Africa does not need handouts but empowerment

Here are some short observations that encompass my feelings after the last few project visits here in Cameroon, West Africa.

Awing Bible translation and literacy project

I visited a small literacy class for illiterate, mostly older, women meeting in an empty school building on Sunday morning. Although they have just come from a long church service, they sit down again for some more learning of a different kind. They eagerly practice writing some sentences in Awing, their mother tongue, building words on the blackboard, beaming proudly when they succeed. The teacher (also around age 50) is very patient. Only a few years ago, she was sitting on a similar school bench, straining to grasp the basic skills of reading and writing herself. At one point, she almost gave up. “It is too hard, I will never learn this!” she told her teacher. That teacher was also patient, and encouraged her to continue. And today, here she is! A literacy teacher herself, helping other mothers to gain an opening into a new world of written information. All she needed was a chance, and to hear someone say, “You can do it!”

Charlotte training literacy teachers

Mpumpong Bible translation and literacy project

Charlotte, the dynamic literacy coordinator for the Mpumpong project recently had this conversation with SIL members David and Henne Thormoset:

Charlotte: “I want to learn touch typing!”

David: “What makes you want to do this?”

Charlotte: “I just saw a typist in one of the little business centres in the town centre, type a document really quickly—without even glancing down to the keyboard! I sure would like to be able to type like that.”

David: “But you have seen Henne and me typing like this for the last four or five years, and you never wanted to learn it till now. Why the change of heart?”

Charlotte: “Oh, but you’re white! The typist I saw today was a Cameroonian woman, so I knew I could do it, too!”

Martin, visiting projects in Cameroon, West Africa, this month