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Entries in empowerment (2)


Turning hopes into goals

In February I will be traveling back to Cameroon to meet the latest grant recipients, visit the new nurseries and discuss the nuts and bolts of our programs with Paul and our partner organizations. My most important task, however, will be to listen.

The defining principle of Breaking Ground is that Cameroonians know best what they want and need and that it is not our place to come in with unilateral solutions. Much of our work, therefore, is to spend time with community members, earning their trust, learning about their struggles, and providing a forum for them to transform their hopes into goals.

Around the holiday season, those of us lucky enough to live in relative prosperity are often reminded that we take our creature comforts -- running water, electricity, and easy access to fairly affordable and nutrient rich food -- for granted and are asked to donate to those less fortunate. What we are less likely to be reminded of is that those of us who have been blessed with a strong education and a supportive community have also been given a sense of entitlement, a spirit of agency and a belief that if something is broken, we can probably fix it.

Empowerment is a buzz word, used so much in the non-profit landscape that we can stop hearing it.  However, the effects of listening and responding to an individual’s needs are real. As Haira, one of our Women's Entrepreneurial Program graduates put it, the class helped her learn her own value and the value of the work she does.

In Cameroon, we work with communities like Doumbouo and Foreke-Dschang that are already full of entrepreneurial zeal and have their plans drawn up. But we also work with communities that haven’t yet dared to give voice to their hopes, such as the villages of Folepi and Nkong where resources are too limited for villagers to save for their own medical expenses, let alone plan to improve their hospital. Here, our income generation programs will give the community the funds to invest in their hopes and the confidence to believe that together they can accomplish their goals.

Click here to watch a video made by our recent summer intern, Maddie Spagnola, that brings the WEP classes to life, and includes exerts of my meeting with Haira.


Work is underway in Keuleng!

Check out these photos of the astounding progress made this past week. Having already invested almost two decades of savings into the project, the community had already laid the building's stone foundation and built its cement columns. In just a week since the funds were transferred to Keuleng to begin construction, cinder blocks have already been made and the walls are being erected under the guidance of a local civil engineer.

The Chief of Keuleng (left) in front of the quickly rising walls.

A sand delivery (left) and drying cinder blocks (right).

Cinder blocks being laid on the already-built foundation.