Posted April 12 2013 by Sophie | Filed under: Classroom Connections, Voices from the Field.
The Voices from the Field series shares the stories and reflections of Opportunity Africa’s students, field coordinators, and volunteers.
Vieux shares with us: “The Classroom Connections project is known here in Bertoua as the first digital campus at the secondary level. This academic and socio-cultural project fosters connections between students from a school in Cameroon and Fergus Falls High School in the USA. It is an innovative educational project—a true social and community project that will allow students in the future to be socially responsible leaders in their respective communities.
This project has already allowed students in Bertoua to be curious, build self-confidence, and have an open mind. They have expressed a willingness to explore the world. It has been a great opportunity to be part of a social network of friends, and has helped students develop digital communication skills (like Internet comprehension, digital photography, online communications, and improvement of language skills). Children seem more attracted to the school because of these types of self-confidence development activities.
One of the activities the students are involved in is a digital photography exchange, or PhotoVoice. Through our photography activities, peers in both schools use photos to talk about their daily activities, introduce their families, and share about friends, their community, and their city. Students gained a sense of responsibility and a spirit of community involvement through story sharing. They have a willingness to be a part of a “global village” by opening the doors of their families and their city to the world.
In other activities, we anticipate that students will embody a global awareness that will result in positive change within their communities.
Because of Classroom Connections, students have also shown interest in future vocations, like photographers, reporters/journalists, or community leaders. Each hopes to communicate and create change through photos. The students are very excited and feel privileged about the opportunities they have through this program and Opportunity Africa.
As the Opportunity Africa Field Coordinator in Bertoua, my role has been to manage the Classroom Connections project, meet the various actors (school leaders, teachers, and students), link different actors with the partners, facilitate programming, and motivate students involved in daily activities.
It has been a real pleasure to work with Opportunity Africa in this way. I enjoy giving opportunity to ambitious, enthusiastic, curious, and dynamic students to help them fulfill their educational dreams.”
Posted March 15 2013 by Sophie | Filed under: Classroom Connections, Feature.
Opportunity Africa is thrilled to announce that our Classroom Connections program was awarded the 2013 Dot.org “Connecting Communities” award from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MNCN) on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
The Dot.Org awards recognize Minnesota nonprofits that are using technology and communications “…in inspiring, effective and creative ways.” Opportunity Africa is considered by MNCN to be a pioneer in new approaches to technology for communications, particularly for its work in the Classroom Connections project.
Opportunity Africa founder and Board President, Heather Buesseler remarked, “I was shocked and humbled. I had no idea we had even been nominated for the award, so it came as quite a surprise to find out we won! It has been incredibly rewarding to see students from my hometown connect with students from my adopted home in Cameroon through Classroom Connections.” (more…)
Gender inequality in education is extreme. Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it is recognized that everyone has the right to education, and global organizations have been working tirelessly to address this gap. Education is critical—it provides women and girls with a strong foundation to secure other rights, as well.
Numerous efforts are aimed at eliminating barriers to achieving education, including initiatives to address poverty, poor health, lack of family planning resources, and child marriage to name a few. Below are a few campaigns gaining traction, and some upcoming events you can get involved with right now: (more…)
Posted February 26 2013 by Sophie | Filed under: Organization updates.
At Opportunity Africa, we’ve been fortunate to work with board members who are truly passionate about our mission: to help Cameroonian students achieve their educational goals and overcome poverty. Jason Astle is no exception. As a new member of the Board, he brings a passion of his own. (more…)
A week ago, February 11, Cameroon celebrated National Youth Day, or Fete de la Jeunesse. Declared a national holiday in 1966, Cameroon is historically known for its Youth Day celebrations. The country goes out all out with excitement, commemorating youth contributions to development and progress with parades, exhibitions, and conferences. In Yaounde, the capital, and other locations around the country, congressmen and women gather with youth association representatives to share and discuss the educational, political, economic and social empowerment of Cameroonian students and youth.
Opportunity Africa’s scholarship students and advisory committee members in Kentzou attended the festivities, too. To view photos taken by our students and coordinators, view our Facebook photo album.
Check out a video of a cultural Cameroonian dance during Culture Week here.
As we look back at 2012, Opportunity Africa wants to thank YOU—our donors and supporters—for what you helped us accomplish this year. Here’s our Top 5 achievements of 2012:
- Launched the Classroom Connections program, which connects students in Minnesota and Cameroon. These kids are learning about each other’s lives by communicating through Skype, emails, and photo exchanges—the kinds of cross-cultural learningopportunities that provide the skills to become successful global citizens, promote peace, and effectively participate in a globalized economy.
Posted December 26 2012 by heather | Filed under: Uncategorized.
Vieux Nguepi, one of Opportunity Africa’s first scholarship recipients, is now a published author. His book, Mumba, The Indomitable Gorilla: Biography of a Slave Gorilla who died in captivity in a Canadian zoo, was published on December 19, 2012.
Nguepi not only surprised Opportunity Africa with his authorship of the book, he also announced that he will donate 50% of the book’s profits to the organization. In addition, he also hopes to make available printed copies free of charge for students in Cameroon.
Mumba was the first gorilla ever to arrive in Quebec, Canada. He was captured in southeastern Cameroon in the Congo River Basin Rainforest in 1961. In a living scientific experiment, this male silverback gorilla was raised as a human baby in captivity at the Granby Zoo. Nguepi recounts the story of this brave animal’s life, describes the controversial circumstances surrounding his death, and comments on the fate of other gorillas in captivity.
“Mumba was very popular in Quebec,” Nguepi explains. “Over 20 million Granby Zoo visitors saw him.” Mumba died in 2008 at the age of 48.
This book is an extension of Nguepi’s graduate studies in Environmental Management at the University of Liege, Belgium, and his subsequent internship in Canada. Nguepi returned to Cameroon last year and currently serves as the Ground Coordinator for Opportunity Africa’s Classroom Connections program in Bertoua.
Mumba, The Indomitable Gorilla is currently only available for download in French. An English translation is underway.
If you’ve been following our recent updates, you’ve been reading names like “Bertoua” and “Kentzou” and hearing about our focus on Cameroon’s East region. Not quite an expert on Cameroonian geography? Or wondering why we picked the East in particular? You’re about to find out.
An Introduction to the East
Like the rest of Cameroon, the East is very culturally diverse. There are many different ethnic groups, including sedentary farmers such as the Gbaya, nomadic Fulbe pastoralists, and the Baka, (sometimes called Pygmies), who are thought to be the earliest inhabitants of the area. Each group has its own culture and language, but French is often used as a common language, especially in cities. Most people in the region make their living through subsistence farming.
The climate in the region is fairly hot, with two rainy and two dry seasons each year. The terrain consists of low, rolling hills—locals call them “half-oranges” because of their rounded shape!
The rainforest sets the East Region apart from other areas in Cameroon. Forest covers about two-thirds of the region, which comprises a portion of the Congo River Basin Rainforest
—the second largest rainforest in the world (only the Amazon is bigger). The government has established four forest and game reserves, and environmental protection of the forests is a major issue in local politics. Timber exploitation (of both legal and illegal varieties) is the predominant economic activity of the region, as well as illegal bushmeat and ivory trade.
The magic of the forest is inescapable, as anyone who visits will surely tell you. Check out this song written by one of our board advisers after his travels there as an undergraduate study abroad student!
Congo River Basin Blues
“The Forgotten Region”
Cameroon’s East region is sometimes characterized as “forgotten” by politicians and development projects. It has little political or economic importance for Cameroon, and there is the added challenge of accessing the region.The East is the largest of the country’s 10 regions—at the same time, it is also the least densely populated. This is mainly because of the thick forests that cover much of the region, making it a challenge for large settlements to develop. In addition, the dense forests, large land area, and lack of reliable roads make travel difficult.
Because of these challenges, development indicators for the East are lower than for other regions of Cameroon. Health services and education, for example, are not widely available. Where these services do exist, they are usually found in larger cities, which are hard for rural residents to access.
Its “forgotten” status is one major reason why Opportunity Africa chose to concentrate our work in the East. The East is an amazing place—full of cultural and ecological diversity—but has been neglected by many development projects. We knew this was an area where our efforts could have a direct and lasting impact on people’s lives!
Bertoua and Kentzou
So now you know the East region has received less attention and has a high level of need for aid in education, which makes it a good place to focus our work. But what about Bertoua and Kentzou, specifically, where our programs take place?
Bertoua is the administrative capital of the East region, with a population of about 200,000. It’s the nerve center for things happening in the East—local delegations of government administrations are there, and it’s the location of the headquarters of most non-governmental organizations working in the region. It also has a bilingual high school, with whom we are partnering for our Classroom Connections program.
Kentzou, on the other hand, is a rural town of about 17,000 people, right on the border of the Central African Republic. As a rule, rural students have less access to education than those in urban areas. Combining this with lower levels of access in the East in general, rural students in the East start school at a significant disadvantage. Our scholarship program, which focuses mainly on students in Kentzou, aims to lessen that disadvantage by providing students financial support to achieve their educational goals.
The East is an area with some of the greatest needs in Cameroon. Although Opportunity Africa hopes to expand its efforts into other regions in the country, we decided to focus our efforts here as an important starting point.
Posted November 26 2012 by heather | Filed under: Classroom Connections.
Opportunity Africa is thrilled that students in rural Minnesota and in rural Cameroon are continuing to develop and deepen the relationships that began this fall. Fergus Falls High School student, Anne Childs, shares the experience of her most recent Skype session with her pal in Bertoua, Cameroon.
I think the thing that I find most interesting is how excited we both are when we start to talk. The thrill of the first [Skype session] is still there. It seems crazy to be able to talk with someone half a world away, et en francais!
The Skype went really well, I think. When we started talking, I couldn’t catch what she was saying, but I finally did. She was asking about my swim meet, but she was using a phrase I didn’t recognize… this is what she said, both during the Skype and in the email: “C’est déroulée la compétition (match de natation) vas-tu competir pour les regionals? et les regionals vont se déroulés quelle date précisément?” It was all words that I knew, but the way she said it and the phrasing caught me off guard.
We talked about traditional clothing also. I told her about a sweater I have from Norway, because my family is very Norwegian. She explained a “kaaba” to me. It is a wrap dress. She also said she might wear it for our next “seance”.
I feel like I’m getting a little better at understanding her French. In the first Skype it was a little frustrating to me that I had to keep on asking her to repeat herself. But now, I think I’m catching on to her conversational French.”
Posted November 24 2012 by heather | Filed under: Organization updates.
A huge thanks to everyone who participated in Give to the Max Day on November 15! Your outpouring of generosity enabled us to raise $1,425—easily surpassing our goal of $1,000.
The 4th annual day of nonprofit giving in the state of Minnesota broke new records—53,339 donors gave $16 million to 4,381 different organizations. GiveMN, the sponsor for Give to the Max Day, created this video to thank everyone who participated. We extend our gratitude to everyone both within and outside Minnesota’s borders who made it a success!
Three of Opportunity Africa’s Give to the Max Day donors also stepped forward as Partners for Scholars’ Success. They are now in the process of connecting with the students they will partner with for the rest of the school year. We can’t wait for these students and partners to get to know each other!
Without your generous support of Opportunity Africa and these students, our work wouldn’t be possible. In this week of Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for YOU!