History of the Peace Corps in Cameroon
The Peace Corps entered Cameroon on September 13, 1962 when the plane containing the 39 volunteers of “Cameroon 1” touched down in Douala. This original group came as math/science teachers, but ended up teaching a variety of other subjects as well. Peace Corps/Cameroon’s program grew and diversified to include inland fisheries, credit union/cooperatives education, English, community forestry, health, and community development. Since then, approximately 3,000 Volunteers have served in Cameroon. Currently, there are four robust projects in Cameroon: education, health and sanitation, agroforestry, and small enterprise development. The common themes that run through all Peace Corps/Cameroon projects are impact, focus, counterpart involvement, Volunteer competence, and organizational professionalism. Through collaboration and good teamwork, the Peace Corps has made a difference in many aspects of life in Cameroon, one community at a time.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Cameroon
Cameroon’s agroforestry and permanent farming system project is a collaborative effort among the Ministry of Agriculture, various local NGOs, and the Peace Corps. Initially, its focus was conducting on-farm research and strengthening the link between Cameroon’s agriculture research and extension. Currently, Volunteers work with individual farmers and farmer groups to identify agroforestry technologies that can address their needs, protect natural resources, and promote sustainable farming systems.
Peace Corps/Cameroon’s health and water sanitation project focuses on health promotion, education, and prevention, which empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own health.
The education project remains a vital part of the Peace Corps programs. Volunteers are filling the void of trained teachers in areas such as computer literacy, math/science, physics, chemistry, biology, and English.
Economic empowerment through Peace Corps/Cameroon’s small enterprise development initiatives focuses on improving the overall efficiency of financial institutions through training and technical assistance in management and business skill transfer. Volunteers provide technical assistance to financial institutions such as credit unions, community-based banks, and local non-governmental organizations. They are also kindling the entrepreneurial spirit through consultancy services to small businesses and individuals wishing to start or improve their business.
All Peace Corps Volunteers in Cameroon regardless of program area are involved in HIV/AIDS education. The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence, and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.