UAC Volunteer's Testimonies

Pedro Freitas, 1970, Lisbon, IT Technician (May to July 2015)
It is important to be ready for all eventualities that might occur in an experience like this, a different country with different conditions and culture. It is also important to understand that things in Africa work differently, but they actually work. Despite the fact that infrastructures are still not as good as we would like, the people from UAC were exceptional in the help they gave us, they really make us feel at home.
The projects I worked were only defined when I arrived at Molyko, but I was always  free to work on whatever I wanted and at my own pace. In these 3 months it was possible to: create a new site for the UAC, create an offline e-learning platform to allow access to some offline content in remote villages (like, cartoons, wikipedia, etc); create a software application for management of UAC schools and with help of friends and family, it was possible to bring around 230 Kg of school equipment, computers, toys and clothes for children. It was possible to handover the money for the sponsorship of three children for a one year education at Jamadianle school (raised by colleagues).
I would highlight four people: Mr. Orock, a natural leader and a natural communicator. He silenced the protests of an audience of about two hundred people showing them lettuce…Unforgettable!; Mr. Thomas, the man who is always “around” to fix almost everything and that made the “Volunteer Delight”; Mr. Daniel, the local Geek, the man of a thousand ideas and a million ideals and who likes to argue about everything…; At last, but not the least: Mrs. Elsa, the main reason for me to come on the first place. One day she will win a World Press Photo. Without all these people, nothing would have been the same. More than a pleasure, it was an honor to work with all of them, although with such different backgrounds, it was easy to work with them for common objectives. Here I learned to work with many difficulties, things that were unthinkable in Portugal. But once you have the right spirit, the hard things become easy!
I will carry a lot back home. I will miss the fact that people were extremely polite, always smiling and (strangely) conservative. I’m not saying goodbye to Cameroon because I’m sure I’ll be back. And I will take the whole country in my heart and mind.

Elsa Romão, Portugal  (May – July 2015)

I spend three months with UAC Cameroon working on the IT department. My first impression of the organization was that it stands for providing a different and challenging environment for the Children, with a wide diversity of fields of interest (sports, interactive activities, livelihood projects, etc). The way I see it, Cameroon is only now wakening for IT and it’s common usage on every day’s life. Basic stuff like the infrastructure for connecting to the internet or the use of the computer is not yet on everybody’s mind or priority. But this will change very rapidly, the Cyber Cafes are blooming and there is a fast growing interest in computer classes and possible use of computer by almost any person. Buea is a student’s town, with two universities and dozens of elementary and secondary schools, the population is very young and very eager to use technology. I believe that UAC has a major advantage when compared to other schools: UAC’s vision has long been using computer skills in the office, in classes and to implement computer classes programs to help students learn how to work with the computer. My work within UAC had 4 major goals: build a new website, training teachers and staff on using computer, co-develop of the new UAC Schools Management Application and also to photograph as much as possible the work done by UAC (for future use on the UAC web-site and on UAC social media accounts). I feel that my objectives were fully met and I am very pleased with the volunteer experience that I have had. The UAC staff was generally friendly and very willingly to help and to learn as much as possible from us. Thomas (our mentor) was awesome and always went beyond his way for us to feel at home. Mr. Orock, Madam Orock and all the family, were a real difference in our adaptation and it really made the difference to be part of the family, even if it was for a few months! And I was really honored to be part of it and hope to return again.
I am a passionate traveler, and I have to say that I really loved Cameroon! The people, the food, the natural beauty of its landscape (mount Cameroon is just a few steps from our doorstep and Limbe and its beaches are only 30 minutes away), the simple way of life and most of all, I loved the children. I can only hope to have the possibility to do more experiences like this in the future. Either way, Cameroon will stay close to my heart and hope to get back soon!
Annika H., from Germany – June 2015

Hi, my name is Annika. I’m a 26-year-old secondary school teacher for History and Latin from Cologne, Germany. I arrived in Buea in April 2015. It’s the first time I’ve been to Africa. So far I’ve been working in Jamadianle Primary School as a remedial reading teacher for classes 1 – 3. Sometimes I could also give a German lesson or help the teachers marking. Especially at the end of the term, when the pupils had written their exams, there was a lot to do and the teachers were really busy. At 8 o’clock in the morning I take the school bus. School ends at 13.30 pm. The way of teaching in Cameroon is totally different from teaching in Germany. Teachers focus on memorization and repetition. There is only one correct answer: no open questions, discussions or an exchange of ideas. The teacher writes on the board, what is specified in the reader. Pupils try to copy without knowing what they are writing because the children in classes 1 – 3 can’t read, only very few recognize single words. This is exactly why the remedial reading lessons in small groups (4 – 5 pupils) are in my opinion very important. The children are not used to individual attention and can benefit a lot. Twice a week I go to “School on wheels” in the afternoon. All in all I have a lot more free time than in Germany which allows me to meet with friends (Cameroonians and other volunteers from all over the world), have fun and travel this beautiful country. I spent a few weekends in Limbe, swimming in the Atlantic and enjoying the best roasted fish. We also visited Mamfe with the volunteers and I climbed Mount Cameroon, which was an amazing and absolutely exhausting experience. My legs hurt for the days, but it was worth it! My stay in Cameroon is a challenging and wonderful experience. Our volunteer mentor Thomas takes care of us always and the Orock family gives volunteers a warm welcome. The Cameroonian food is absolutely great (too spicy sometimes, but other than that simply amazing) and the people are open and friendly. I’m sure I’ll never forget this experience!
Sarah (USA) February-April 2015

During my time at UAC I have learned so much. It was a great opportunity to work within an NGO and to experience life in Cameroon. 3 months is too short! My main roles within the organisation included teaching sports lessons, marking papers, running educational programmes in the library, and updating the online volunteer materials and social media pages. I had the most success when I was proactive with my projects. I learned quickly that just because I did not face a language barrier didn’t mean there were no communication barriers to overcome. I could not always rely on my co-workers to respond with timely enthusiasm and support but by being persistent with questions and honest with goals and expectations we made fruitful progress. There are many helpful people around who are eager to problem-solve with you if you seek them out.  We were also hampered by the realities of living in a country with sporadic internet and phone networks, as well as temperamental vehicles. These challenges, however, are all just part of getting to know the Cameroonian way of life!

Buea is a safe and friendly place to get to know and we quickly felt at home here. It was also an ideal location to base other travels around Cameroon from. The beach at nearby Limbe is easily accessible, Douala is only an hour away with links everywhere else in the country, and of course Mount Cameroon is on your doorstep (and well-worth the climb!). The volunteer house was comfortable and the Orock family took very good care of us providing us with meals and always being flexible and catering to our needs. For me, working with the children was the best part, but no matter what, when you work at UAC you are immediately connected to a network of friendly, informative people who will ensure that you get the most out of your stay in Cameroon.