My name is Gilda, I’m from Germany and I’m doing a voluntary service for Better World Cameroon in Bamenda. After my education in tax accounting, I changed my field to social work and decided to go abroad for a year to get experience and learn about the African culture.
I arrived Cameroon on the 23th of August 2016, I’m already 7 months into my stay in Cameroon. It is still sometimes unbelievable for me to be here and I’m so proud to realize that I had the confidence to make this big step to go to another continent. If I didn’t take this decision, I would have never met all these lovely people I call my family and friends now. I can hardly explain how grateful I am to be here and being able to live this experience is simply breath taking. I’m feeling more than blessed about it.
A couple of weeks after I arrived in Cameroon Better World Cameroon organized an Ecovillage Design Education Training, supported by Gaia Education. I had such a great time during these 25days. We learned a lot about all the sectors of an Ecovillage, about the social, ecologic, economic and the cultural parts. I met people from the USA, the UK, South Africa and people from other parts of Cameroon. This training was an amazing start for my stay here in Cameroon.
At this time, I’m working on a project about the implementation of “Rocket stoves” (modern cook stoves) in the Bafut municipality. The Project is called “African Kitchen Revolution” and has as objective to give trainings on how to build cooking stoves and ovens to the women. The intention of these stoves is to reduce the amount of wood being used and to prevent the smoke from entering the human body and endangering the health by using sustainable materials like earth, stones and grass. With using only natural materials, we want to create a higher standard of living and a safer environment. In addition to that there is less time and wood needed to use these stoves.
I really enjoy this culture so much. I’ve never seen such an opening, friendly and caring society. Though, they’re always exceptions. What I like the most is that the families here are so big yet they help each other without any expectations to get something in return. Even people, who don’t know each other treat others like their own brother or sister. Respect is a big thing, especially when it comes to the elders. And at least I do love the traditions and the colorfulness, which you can see in the clothes and in craft.
Personally I’m trying to integrate myself, though I refuse to speak Pidgin. Instead I’m learning the Bafut language, one of the local languages here and French. Even when I don’t agree with every way of living and handling things, I respect the fact that other opinions exist other than and I adapt my life to other opinions. I realized that this “letting be” is the key to a better future for countries like Cameroon. And that we, people from the North, still have a bad influence on them. When people like me are coming to Cameroon we might be tempted to blame the people and those in charge of the country because of the bad roads, the poor waste management system and the poor infrastructure. But actually these problems are not only existing because of the bad system.
But in my opinion it is not only about the bad system, there are countries from the north who are creating a dependence of countries like Cameroon to the north. People like me, obviously in our comfort zone, not being aware or ignoring these topics about consumption is the reason why this dependence is still existing. I’m also very skeptical when it comes to things like development aid. For me it’s nothing far from what we did in the past during the colonization, force the people to do things how we are doing it, because we think that our way is better. I feel sad for the fact that Cameroon isn’t a strong, developed and independent country as it should be. To me, we need to make mistakes to get experience and learn from them for the future. In the end people like me are those small ones who can just guess what is happening without knowing or even having an influence. But one thing that we can do is developing consciousness about what we are doing and how we are treating the environment we are living in and our world at large. If I had a way to get this message across to the world for everyone to hear. I would tell them:
Before you want to change something, you have to change your mind. We humans are born with a smarter brain and are therefore able to think critically. And when we have a look around, we should realize that we are not alone in this world. So why don’t we treat this world like it deserves using the privileges it provides. Problems like climate change and overpopulation are real, so let’s stop closing our eyes and create awareness. Because this is not only about us, it’s about the future and our children and their children. There is no space for excuses.
After writing sharing these experiences I’m quite sentimental when I think about going back to Germany. But of course I do miss my family, my friends and I want to further my studies in social work. I don’t think that my life will totally change. I will only learn to appreciate and use the technologies made available for us, the structure we have when it comes to law and security. The higher standard of education and the circumstances, which are so comfortable. On the other hand I will really miss the culture, the music and the existence of fresh fruits like Banana or Papaya. Oh, I will surely miss that amazing taste. At last but not least I will also miss the bikes and the fact that it is rarely quiet in Cameroon. For sure, I can imagine myself coming back to Cameroon to visit all this people, who are close to my heart.