Thursday, February 5, 2009

We are the roots and branches of one tree

For the past week and a half I've been trying to put my second trip to Cameroon into words. I love it here so much. The scenery is amazing and the fruit is delicious, but what really sets it apart from anywhere else I've ever been is the people. I don't know how to describe them.

They have so little compared to our standards, yet they live such happy lives. The kids here don't want a Wii or an Xbox. If they want to bowl, they pile some rocks up and find a bigger rock to throw at them. They don't want games like Halo, Grand Theft Auto, or Need for Speed. The kids just want to spend time with their friends. People might rotate through three or four sets of clothes while we're here, but it doesn't bother them. They can live without having that new pair of jeans or another pair of shoes. The ones they have are just fine. Hardly anyone has a car here and people are okay with that. They walk. They walk for miles everyday, sometimes with a large bucket of water, sometimes with a book, sometimes with a bunch of plantains balanced on their head. They don't think twice about spending an hour or two walking everyday. People have walked everywhere in Bakang for as long as the village has been established, its just a part of life.

The people of Bakang have been dealing with waterborne illnesses for the same amount of time as well, but unlike walking, this is something that people are trying to change. As mentioned in previous blogs, the government drilled a well and installed a hand pump with the intention to provide cleaner water, but did not train anyone to fix it when it broke. Scanwater installed a water distribution system, but did not include the people of Bakang in the process so they did not know how to maintain it after they left. What were the people supposed to do? They keep getting let down.

That is why I am so happy about how much trust the people of Bakang have in EWB-UD. They are accepting us into their lives. They call us their brothers (Alyssa is a sister, not a brother) and they made us citizens of their village. They invite us to play soccer with them on the weekends and into their houses for meals. They dance and sing when we tell them about the plans that we have (Dr. Steve gets most of the dancing). They have so much hope that we can work together to make their village a healthier place to live. You can see it in their eyes. You can see it in their smiles when we are sieving sand for the filters. You can see it when they are filling their bottles at the storage tanks. All of the parents have hope that their children will grow up with fewer illnesses than they did. They see the Bakang of tomorrow being a much better place than the Bakang of today. But the people of Bakang trust us to help them get there. We don't want to make the same mistakes that others have. We are here to show them that we really are their brothers and sisters, united for one goal: to make this planet a better place to live for everyone.

If you ever get the chance to wake up early and watch the sun come up over the mountains in Bakang, do it...


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