And That’s a Wrap!
Being my last blog, and coming at the end of a summer during which Johanna and I produced a documentary film, I felt the urge to use an appropriately movie-related, concluding and cheesy title. My work, however, is far from over.
For our last week in Cameroon, Johanna and I returned to Douala and spent the remaining days with the women from UCOMAS. We After spending two days with Eric, Adelaide, Mamma Frida, and Janet I am suddenly very aware of how much I am going to miss the people I have met. I did not have to say my final goodbyes when I left UCOMAS the first time around, and I am not prepared to do it now—not knowing when I’ll be back (when not if) is not something I’m quite willing to deal with just yet… In fact, it has only been four days since I left Bamenda, but already I am dreading the coming weeks and months when I won’t be with Eunice in our cramped closet-office, waiting for Emmanuel to go on the next unpaved, 7-hour road trip, or at Helen Fohtung’s house thanking her for her kindness, warmth, hospitality and (thanks GOODNESS) medical expertise. I feel I have known members of UCOMAS and Nkumu Fed Fed for a lifetime, and yet the summer seems to have flown by.
I say my work is hardly ‘wrapped up’ because I refuse to let this be the end. Even from abroad, Johanna and I are committed to continuing the work of our two partners, doing whatever is needed to help sustain what they have struggled to accomplish. (Speaking of: Anyone in the San Francisco area late October or early November, keep your schedules open for the UCOMAS fundraiser we are planning at a local Senegalese restaurant. Details to come for those interested!)
This summer has been an incredibly humbling experience and I am in awe of what these women are able to do with what little resources they have. The women of UCOMAS have overcome daunting environmental and social obstacles, and continue to fight each day to move forward. I have immense respect and admiration for the members of Nkumu Fed Fed as well, who sacrifice their time, skills and even money for the betterment of their country while asking for nothing in return. It will be difficult to leave, but I am forever grateful for the lasting connections and friendships I have made with the people and places of Cameroon.
I would like to end by saying thank you.
Thank you to Vital Voices for giving me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most dedicated and inspiring people I have ever been lucky enough to know.
Johanna, thank you for being there for (and putting up with) me through thick and thin, for the late nights of MASH and A Mighty Wind, and of course, teaching me to cook. Lonely does not begin to describe what this summer could have been had you not been around.
To the women of Nkumu Fed Fed, thank you for your hard work, dedication and selfless commitment to bettering the lives of those who need it most. Helen Gwanfogbe, you made our stay possible and I cannot thank you enough for all you’ve done. Emmanuel, despite not being an official member for Fed Fed, you were there nonetheless to help us each day. Thank you for guiding us through the twists and turns of the North West, all the way to Kumbo and back. I must thank you, Eunice, not only for your generosity, but for your company as well (by which I mean your friendship, not Make IT for Africa. Though the cyber helped immensely, to be sure!). Last, but certainly not least, Helen Fohtung, thank you, thank you, thank you for welcoming us into your home in times of need, for your endless generosity and for making our stay in Bamenda the wonderful experience it was.
I cannot leave without saying goodbye and thank you to the women of UCOMAS. Your perseverance, strength and determination are truly extraordinary. To the women of the executive bureau, thank you for letting us into your lives and offering instantaneous trust. Madame Kah Wallh, thank you for being the inspiration, support and guide of UCOMAS. Annick—all would have been lost without you. What you have helped create will continue to improve the women’s lives for years to come. Eric, I cannot tell you how much you have meant to me over these past two months and know that UCOMAS is blessed to have you.
And finally, thank you to everyone who supported me throughout the summer, for following our work and keeping me sane. Without you, this experience would not have been possible.
Though I am leaving Cameroon and don’t know when I will be coming back, I assure you all—you have not seen the last of me!