Baké School in Cameroon
Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.
I have always believed in the power of Education. My parents invested in mine, and I understand the privilege it has given me in this world. Not everyone is as lucky, particularly in third-world countries. As my own children progressed through the education system, I began to wonder about the less fortunate.
A school building program in Cameroon, Africa caught our attention many years ago. Children squashed into over-crowded rural schools with no sanitary facilities, trying their best to learn in buildings that leaked, with mud and dust floors harbouring insects and mites, that often blew down in heavy storms. School days were cancelled when it rained heavily. Short on text books and proper desks, teachers had no office facilities to do their lesson plans. And we expect children to better themselves in these environments?
The idea of being able to make a difference to many children over decades, by providing them with a clean, safe school building, proper sanitary facilities and an environment where the teachers can properly educate, excited us. To help just one village, but over time, hopefully many thousands of children.
We partnered with a UK Charity, Building Schools for Africa, who themselves partner with SHUMAS, a UN approved small local NGO. This model meant that every Euro donated to the school building project went directly to the village and the local economy. We also chose this partnership as we liked their community involvement model. The local community also had to provide some funding (albeit small) and prepare the ground for building and source local materials. Local involvement and ownership is key, so that projects like this are a helping hand, and not a hand-out. This model is well designed and tested.
Our school was built in the village of Baké in East Cameroon. To be present at the opening, to see the genuine excitement and smiles of the children, was a true gift (my children never looked like that going to school).
As a last-minute addition, we also funded school uniforms and supplies for the refugee children who had recently arrived to the village. To witness their wide-eyed wonder as we handed these out was humbling. We may as well have been handing out a PlayStation 5 per child. It really puts things in perspective, a moment I will never forget.