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Tuesday
Feb122013

We're Hiring!

 

Seven years ago this week, I celebrated my first Fête de la Jeunesse (Youth Day) in Cameroon. Just weeks before, I’d been warmly welcomed by the teachers, students, and parents of Doumbouo, the community where I had come to volunteer as an English teacher. Breaking Ground emerged out of the time I spent in Doumbouo, through the community’s commitment to education, their spirit of entrepreneurship, and their fierce determination. (You can read the full story here.) Current Executive Director Alex Moore joined me there in the year of our founding. She taught 50-year-old school teachers and 12-year-old girls to hold paint brushes for the first time and directed the painting of educational murals in the school’s newly refurbished classrooms.

Four years into our work in Cameroon, when the time came for me to pass on the reins of Breaking Ground’s leadership, Alex took charge. During her tenure as Executive Director, she has helped transform Breaking Ground from a young, emerging entity into a mature and successful organization. Among her many accomplishments, she has reformed and expanded our women’s entrepreneurial program, forged strategic partnerships with local and international organizations, and secured grants from a half dozen foundations. She did all this, and more, while working just 20 hours per week for Breaking Ground.

After nearly three years of dedicated service as our Executive Director, the time has come for Alex to pursue more fully her career as an artist, writer, and educator. Thanks to her successes in fundraising and program development, her departure finds us as an organization ready for a change, too. With two full-time employees in Cameroon, a robust set of programs, and a demanding fundraising and grant-writing portfolio, Breaking Ground’s Board of Directors has decided to invest in the hiring of a full-time Executive Director. We look forward to harnessing the energy, new ideas, and talent of new leadership—and we will be forever grateful for the passion and commitment Alex has poured into our work these past few years.

Please help spread the word about this important opening, and feel free to contact me should you have any questions about the position, our transition, or our programs.
Sincerely,

Lindsay Clarke
Founder, Chair of the Board of Directors

 

Saturday
Feb092013

Cameroonian Recipes

Bring a taste of Cameroon and West Africa into your kitchen with these recipes! They are a delicious way to mix up your dinner routine. 

Cameroon is an ethnically and geographically diverse country and the country's cuisine reflects this diversity. Over the next couple of weeks we will be adding a selection of Cameroonian recipes to our blog. First up, a basic tomato stew with rice, fried plantains and pili pili sauce.

 

TOMATO STEW

Ingredients
8-10 big tomatoes, chopped                                                    
1 large onion, chopped
½ - 1 cup vegetable oil 
fresh hot pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp ground ginger 
3 cloves garlic 
1 tsp salt 
2 bullion cubes
1 Tbsp tomato paste

Saute onion in 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the oil and salt. Add the other ingredients. Cook for at least half an hour, and serve over rice or with fried plantains.

You may think you're adding too much oil, but it should be oily.

Tomato stew served over rice, with fried plantains.

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FRIED PLANTAINS                                    

Ingredients
very ripe plantains                                                                 
oil 

Peel plantains and slice lengthwise, or at a diagonal. Heat oil in a skillet. Place slices in hot oil (they should be covered). Turn once for even cooking. When golden brown, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Optional: sprinkle with a little salt. Let cool before eating. Serve with pili.

Use very ripe plantains; they will be black. The plantain shown here with just a little green isn't ripe enough. 

The plantains should be cooked in enough vegetable oil to cover them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PILI PILI

This spicy tomato condiment goes well with fried plantains or fries.

Ingredients
2 cups chopped tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped habanero

Mix all ingredients together and blend. Store in a covered jar in refrigerator. Serve cold.

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Monday
Jan072013

Our Sixth Community Project

(L,R) Théophile Sobngwi, executive director of RIDEV, with Program Director Paul Zangue.

It has been almost two years since members of the development committee of Baleveng first approached Breaking Ground with their plans for a water pump and reservoir. Community members currently wade into a small, muddy pool to fetch water, and the rate of water-related illnesses is alarmingly high. In 2011 alone there were 650 documented cases of water-related diseases in the area. Building a better water source is the first step to a healthier community, but we will also start an education program to teach community members how to safely treat their water.

Thanks to One Day's Wages and all our generous donors, we will begin work in the community of Baleveng almost immediately: We hope to break ground in February, as this will allow us to accomplish the majority of construction before the rainy season begins. We are able to move forward rapidly because before even presenting the project to our board for approval, let alone beginning the process of applying to One Day's Wages for financial support, we had already carefully assessed the community's commitment and readiness.

Though our work has branched out into capacity-building projects, it was working with communities like Baleveng -- communities that have already established their needs and taken steps to address them -- that was the original impetus behind Breaking Ground. Things like enthusiasm and engagement are not easily measured, but, working with our partner RIDEV, we have established criteria by which we assess a project. They include:

Need
Does the proposed project provide an effective and sustainable solution to a well-documented need?

Community Organization
What groups already exist in the community? What are their purposes, and what have they accomplished?

Project Inclusion
Will the proposed project meet the needs of all community members? Who has been present at the meetings when the proposed project was discussed and planned? Who spoke and voted at these meetings? Have the opinions of all groups (including youth, women, and the elderly) been taken into account by the community leaders?

Commitment
What has been done so far to ameliorate the problem? Despite lack of financial resources, what has the community done on its own? Has the community started saving money for the project, and/or are there plans for contributions (monetary or otherwise) from all members of the community? 

Over the course of 2011, Program Director Paul Zangue worked closely with Théophile Sobngwi, executive director of RIDEV and Breaking Ground board member, to answer all these questions in regards to Baleveng. They confirmed the project's grassroots foundation and profound importance within the community. Since then, while we have worked in the U.S. to raise funds with One Day's Wages, every member of Baleveng has contributed $6 to $12.

With all this preparatory work in place, it is now finally time to break ground on our sixth community project.


Monday
Dec032012

Welcome Back, Andrea!

Meet Andrea McNees, of Pleasanton, Calif., who recently worked in Tanzania. After being on leave, she is now back as a board member for Breaking Ground. She talked recently about her agriculture and development work in Tanzania, which are also key focus areas for Breaking Ground: 

Food sovereignty, income security, project sustainability. When I work in the developing world, I look for responsible organizations focusing on these values. Breaking Ground is one of them -- with its goal of improving Cameroonian living conditions without overwhelming local resources.

My interest in agriculture began in a city -- London -- at the height of Oxfam's fair trade campaign, and it drove me to work for an agricultural distribution company that had production regions across North and Central America. Here I also developed an interest in labor reform. After traveling through India and south-east Asia, I saw directly the needs of subsistence farmers in the developing world. So I began the international agricultural development master's program at the University of California, Davis, with a focus in conservation agriculture.

Between 2011 and 2012, I worked with 2Seeds Network to design and manage a development project in Kwakiliga, Tanzania, where I taught people small business skills and improved agricultural technologies for sunflower oil production. Having spent 11 months working closely with these remarkable farmers, whose high spirits directly contradicted their unfortunate life circumstances, serves as a daily reminder of how little separates us from people born into poverty.  

There is a Swahili proverb often used at farewells, which my own Tanzanian father used upon my departure from Tanzania:

Milima haikutani, bali wanadamu hukutana. (Mountains do not meet, but people meet). 

It is meant to lessen the sadness upon saying goodbye by instead celebrating the gift of having met, which I see as the very reason why I have dedicated my career to poverty reduction. People, connections, opportunities. It is for these reasons that I am fortunate to work with like-minded individuals at Breaking Ground who share this unique background in and dedication to development.

In the immediate future, I intend to continue my development work stateside and am fortunate to be a board member with Breaking Ground.

 

Sunday
Oct282012

Peace Corps partnership strengthens Breaking Ground

Meet Jessica Veldman, a Peace Corps volunteer who worked with Breaking Ground in Cameroon for about a year and a half, from Jan. 2011 to July 2012. As one of many accomplishments, Jessica played a significant role in Breaking Ground's Women's Entrepreneurial Program in Dschang where she worked with Chymène, the course instructor, and Paul to develop the course. Thank you, Jessica!

How did you spend your time in Cameroon?

I was in Cameroon for 26 months as a community economic development Peace Corps volunteer. Basically I had the freedom to create my own schedule and work with whom I wanted. So I worked a lot with an orphanage in Dschang, a blind center, the prison, and a lot with Breaking Ground.

Describe your work with Breaking Ground.

In terms of teaching, I taught Chymene (the Breaking Ground business class formatrice) the business concepts that she in turn taught all the women in the business classes. I also developed and taught very basic business concepts to mainly illiterate women in the valley of the southwest region of Cameroon.
You taught others and must also have learned a lot yourself.

I learned a lot during the first few months of working with Breaking Ground in terms of how to work in Cameroon. I had to develop a manual on how to train illiterate women basic business concepts and find different games and tools to illustrate everything I said. I also learned a lot about Cameroon's culture. Paul Zangue, Breaking Ground's program director, helped me so much. He also helped me make connections, which was really important to me. I tried to stay away from actually teaching the business classes with GADD. I would go for support, but I mainly wanted Chymene to be able to teach on her own so that the program would carry on when I left.

What are you doing now that you're back in the U.S.?

I am currently getting an International MBA, concentrating on French. I'm also working my way through grad school as a graduate assistant. 

Do you think of Cameroon now that you're back?

I look back on my time in Cameroon quite often. I've only been gone for a couple months, so it's still very fresh in my mind. I think it was a very positive experience for me. I loved everyone I met. I loved the work I did. I highly recommend the Peace Corps to anyone. I am so grateful for the experience and feel as though I am a better person as a result of it.

Why do you think development work is important?

The reason I loved working with Breaking Ground was because the business classes were sustainable. The techniques the women learned made a huge impact on their business practices, which then influenced their own economic situation. The micro loans changed some of these women's lives. I saw firsthand what some of them were able to do with that money. More importantly, I saw their own sense of empowerment. Women in Cameroon usually take the back seat to men. However, during those classes, you could see that they felt more confident in themselves and understood that they could do so much if they wanted. It was amazing to see that change.
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