EP Wahl CentreWhite CrossCameroon 2014 Blog

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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. 





CBTS Chapel ServiceKeir Hammer is introduced by Cal Hohn at the CBTS awards chapel.

Today we had the privilege of attending an awards service at CBTS (Cameroon Baptist Theological School).  As we found everywhere in the CBC institutions, despite busy schedules, we were always welcomed and asked to bring greetings to the community.  At the beginning of their chapel, we were invited to the front, introduced and asked to say a word of greeting.  It is not enough to be introduced, Cameroonians like to “hear your voice” as well.  After the chapel, we chatted with CBTS students, many of whom were preparing to write their final exams.  That was followed by a meeting with CBTS faculty and administration.  Like most theological institutions around the world, they want to offer the best theological education as efficiently as possible. 

After a few more hours on the road, we arrived in Bamkikai to visit LAP.  LAP, which stands for the Live Abundant Program, 

CBTS Chapel ServiceKeir Hammer chats with a CBTS student after chapel
offers front line access to basic health needs.  This is the core training and administrative centre for the 52 Primary Health Centres that are found in Cameroon’s many rural areas. These small health centres are often staffed by non-medical personnel and reach deep into the remote villages to bring basic teaching on sanitation, personal care, family planning, literacy, nutrition, etc.  The overall goal is summed up in their statement, that they are to “provide exemplary health care with genuine compassion, with the overriding purposed of evangelical witness.” 

This program works to enable the local people to set up and run their Health Centre as part of a community project.  They also target high risk groups and

Nurse holding a newborn baby at a CBCHS hospitalA baby born in a CBC institution is wrapped in a blanket provided by a White Cross volunteer.
individuals for immunization and special care clinics.  Pregnant women are encouraged to come in for regular checkups and also come to the health centre for their delivery to ensure a safe and successful birth.  Since the inception of the program, mother and child mortality has dropped from around 26% to around 0.6%.  The baby layettes (blanket+diaper+jacket) supplied by White Cross volunteers are an important incentive for expectant  mothers, who come to the health centre for their deliveries in order to receive a layette upon leaving. 



Finally I am able to get connected (and stay connected--something that has been more challanging for my computer for some reason) to the internet.  Don't know how long it will last, so you may read this post in pieces...

It did not feel like a 3 hour church services.  As JJ Williams, director of White Cross USA, commented: “I’ve been in one hour services that felt longer.”  He did not elaborate on which church or who was speaking :).  I always enjoy the opportunity to join with fellow believers in celebrating our common Lord and faith.  The church is in the midst of building, so we squeezed into the concrete-framed basement with a few bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling.  They will continue to build as they raise the funds.  Read a bit more about the church in the latest newsletter of the Hohn family who served as our primary host during our visit: http://www.nabconference.org/sites/default/files/missionary_newsletter/Hohn%20Newsletter%20May%202014.pdf

Dr. Keir Hammer in Cameroon, en route to Ndu.Keir Hammer pauses for a photo during one of the stops along the road to Ndu to stretch his legs (and back).
We were told that the road to Ndu is much improved over what it used to be.  I cannot imagine! After years and years and years, the government is finally improving the road.  Of course, the quality of the work is dependent on who gets the contract for the different sections.  One company was doing an excellent job. We did finally get to the end of the road work and travelled on a road that would be challenging for off-road vehicles travelling to a favourite fishing spot.  Thankfully, it is not well into the rainy season or we might have need to get out and push.  Some of the holes in the road could swallow a small car.  I will need to visit a chiropractor when I return to Canada. 


Why are we travelling to Ndu?  Many of you probably know the Cameroon Baptist Theological School (CBTS) is located in Cameroon.  While not connected to White Cross in the same way as Health Services, CBTS does benefit from White Cross shipments including books, tools, furniture, personal items for the staff, etc.  Moreover, as part of Taylor, White Cross Canada has more reason to make connections with CBTS because of the common connection with Taylor Seminary.  Discussion continues between the two institutions for finding ways to strengthen the connections between them and perhaps finding ways to develop a partnership that will benefit both schools.  Connections already abound.  The vice-president of CBTS is a graduate of Taylor (I had the privilege of teaching him during my tenure as a professor).  Several current and past f

Meeting with the faculty at CBTS in Ndu.Tim Willson and Keir Hammer pose with some of the CBTS peronnel who greeted us when we arrived.
aculty have travelled to CBTS to teach and offer administrative assistance.  Most recently Dr. Syd Page was here in 2013. 









Dr. Keir Hammer meeting with Pharmacy Services Director Nathan Wanyu.Keir Hammer and Nathan Wanyu look over inventory details.
Today, as I was reflecting back over the last few days, I thought back to the interview Tim Willson did with Nathan Wanyu,who is the Chief of Drug Unit and responsible for all the supplies that flow through the Central Pharmacy in Mutengene.  Nathan was born in a CBC hospital and is quite certain that his mother received a baby layette (a baby blanket, jacket and diaper—all hand sewn) when she left the hospital with her new infant (him).  I am informed that a significant number of the CBC hospital personnel received treatment through Health Services at one point in their lives.  Their experiences and the quality of care they received led them to pursue a medical career (many are even trained at the CBC Private Training Centre) and come to work in the Health Services Department of the CBC. 

Mbingo Hospital is situated in a beautiful bowl surrounded by green hills and beautiful waterfalls.  Originally, this facility began as a treatment facility for a leper colony but now it is one of the flagship hospitals in Cameroon.  Here training of surgeons and specialists occurs.  This is also a referral hospital, which means that more difficult cases are referred here.  On our way to the children’s ward, an infant was rushed past us, arms hanging limp, obviously one of the referral cases from another hospital. 

Touring Mbingo Baptist Hospital with Dr. Dennis Palmer.Keir Hammer takes notes and tries to keep up with Dr. Dennis Palmer at Mbingo.  JJ Williams follows.

At the next ward, we were greeted politely by the doctor on call.  He chatted very briefly and then said, rather casually, “if you excuse me, I have a baby that is trying to die on me,” and he rushed off to care for the infant we had seen minutes earlier.  We never heard the typical cries that accompany a death and can only assume that he was successful in treating the child.  JJ Williams recognized the doctor’s name because he ships many items specifically requested by that doctor.  In the course of our tour I saw many, many items that had passed through my hands in the course of being shipped by White Cross Canada.  I know that these items make a difference. 

Please stay tuned.  More pictures and posts will be added to the blog as soon as bandwidth allows.  In the meantime, make sure to check out Taylor’s Facebook page where more pictures have been posted (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.647524395301138.1073741833.132478983472351&type=3).