recipients as possible, asking questions about their businesses, the class and their plans for the future. This part of my job is truly a pleasure as I love meeting with each woman and learning about her work and her family.  It is also very satisfying to hear what the women learned through our class, how their businesses have grown and to think about ways to support these women further in the future.

Above, I am filming Haira Oumarou as she shows me how to use the knitting machine she purchased with a grant from Breaking Ground. Haira used to have to rent time on someone else's machine, so owning her own both decreases her overhead, and increases her producivity. Though  not allowed to open a boutique in the market, and thus sell directly to a wide variety of clients, Haira sends the children's clothing she produces to stores, or to friends in the quarter. She told me that one of the most important things she learned in our business class was to value herself -her skills and her time.

Here I am speaking with Mbai Eunice in her vegetable farm. She received a grant from Breaking Ground in 2009 and used the money to expand her plot and purchase an electric water pump.  This expansion has allowed her to diversify her crops to include eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, huckleberry, folere and corn. The pump allows her to keep all this delicious produce well watered throughout the dry season, increasing her annual yields.

Whilst in N’gaoundéré, I was also conducting surveys with the women, gathering the information that will help Breaking Ground design a basic family health curriculum that responds to the specific needs of the community. This part of my trip was more challenging.  As I listened to the stories of sickness in the family, miscarriages and the rising number of people in the neighborhood with HIV, I was further convinced of the importance of adding a health element to our classes. The need and the desire are palpable.

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