a third year in Cameroon!
I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve updated…These past few months have been full of goodbyes. My stage-mates (fellow Volunteers who I spent 11 weeks training with back in 2010) have mostly left Cameroon to go back to America. But I’m not…at least not yet. At the end of August, I got the best phone call in months: I’ve been approved for a third year in Cameron!
We got interviewed in Yaounde, during the last day of our COS conference. Out of 46 people in our training group, seven of us are extending for a third year. I am working with an NGO, Association Camerounaise pour le Marketing Sociale, which is partnered with Population Services International.
PSI/Cameroon (ACMS) is an affiliate and platform of Population Services International, with programs in malaria, reproductive health, child survival, safe water, diarrhea, and HIV prevention and treatment. PSI/Cameroon promotes health products, services and healthy behaviors that enable low-income and vulnerable people to lead healthier lives. Products and services are sold at subsidized prices rather than given away in order to motivate the involvement of the private commercial sector.
I am based in their office in Garoua, the capital of the North region, and the office oversees the Grand North (the regions of the Far North, North, and the Adamawa). After I found out that I got the job, I talked to the regional director, who told me that I could start my job immediately, rather than staying in Kolofata until December and starting my new job in January (The Volunteer who I was replacing had already left in July, since she was originally an Education Volunteer, and Ed Volunteers leave every year in June/July, while Health Volunteers leave in November/December).
It was really hard and emotional to say goodbye to Kolofata and to people who have shown me so much love for 21 months. I miss my village friends and my village life a lot. But I’m excited for the new opportunities and to learn about community health from an NGO-level. So, I slowly packed up my entire house. I left my village on September 17, and I stopped in Maroua to drop off my belongings (including furniture, while waiting to find myself a house in Garoua) and to celebrate our two year anniversary of being in Cameroon with several other stage-mates. Then, on September 19, I arrived in Garoua to start my new job.
So, what do we do exactly?
ACMS’s social marketing aspect focuses on selling products – especially condoms – as a means for behavior change. This is one of my co-workers loading up the vehicle to go to towns in the Far North, including to my former village, Kolofata! I really wanted to join them, but I had to work.
Our work includes doing condom demonstrations at public events. Here’s my co-worker demonstrating the female condom:
Specifically, I am working with the 100%Jeune sector, which targets people between 15-24. I am on a team with two others, Ebah and Nafi. We work with health clubs in the high schools and in neighborhoods to promote reproductive health. We also train peer educators – “Reglo Girls” – to work in their clubs and neighborhoods.
One of the needs that my predecessor identified was the lack of income-generating activities. I decided to show the Reglo Girls how to make lotion, which I had done for Women’s Day back in Kolofata. I also asked another Volunteer, Amy, to do the portion on making soap. It’s a great example of why third year positions exist – I’m able to use my skills like lotion-making that I developed back in Kolofata with another organization.
We also worked with high schools for Worlds AIDS Day activities. Since it fell on a Saturday, we assisted with activites during the week.
Ebah leading the events:
Peer educators at work:
With VSO, who partnered up with us for one of the days at the Lycee Technique:
ACMS also has a weekly radio show, 100%Jeune Live, on Saturday mornings at 11 am with CRTV. They discuss issues in reproductive health in an entertaining, engaging way. For example, the first half of the show includes interviews with guests, such as a doctor who specializes in HIV or an HIV-positive person. And one of the ways to attract listeners is a segment that the previous Volunteer came up: “Lyrics,” in which I translate phrases from popular American songs into French.
So far, songs I’ve chosen included artists like Adele, David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, and, of course, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” You’re welcome, North Cameroon.