Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome! Bienvenue! Jabbaama!

Welcome to Meiganga! I am sitting on my hay couch that resembles more of a bed in my living room with socks, sweat pants, jacket and a scarf on. The power is out so I am typing by candle light. It is rainy season in Cameroon, meaning it is cold and wet. Power goes out frequently during this season. When that happens the water is soon to follow.

I arrived in Meiganga Sunday and I was greeted with a beautiful rainbow! I was also warmly welcomed with no electricity and no water. I will have to postpone my deep cleaning of my house until that changes. But until then I have done work in my house: My bags are unpacked. My bookshelf is organized and decorated with a framed family photo. And most importantly my kitchen is organized, my bed is made and the mosquito net is hung!

The night I arrived I was talking with my post mates, Andrew and Carlos, about their projects and brainstorming for mine. I know that I will be working with bee keepers and a micro financial institution. For a Small Enterprise Development Volunteers (which is what I am) there is not a structured work schedule. We were told for the first 3 months my job is to go to as many meetings as possible and get to know your community. The thing that I have found in my short amount of time here is that there is no way that I will be able to have any impact without knowing the community. I need to meet as many people as possible, network as much as possible, and build the trust of the community. The beauty of my job is that I am given almost free range to do whatever I want to do. This is exciting but also daunting for a Type A personality. But I need to remember; when again in my life will I be given this opportunity? I hope again, but I am betting that it might not be the case.

I have ideas of what I might want to do for work. For my main project somehow I want to figure out a way to incorporate teaching classes to girls with soccer. I would want the classes to include girls’ empowerment, HIV/AIDs education, basic personal hygiene, safe food preparation, and VSLA (Village Savings and Loans: Google “VSLA”, it was said that this is one of the top ways to get people out of poverty).

This is just an idea I have. There are many projects that I could do. I do not want to get set on one idea and not see other opportunities that may arise; hence the Peace Corps emphasis on not working for 3 months. This allows you to meet community members who have ideas but may not have the resources to execute their ideas. I do have a few goals, one of the more important goals would be to partner with as many other volunteers as possible, not just Small Enterprise Development volunteers. In Cameroon now, there are 185 volunteers working in 4 categories: Small Enterprise Development, Education, Health and Agro-Forestry. In September there is a new program starting: Youth Development. In Meiganga specifically, there is SED, health and education.

As I start to get settled in my new home for the next 2 years, I have some new contact information. I have a new Post Office Box and number. My email is the same, but I will give that to you as well.

Danielle Nicolai
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 89
Shoot me an email if you want my number!

People have been asking what I need or want and I have compiled a list of ideas. But I love letters just as much :)

• Magazines
• Mild scented candles
• Hand sanitizer
• Pictures or post cards so I can decorate my house
• Mixed CDs (put your favorite music on it…it will remind me of you when I listen to it)
• Nail polish/nail polish remover
• Degree can find most things here, apparently this is not one of them
• Travel games
• Cards/card games

• Seasoning packets
• Crunchy Peanut butter
• Cholula Hot sauce
• Ranch Dressing
• Parmesan cheese
• Brown sugar
• Cake or brownie Mixes
• Crystal Light/Gatorade packets
• Hard candies
• Luna bars or any type of bar for that matter
• Mac & cheese sauce packets
• instant soup mixes
• pesto sauce mixes
• beef jerky/pepperoni
• soup mixes & Lipton's pasta / sauce pkts.
• falafel mix
• pudding mixes
• dried fruits, apricots, apples, etc.
• jell-o mixes
• salad dressing packet
• bullion cubes…chicken & beef

Entertainment for the neighborhood kids
• Crayons/markers/colored pencils
• Coloring books (unisex)
• Art project material
• Colored/construction paper
• Stickers
• Legos or toys that they can continually play with
• Balloon…they love them!
• Memory games
• Honestly they would love anything

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