Monica Chow has been a volunteer with the International Children’s Awareness (ICA) since 2019 helping the organization with social media management, and taking photos and videos. Born and raised in Ottawa, Monica is a Senior Project Officer for the Government of Canada with a background in business. Prior to her current position she worked in project management, government administration and high profile agency wide committees.
She learned about the ICA from a co-worker whose son visited Cameroon a few years ago and it turns out that her union – the Public Service Alliance of Canada is affiliated with the ICA and sponsors a board member annually.
Monica felt that the fit would be right to volunteer for a smaller NGO (non-governmental organization) focused on basic human needs, such as education and clean water. She realized that she is very fortunate to live in Canada and wanted to help those, who are less fortunate. Monica also appreciates that all ICA board members are volunteers unlike the bigger NGOs.
Monica was offered the opportunity to visit Cameroon in 2019, and she took it. She witnessed firsthand some of the ICA projects, including the Rainbow Bilingual College and Lycée de Litieu where more classrooms were built. These two schools and many others are in Dschang – an area heavily impacted by the displacement of people from the south west region. During this trip, Monica and the ICA delegation brought over 1,500 pairs of eyeglasses to donate and held a pop-up eye clinic.
Monica was truly amazed by her experience in Cameroon. She especially felt honoured to visit the schools and spend time with the students. “Seeing this developing country where people live with the bare minimum while being so kind and happy humbled me,” she said.
She believes that water and education are the foundations to help any economy improve and potentially thrive on its own. “Without these fundamental pillars, Cameroon will not only remain in poverty, but will never be able to self-sustain and will always rely on outside help,” she said. Monica hopes that the ICA can help change this reality in the long run.
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Chantelle is 16-year-old young lady from the Village of Besali located in the South West region of Cameroon. The ICA team met this beautiful and soft-spoken student, who has six siblings aged from 6 to 20 years old. All of the children in the village are attending the ICA/CIC primary school that was built in 2010.
Chantelle shared with us that this school is one of the very few in Cameroon that has enough textbooks for everyone, and that it made learning easier. She is currently studying in high school and the textbooks aren’t provided. “My father works very hard to send us all to school, but there is not enough money for all the books we need,” she said. Chantelle also explained that she and her friends share their books since none of them can afford to buy them all.
Chantelle would like to be a teacher once she has completed her studies. During her free time she plays handball and football with her friends.
Christmas in Cameroon – Story 1
Christmas in Cameroon is celebrated to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and that he is our spiritual leader. Christmas is also a day where family members travel to meet extended family to celebrate together.
On December 23rd, families clean up and decorate their homes with decorations such as Christmas trees, balloons, and other things to show people that they are ready for Christmas day. Men of the communities get together to drink, hang out and laugh while the women and children clean and decorate the community. It is also the day where family members, who does not live nearby will travel home to celebrate with their families, especially students who attend school in other parts of the country. It is the same thing for family members, who work and live far away, and those who are married and live with their own families outside of the community.
Christmas Eve is a day of killings animals for the big fest on Christmas Day. To have animals for the big feast, some men will enter some financing groups called ‘Njangi Houses’ months before Christmas where they can contribute a certain amount of money and be able to buy stuff for December 25th. Some men will also come together as a group to contribute money to buy cows, figs, or fowls to be shared among the group.
On Christmas day, the women and children stay home to prepare these animals for the big feast. They must be prepared on this day. Chewable like chin-chin, peanuts, doughnuts, chickens, groundnuts, and puff-corn are being fried. Communities in Cameroon love to prepare their traditional meals, for example in the North West they make achu, fufu-corn and vegetables with caty-caty (fried chicken or fish sauce). In the South West, they prepare fufu, eru, rice and stew, yam and ndole, and achu.
In some communities, people will come together to organize a small gathering where each family will bring their meals to share and celebrate Christmas as a big happy family.
Ngeasong Nguni Forchin, 20 years old.
University of Bamenda
Christmas in Cameroon – Story 2
Christmas in Cameroon occurs during the dry season, and in the heat of the coffee and peanut harvest. Over 70% of Cameroonians are Christians, and to them it is one of the most important days of the year. New Year day is also very important as it marks a moment of rebirth, moving forward, forgetting, and correcting the past while everyone is wished good luck.
No Christmas is complete without a big feast and music with songs like ‘Shall We Go to Bethlehem’, ‘Jesus Christ is Born’ and ‘O-Cocorico’. Many communities will decorate strategic places with anything they can find small or big from lights, candles, nativity scenes and wallpapers. Plastic Christmas trees or the traditional Christmas tree (local cypress) are very common. However, some families cannot afford it or do not see it as necessity as they prefer to save or invest.
Due to the diversity in Cameroon from different geographical areas, cultures, fashion trends and beliefs, there is always a guarantee that celebrations will be different, unique, and memorable for each Cameroonian. Many families dress in their best clothes to celebrate together. Children often receive clothing as a gift.
The most important aspect of Christmas day is the present of abundancy in foods and drinks, even for the less privileged families who do not starve on this day. Many people give without hesitating.
Atemnkeng Emiliene Atabong
Make Christmas more magical for Cameroonians by giving the gift of helping ICA with its clean water, education and community projects.