Hello from Bamenda!!!
After about a two day transit adventure (NY to Paris (7hr), Paris to Douala (7hr), Douala to Bamenda (8 hr mini bus)), I arrived in Bamenda on Valentine’s Day, a day I thought I could avoid, but was proven incorrect! I am working with GHAPE (Grounded & Holistic Approach for People’s Empowerment) and everyone in the office is incredibly helpful and great to talk with. However, while my time in Cameroon has been positive, I have hit a major roadblock: I brought my Macintosh with me abroad and the software for accessing the internet here is for PCs only. Thus, I apologize for the delay in posting and lack of videos for the moment, but I am determined to make it work by the end of this week, so stay tuned! I digress…
Since arriving two weeks ago, I have already met with a large amount of borrowers at center meetings, interviewed about 20 of them, and have been extremely impressed with every borrower and GHAPE employee so far. This past week, GHAPE held its annual leadership workshop for all center chiefs. For those of you who are not familiar its organization, GHAPE is composed of 28 centers in total, each center has 8 groups, and 5 borrowers constitute each group, so each center chief represents about 40 borrowers. This leadership position holds a great amount of responsibility: leading meetings, announcing policy changes, collecting fines for tardiness and similar disruptions.
To be honest, because the workshop was two full days and GHAPE housed about 40 center chiefs at their office (right across the way to where my accommodations are), it was tiring, but very necessary. And, while I was exhausted when the end of the second day came around, I was also overwhelmed by a sense of pride to be working with such a organization. GHAPE really takes their social mission seriously: with monthly training sessions that cover how to management a loan to how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, GHAPE’s goal is to create a more sustainable community and it is clearly a success. For instance, this leadership workshop I attended covered not only GHAPE policies and the qualities of a leader but also the topic of gender mainstreaming and conflict resolution. I was quite impressed with the employees who presented and the questions asked by borrowers. I have taken tons of video of the workshop, but again, I have to delay posting the content for another day when I have a better connection
On a personal note, I had a great weekend. I picked up the other Kiva fellow, Ashley, from Douala and it has been fun to show her the ropes and lesson I’ve learned so far in the field. Can’t wait to write about our adventures to come! Hope all is well!