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This morning we had our final meeting with key personnel at Central Pharmacy (CP). This meeting gave us a chance to complete the face-to-face dialogue that had begun eleven days ago, now that we had toured many facilities throughout the country. This ongoing dialogue will help me prioritize my White Cross work back in Canada. I cannot stress enough how impressed I have been with all of the work being done here in Cameroon and especially here at CP, which is the hub of distribution for the work occurring throughout Cameroon.

 

It has been an amazing trip. I am privileged to be part of a group from North America that is committed to assisting the work in Cameroon. Such a long-term, kingdom-building approach has and will continue to have a meaningful impact on the work here. I have also been deeply impressed by the foresight of the early missionaries, who saw fit to include Cameroonians in their plans of leadership. Some 60 years ago,

the reigns were handed over to Cameroonians, and the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) was formed. This was not the end of our work in Cameroon, but the decision gave Cameroonians a chance to step into leadership and learn how to manage themselves. Today, when many African countries still struggle with internal corruption because of poor leadership transitions and training, the CBC shows that it does not have to be like that. While not perfect, the CBC serves as a model for many similar organizations in West Africa. For us, learning to serve and partner with the CBC exemplifies true Christian leadership and partnership in contrast to the traditional Western model of controlling and running things OUR WAY. This partnership with the CBC reminds me of Paul’s language throughout many of his letters (e.g. Col. 4:11) of being “co-workers” together. All of those involved in White Cross and all of those involved in the work in Cameroon are co-workers for the Kingdom of God.

 

 

Last night and today we toured the Rain Forest International School (RFIS) and ate at the hostel that houses the NAB missionary youth who are attending school in Yaoundé. The RFIS is the High School attended by missionary students, other foreign students as well as some Cameroonian youth. Several hostels house youth from different missions groups. While here we learned that the hostel parents for the NAB hostel will be leaving. Do you know a couple who could step in to fill the gap?

We also travelled to Douala today and visited Mboppi hospital. While there we had an opportunity to experience hospital care on a whole different level. Here is what happened:

Just as we were entering the hospital, Tim Willson informed us that he was not feeling well. He looked very pale. We asked the hospital administration who had met us if he could be shown to a washroom. He was definitely not feeling well. Eventually he was taken to a room (the only available space was a private maternity room!). A doctor consulted with him for over half-an-hour, gave some prescriptions that the head administrator (NAME) himself made sure were filled, etc. He was well-cared for. During this time, we continued our tour and I tried (poorly, I would say) to serve as a photographer. Just before we left (several hours later than expected of course), Cal Hohn asked for the bill and he took care of it. Later, when he was feeling better, Tim asked: how much did that cost (private room, private consultation, two prescriptions)? 3500 CFA replied Cal. That translated into about $7. How can that be? First, it is still a lot of money for the average Cameroonian. Second, the personnel who work at the hospitals, especially the doctors, do so at a fraction of the pay that they could receive working in other places. They are dedicated Christians working to touch the lives of their fellow Cameroonians in both body and soul. Third, the ongoing donations from White Cross help to reduce the overhead for these hospitals and clinics so that can touch as many lives as possible. Tim says thank you…

 

 

Most of the day was spent travelling to Yaoundé from Bamenda, getting to see even more of Cameroon. Today I spent some time reflecting on traffic and culture.

I have already written about the driving experience (Day 3) and will not repeat those details here. Certainly there are times when a cliché rings true, and the traffic is something that has to be experienced. Those who have been here know exactly what I am saying. Okay, one story… We dropped JJ Williams off at the airport as he had to fly out earlier than Tim and me. After seeing him off, we queued up in one of several lines of traffic that were working their way out of the airport. As we inched along, more cars backup up behind us until eventually someone decided it was far enough and formed a new line beside us. That line begin backing up and another line formed on our other side. Eventually, where one line had been running down our lane in the parking lot, we now had four lines all trying to merge into one line of traffic. All across the airport lot, we saw the same thing happening. Almost 30 lines were all converging into one. Yet not one person laid on the horn, shouted or gave any indication of “getting back” at or cutting off any other drivers. Sure there was jostling for position, but if they did not make it into the line behind one car, they simply got behind the next car.

 

 

I am not trying to romanticize driving in Cameroon. I certainly would not want to have to drive here, and many accidents do happen I am told. Yet I also notice a clear difference

between Cameroonian and North American driving. The significant difference is about expectation. Cameroonians do not appear to have expectations of their right to be first in line, to not be cut off, etc. Certainly Cameroonians are opportunistic and will do what they can to get ahead. But, if it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. I don’t need to tell my North American readers that many of us expect/demand to get ahead. When we don’t get what we want, when we are cut off or feel wronged we can get very angry. What happens when you have an entire country where most individuals carry such expectations?  I’m sure some Cameroonians have been influenced by these types of expectations, although I hope that such influence is insignificant in the long run. Certainly it gives us something to think about in terms of cultural differences, and perhaps we can learn from them. I, for one, will be pondering this for a while.

 

 

Keir Hammer and JJ Williams meet with Dr. Pius Tih

Today I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Pius Tih (more commonly referred to as Prof. Tih), the Director of Health Services for the CBC and Rev. Godwill Ncham, the General Secretary of the CBC.  Both men graciously made time in their hectic schedules to meet with us.  They expressed deep appreciation for all of the White Cross volunteers whose tireless work makes everything possible.  Having now travelled to a few of the institutions who benefit from the White Cross shipments, I wholeheartedly agree.  White Cross is nothing without its network of volunteers.  Whether someone contributes a bandage, a baby blanket, or a bed, each one helps a system whose goal is to reach out with Christian compassion and provide health care to all who have need.  I now have first-hand knowledge that many, many people receive treatment, who would not otherwise be able to afford medical care.

Staff at the Nkwen Integrated Health Centre

After these meetings, I had a chance to visit one of the 24 Integrated Health Centres that the CBC operates.  During the visit, I was able to observe the dental services that are offered.  Such services are offered throughout many of CBCs health facilities, but I had not had time to visit one until now.  Like the medical facilities, space and equipment is limited, patient numbers are high, but the staff remain positive and encouraging.  Dental needs are only just beginning to be addressed in Cameroon (there are less than 10 Cameroonian dentists in the CBC, with a few more dental therapists and dental assistants).  Up until recently, tbey have been heavily dependent on visiting dentists from the West.  They are working on increasing recruitment and training in order to have more dentist to meet the need.  Perhaps there will be ways that White Cross assist the CBC to increase their dental services.  We can’t do everything, but as God continues to lead, we will do what we can.

I had a chance to go to the local market at the end of the day.  Crazy.  While I had practiced some Pidgin English and learned some words and phrases, I could not follow any of the market conversations.  Thankfully I had a couple of Cameroonian guides, who helped me negotiate my way through the market and made sure I stayed safe.  Quite different from a trip to the mall.  Not sure what I would rather do if given the choice!

 

 

The central courtyard at Banso surrounded by covered walkways.

Like the other hospitals we have visited, Banso Baptist Hospital is a very active facility.  Besides the regular hospital activities, this is also the location of the CBCHS Private Training Centre, where many of their medical personnel begin their careers.  Banso is currently in the midst of building a new facility to house the Training Centre which is bursting at the seams in its current location.  When completed, this new facility will also open up more space needed for the expanding care offered at the hospital.  It is difficult to describe the bustle of activity one experiences at each and every CBC health facility that we visit. 

 

 

 

A patient in the OPD receives a dressing change using one of the White Cross rolled bandages.

As it is able, Banso continues to expand its facilities to meet the growing needs.  Space is at a premium and most patient care still occurs in the out-patient department (OPD).  At Banso, the OPD sees 300+ patients a day on average (at peak it can run up to 500 per day).  The need is great, and the staff are very dedicated.  I saw rolled bandages, sitting pads, and many other items made by White Cross volunteers being used in the OPD.   On top of its medical care most CBC OPDs also offer chaplaincy and counselling services to its patients in order to provide wholistic service to their patients.  Bibles and devotional booklets (e.g. Daily Bread) collected by White Cross are fully utilized by the chaplaincy department.  We also had a chance to visit the eye clinic at Banso.  Here we saw the used eyeglasses that were collected and sent by White Cross being used.  While the eye department cannot usually use the lenses (Cameroonians tend to need different prescriptions than North Americans), they can offer the frames to patients who have very limited finances.  New lenses are made for these frames on-site.