It is pretty crazy to think that only two weeks ago I was in the slums of Douala, riding bikes through the jungles, and being called “white man” everywhere I went. I am now back in Berkeley for school and sometimes when I think about my trip, I feel like it was a dream. Luckily, I have photos of my trip posted all over my room to remind me of my experiences this summer, and the friends I made.
When my friends and family ask me about my trip, I can honestly say I would not have change a single thing about it. Going with a tiny Cameroonian research body rather than an American organization allowed me to travel places and see things I would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I also greatly appreciate all of the challenges I faced because if my experience was perfect it would have been a false representation of global aid and voluntourism. Instead, I was exposed to corruption, sexism, cultural insensitivity, and more.
Although I was able to do all the work I was promised this summer, there were many bumps along the way. My first week in Cameroon I thought I was not going to have any work to do because of organizational issues at my job site. I learned throughout my experience that much of the money being given to my organization was not being used as it was intended. Frequently, donations are be spent for personal use instead of the actual projects. It is my fear that even if my project is funded, the work I planned out may not happen. I had a wonderful experience working with my co-worker and meeting the communities, and it breaks my heart that I could not promise them that their voices will be heard and that my project will go through to completion.
I believe that this form of corruption is greatly due to lack of transparency. Many employees at NGOs are passionate about their work and donators can help them avoid money embezzlement by sending payments in different sections (rather than all at once), while requiring receipts and pictures to insure that the money is being used as it was intended. CAEPA, like many other NGOs, has the potential to do great work, but it must learn to put the needs of communities impacted by their work above their own.
I have my surveys, reports, and project proposals back with me in the states, so if you are at all interested in learning more, please contact me. This semester I will be in GPP 196, the post-practice experience class. I will have two hours every week to reflect with 10 other GPP students on our experiences this summer. One of my projects will be either to write a grad school application or a Fulbright application, and I am so excited to start!
Thank you again for following my blog and although I am incredibly happy to be back in Berkeley, I miss my time in Cameroon, and will be back in the future. This spring semester I am studying abroad in Argentina for 7 months, and I will make sure to post my new blog on this site when it gets closer to the date!