Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thank You Laurel Hill

Soccer Ball Salutations

We have all returned safely to the United States and are already running around in the day to day chaos, however the efforts of Technology For Africa are still echoing in our ears. We have received news about the effects of three of the Charleston Battery Soccer balls that were given to a peace corps volunteer stationed in another region in Cameroon. An email and pictures were sent, thanking Tech For Africa for it's donation. The balls were given to two different primary schools, and the other one is being held onto for a special occasion or reward, to spread out the excitement. The kids were previously playing with completely deflated balls, and our gifts were given with impeccable timing as they have a soccer tournament coming up! The balls were received with immense gratitude:

"When I told one of the teachers that I was going to give them a soccer ball he grabbed me, hugged me, and then wouldn't let me go until I had a series of cheek kisses. He even started to jump up and down. I had asked him if his school could use a soccer ball and I took his jumping as a YES!" 
-Jessica, Peace Corps Volunteer-

It is amazing to see an action that seems so simple, truly impact the lives of the kids in such a positive way. Another thank you goes out to the Charleston Battery soccer team and Jessica for bringing the donations!

Friday, March 11, 2011

US Bound

Our last day in Cameroon.....

The day has come for us to finally head back to the United States. Our stay in Cameroon was more than we could have ever dreamed of. We are off to Douala, where we plan on buying some of the coffee grown on the plantation back in the countryside and then headed to the airport where we will fly to Brussels, Belgium. A layover and then it will be Washington, D.C. and finally back to CHARLESTON, SC! Please stay tuned into the blog, as each of us will take some time to reflect on the impact of this incredible journey...thank you again to everyone who helped, bon voyage!

When you travel...

We enjoyed our last morning at the plantation over breakfast and reminiscing of the memories created in this beautiful region over the past few days. This country is amazing in the way that it truly captures the essence of your heart and spirit. After a saddening goodbye, we drove through the coffee trees and headed towards the city of Yaounde, where we were to spent the beginning of our day visiting the American Embassy. After a surprisingly rigorous security process, we had the chance to meet with a member of the United States embassy to tell them more about the project, ask questions about a variety of international subjects, and brainstorm ways in which we could expand on Technology For Africa's efforts. After this honorable meeting, possibilities for our future efforts seemed even more promising than ever before.

After visiting the embassy, we headed to a Catholic university where the previous Technology For Africa trip donated computers. All of the computers were still intact, and the students were more grateful than ever for another visit from the College of Charleston. We delivered our entrepreneurship and business ethics presentation to over 200 students and received even more positive feedback this time. The students were so incredibly grateful for the new SmartBoard and three new laptops and spent a much time explaining current and future entrepreneurship endeavors that are both teaching them business skills and giving back to the community. After the presentation and a question and answer session, TFA met with some of the major players in their student government, which is divided into five different areas and around 200 students whom participate in business, financial and community projects. They were thrilled to pick the brain of CofC students, receive ideas about how to improve and grow their scope of projects, and learn about SIFE(Students In Free Enterprise) and the possibilities that could be offered to them if they worked to create their own SIFE team in Cameroon! It was so interesting to see yet a third school in Cameroon and to take note of the different economic, social, and academic needs that vary among each one. The students' knowledge, passion and potential blew our stereotypes and expectations out of our realms of American perspective once again.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page"
-Saint Augustine-

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Elementary School Visit

Today we had the pleasure to visit the kids at the elementary school located in the Noun region of Cameroon's countryside. The day kicked off at 7:30 with the raising of the flag, which was accompanied by the children singing the national anthem. All of the children were very eager to show off their wonderful singing voices, and their coordination in line was incredible.

Before the lessons got underway, we outfitted 40 of the children with College of Charleston soccer jerseys and held the first bi-annual White and Maroon soccer match. The children loved playing with a real soccer ball, which was one of many donated by the Charleston Battery soccer team. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, but really the score was fun to fun.


We were successful in installing the SMART board in one of the classrooms, and then went through a lesson plan using the SMART board with each one of the four classes. We showed them where South Carolina is, the route we took to get to Cameroon, and some photos of the children of Laurel Hill donating supplies. Lastly we asked some of the students to come sign his or her name on the SMART board. The students selected to do this seemed to be confused, excited, and awe-struck all at the same time. This is probably due to the fact that of all the 150 students at the school, only one responded yes when we asked the classes who had ever used a computer before.

After each class had experienced the SMART board, we provided each student with a bag of school supplies that was very graciously donated by the students at Laurel Hill Elementary in Charleston and a tooth brush donated by Dr. Sal Liveri at Liveri Orthodontics in Charleston. The students were overjoyed with their gifts, and their shouting could be heard all over the school.

There was a consensus among the team members that today was among the most rewarding so far. The children were so eager to learn and interact with us that it made for an incredible day, and thank you again to all of those that helped to make this happen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meeting With The Sultan

After all the hard work we have been putting in the past few days, we spent the day checking out the sights of the previous Tech For Africa team's efforts. We began our day paying a brief visit to the elementary school down the road where we will be working all day tomorrow. Our driving destination for the day: the palace of the Sultan of Foubom but before we could meet with his majesty, we went to one of the donation sights of the last Tech For Africa trip. Unfortunately one of the four laptops were missing, however the three remaining laptops have been being put to exceptional use. During the last project, TFA I provided the computer lab with a year's worth of internet and we discovered upon our return that they had created a business to continue the funds for the internet. In addition to this major progress, many people delivered descriptions, progress, and goals for projects that they have created and been working on thanks to the laptops and internet opportunity that Tech For Africa I provided. One project that really stood out was a a female owned mushroom business that has experienced such a growing demand that she is currently in the process of expanding her operation. The woman learned her techniques of producing mushrooms and their various nutritional and medicinal uses while using the TFA laptops and having the opportunity to access the internet. Another project consisted of creating a program to instruct and empower other business people on using the internet and computers, expanding on our efforts of "Teach The Teacher." Other projects ranged from online antique sales, handicapped services, as well as HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. It was absolutely to see the previous trip's hard work being put to great use and to see the people really empowering themselves and trying to make a difference in their community.

After hearing about the projects and answering questions from a variety of business it was time to meet with the Sultan! We were all a bit nervous as we were briefed on the proper etiquette and bowing form, but his majesty ended up being completely charming. During our visit we received a tour of the palace museum displaying many of the dynasty relics, historical documents and artifacts. Our royal visit was completed when we had the opportunity to visit the Queen's house and partake in desserts and refreshments.

Visiting With The Queen
Before heading to the plantation, we had the chance to practice our bargaining techniques at the local market. Two long rows of shops left our heads spinning, our pockets a bit lighter and smiles on our faces as headed to the car hands full of hard bargained trinkets from Africa. Tomorrow will be one of our most important days, with all of our focus being directed towards the elementary school and providing the kids with the technology that everyone worked so hard towards!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bonne Fete De La Femme!

After finishing breakfast we set off on our two hour ride towards the Universite Des Montagne to finish up our endeavors from the previous day. The first mission was to finish installing the SmartBoard and deliver training to some of the students, faculty, and technicians about the possibilities that the new technology has to offer. It was amazing to see the SmartBoard up and running as students had the chance to sign their names and receive their first hands-on experience with the board. As we looked at the SmartBoard it we couldn't help but see all of the people back in the United States who helped lead us to this moment. We could not tell who was more enthused, the students at having received this wonderful donation or the members of Technology For Africa seeing a portion of their mission come alive. 

After leaving the main university campus, we headed to the clinic associated with the university, where members of the community are working to supply, train, and create an prominent hospital. The medical clinic shows great promise in expanding its services, faculty, and the quality needed to both train future students and provide the community with the health care that is so needed in the surrounding areas. As a portion of Bandage For Africa $18,500 was raised towards a brand new ultrasound machine to be installed in the clinic, with a most sincere thank you going out to Possibilities Without Borders and an anonymous donor. A major portion of today's events were dedicated to operating and delivering basic operational training to the doctors and students. Dr. Brittany and her patient Will did a great job teaching the clinic members!

After a debriefing between Dr. Desplaces and the board members of the college, our efforts at the the Universite Des Montagnes were complete for this year. A heart warming exchange of contacts, gifts, and sincere thank you guided us out of the city of Bagante. And for those of you who do not know, today is officially international women's day, so to all the lovely ladies partout le monde (around the world): "Bonne fete de la femme!"
A student wearing her beautiful women's
day dress, with this year's Cameroon pattern
that was parading everywhere in the cities in honor
of all of the hard working ladies!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Université des Montagnes

Today was an amazing day! We visited the Université des Montagnes, a medical university located about an hour away from the plantation. We arrived at the college with a mixture of excitement, curiosity, and nerves at meeting and interacting with the Cameroonian students. We were given an in-depth tour of the campus where we discovered that all nine of the laptops from the previous project were in perfect condition, accounted for and appreciated more than ever. We also learned about the progress that the university has made in researching and creating various types of important medicines.


After the campus tour Will, Carolyn, and Brittany delivered an Entrepreneurship and Business ethics workshop that was attended by about 128 students. They did a great job briefing the students at the college about some of the business aspects that we are learning in our own education back in the states. Throughout the presentation, students were asked various business questions and if they answered correctly in french they received Obama Tshirts, which have been met with great enthusiasm during both the previous trip and today. At the end of the presentation, Dr. Desplaces announced that we decided to donate one of the two SmartBoards and six laptops to facilitate their medical and educational endeavors. Cheers flooded the room and the members of Tech For Africa beamed as they saw their hard work finally come to life. 

Following Tech For Africa's presentation, some of the students at the university delivered a medical presentation telling a little more about the efforts and goals at the college. We broke for lunch and then it was off to set up the SmartBoard! During the assembly, 39 members of the college's student government body gathered with TFA to discuss business questions, endeavors, advice and engage in some global collegiate conversation. We were all blown away by their extensive knowledge, passion, hard work, and potential displayed by each and every student at the university. The room was filled with laughter, chatter in French and English, and the sound of promising relationships being formed. The day came to an end and back to the plantation we drove, exhausted, hopeful, and full of a new found vigor towards education and opportunity among people around the globe.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In The Countryside

We just arrived at Monsieur Patrick's plantation about five hours outside of Douala. We spent the day driving through the countryside, and stopped to buy fresh fruits, see a waterfall and smelled the fragrant flowers produced by the Coffee trees that cover over 150 acres of his 1,000 acre farm. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and the people are incredibly friendly and beautiful. We bounced around in the car with our eyes wide and our smiles even larger. We are learning so much, everything from the politics of the region, to the production of coffee, natural rubber and oil substitutes, to the significance of a person's social status based on the number of silver tinned roofs his house is comprised of. We look forward to many lessons and experiences that this beautiful country and its people have to offer. Tomorrow we are planning on heading to the medical university...this is where our work begins! Another sincere thank you goes out to everyone that helped make this amazing journey begin!

"You will realize when you are older that learning about different cultures allows you to gain true comprehension and to find peace." -Monsieur Patrick Desplaces-

Take a look at the plantation!