Passions and Perspectives
Unemployment, Global/Local Sustainability and Empowering Women
As a student, Crystal was struck by the degree of unemployment in the graduate population. She says “young people dream to go to university and have a good salary. But this is not a reality. People do not have jobs, but there is still this belief that I need to wear a suit and have a good income. If you keep looking in that direction, nothing changes. So, I started looking at what other skills can be learned.”
Crystal started working in Youth Empowerment and Sustainability, facilitating camps, including Erasmus+ programs. She became more interested in these topics through her work with BWC in Global Development, as she could see how global sustainability will only be achieved through local sustainability. Eco-villages like that of BWC in Bafut are the ultimate model of this sustainability.
She has worked with many communities to help improve traditional systems rather than impose new systems from outside, for example, building rocket stoves that still use wood, but that are much more efficient and cleaner. Crystal noticed that the women were so much more engaged in these projects than the men. She says “I realise that, in order to make a successful community project, you need to work with the women. The men say they have to go and defend the family, but I realised it was the women making the money from their farms and supporting their families. So, it is really about Women Empowerment. They will change the next generation. They are already farming but not earning much money. The soils have been destroyed by the chemicals the government had given them to use“.
With this in mind, Crystal works with women to marry traditional ways of growing, revitalising soils, and the growing of high-value products like turmeric so that they can make a better income as well as grow food for their families.
You can watch an interview with Crystel Koh about her work at Better World Cameroon here.
Technology, Art and Tradition
Malcolm is passionate about telling stories, art and technology. “A lot of my work has been focused around entrepreneurship, to use technology to improve skills and grow businesses. In 2017 I started a small company with a friend, and the aim was to raise money to start an academia where we would teach kids to code and build apps. This was in order to help make small business more effective such as the women growing turmeric on their farms, so they can communicate better to their markets and work as cooperatives”.
Art is very important to Malcolm who says “I grew up in the city with a very westernised education, not being immersed in my culture, realising at a young age that for any society to survive there needs to be a preservation of what makes that society unique. So people know their culture, their languages, etc. I realised that the fabric of African society is dying and being eroded at such a rate and there is a mentality that everything that is you is bad. You should go to school and learn English or French etc. Many of our generation are ashamed of their language and culture and are trying to sound English or American or French. I feel this strong urge to sensitise people to preserve what we have left. Despite going through 400 years of slavery and colonisation, there is still a lot to preserve and we can go back and relearn to be African because it is in our DNA, it just needs to be thought about. As African people we are land-based people, we respect nature, we work with the spirit and this, in a way, is the what the world is trying to return to, to go back to the essence of being human and not materialistic and capitalist. That’s why European people are searching for reconnection with nature. We are African people who still have that, but capitalism has bored deep into our society.”
Malcolm feels that technology can be put to good use in the pursuit of a better world. “The idea of technology is not about creating fancy things, self-driving cars, etc, it’s about using the techniques that are available to us to create a better life for people. When I think about a futuristic Africa, I see sustainable agriculture, eco-homes, biodegradable packages etc.”
Traditional Culture, Food and Orphanages
Grace is passionate about traditional culture, language and food. She grew up in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. She has always had an interest for non-formal education and a passion for traditional culture. As a child, she would go back to her Grandparents’ village and work on the farm, and loved to live the traditional way. Through secondary school, she decided to move closer to the family village there and got herself involved with the promotion of traditional culture through various associations. Grace grew up around restaurants, realising how much people love traditional foods, so she started creating communal spaces where people could go and share these traditions.
She teaches English as a second language and has taught in schools and adult education. She is also trained in hairdressing. She sees the value of being multi-skilled and of her diverse experience to her present and future endeavours.
Currently Grace’s passions are teaching (mostly through non-formal education), eco-building, exploring the traditional ways, producing healthy food, building rocket stoves, creating high-value agriculture products for small producers and Fair Trade opportunities. She feels blessed by pursuing all these passions in her work with BWC, as well as thrilled to provide relief for people back home who are in the crisis still. She adds “there are many orphans from this war” so there is a great need to create orphanages too.
Nursing, Conflict Care, Midwifery and Alternative Medicine
Celestine’s father was a nurse and she grew up around a hospital environment, which helped her develop a strong interest in medicine. It was natural for her to pursue a career in nursing, motivated by her willingness to help take care of others in need. Now she is ready to take it to the next step of focusing on midwifery and alternative medicines.
Celestine joined BWC 2 years ago to work in providing relief care to refugees and internally displaced peoples. She says “this opened my eyes to the daily struggles of youth, women and children under the trauma of war.” Grace has gained much expertise through the diverse experience in the war in Cameroon. She adds “my work in BWC emphasizes to me the importance of empathy in patient care.”
With this opportunity to be in Europe, Celestine would like to study and improve her capabilities in her work. “I wish to study and improve my focus on patient wellness and provide hands-on education to others in order to be able to organise an efficient medical unit capable of dealing with the complexity of providing health care in the crisis in Cameroon.”
Natural Food, Heath, Healing and Lifestyle
Elizabeth is passionate about nature, permaculture and natural health. She has a degree in Business Administration, but says “when I came back home after a holiday, I realised my grandmother was in a lot of pain due to osteoporosis, so I began to research what could help her, as she was on a lot of medication. I came across turmeric, which has a lot of healing properties, better than a lot of the drugs. So I gave her turmeric with black pepper, she was kind of on my lab, her pain reduced and this brought to my awareness the benefit of consuming natural things.”
Elizabeth started researching all the plants in her Mother and Grandmother’s gardens. “I realised they are kind of magical these plants, but at the time I didn’t know how to process them for using as remedies. I realised how people are not aware of their traditional or natural way. There is a lot of subsidisation to use chemicals in agriculture. So I’m also passionate about natural food, because it is much healthier.”
Elizabeth joined BWC as a volunteer and started to fill in these gaps of what she had been learning herself, how to process herbs and spices and to grow food in regenerative systems. “So many ladies are using chemicals on the skin and the hair, so I started trying things out, creating what I call ‘Green-Beauty’. Then I join forces with Malcolm to go into eco-fashion, fabrics, beads, bags, things made of local natural materials. People lack the capacity to start up their own businesses, so we need to help them with that. So I’m looking into this all this because this will help rebuild our nation.”
Indigenous knowledge, Love and Mystical Power
Konkankoh is the founder and an elder of BWC. He says “the world is really at a cross-roads and I’m thrilled about this opportunity for change. I’m passionate about indigenous knowledge because it is the missing link. We old people are the living libraries of the Universe, we are the masters of how to live in harmony with this Earth. So my passion is to bring this regenerative thinking to the world.”
“What I’m not passionate about is supremacy, I’m rather interested in the mysteries of what made things work and what made life worth living. We have to deconstruct the imperialist ways. I have been a victim of that, I have seen my community destroyed through that, I see the values of the world being eroded. So I see activism as a way of bringing things into focus.”
“To say I am passionate about love is an understatement. I don’t know any other power that can weld this new global community together. This is maybe the mystery that we need to research, what we have, but have lost the ability to use – this mystical power of life.”