Day 6: Another Day of Acronyms: Visiting CBTS and LAP
- Written by Keir Hammer
Today we had the privilege of attending an awards service at CBTS (Cameroon Baptist Theological School). As we found everywhere in the CBC institutions, despite busy schedules, we were always welcomed and asked to bring greetings to the community. At the beginning of their chapel, we were invited to the front, introduced and asked to say a word of greeting. It is not enough to be introduced, Cameroonians like to “hear your voice” as well. After the chapel, we chatted with CBTS students, many of whom were preparing to write their final exams. That was followed by a meeting with CBTS faculty and administration. Like most theological institutions around the world, they want to offer the best theological education as efficiently as possible.
After a few more hours on the road, we arrived in Bamkikai to visit LAP. LAP, which stands for the Live Abundant Program,
offers front line access to basic health needs. This is the core training and administrative centre for the 52 Primary Health Centres that are found in Cameroon’s many rural areas. These small health centres are often staffed by non-medical personnel and reach deep into the remote villages to bring basic teaching on sanitation, personal care, family planning, literacy, nutrition, etc. The overall goal is summed up in their statement, that they are to “provide exemplary health care with genuine compassion, with the overriding purposed of evangelical witness.”
This program works to enable the local people to set up and run their Health Centre as part of a community project. They also target high risk groups and
individuals for immunization and special care clinics. Pregnant women are encouraged to come in for regular checkups and also come to the health centre for their delivery to ensure a safe and successful birth. Since the inception of the program, mother and child mortality has dropped from around 26% to around 0.6%. The baby layettes (blanket+diaper+jacket) supplied by White Cross volunteers are an important incentive for expectant mothers, who come to the health centre for their deliveries in order to receive a layette upon leaving.
Day 5: Experiencing Church in Cameroon and Travelling to Ndu
- Written by Keir Hammer
Finally I am able to get connected (and stay connected--something that has been more challanging for my computer for some reason) to the internet. Don't know how long it will last, so you may read this post in pieces...
It did not feel like a 3 hour church services. As JJ Williams, director of White Cross USA, commented: “I’ve been in one hour services that felt longer.” He did not elaborate on which church or who was speaking :). I always enjoy the opportunity to join with fellow believers in celebrating our common Lord and faith. The church is in the midst of building, so we squeezed into the concrete-framed basement with a few bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. They will continue to build as they raise the funds. Read a bit more about the church in the latest newsletter of the Hohn family who served as our primary host during our visit: http://www.nabconference.org/sites/default/files/missionary_newsletter/Hohn%20Newsletter%20May%202014.pdf
We were told that the road to Ndu is much improved over what it used to be. I cannot imagine! After years and years and years, the government is finally improving the road. Of course, the quality of the work is dependent on who gets the contract for the different sections. One company was doing an excellent job. We did finally get to the end of the road work and travelled on a road that would be challenging for off-road vehicles travelling to a favourite fishing spot. Thankfully, it is not well into the rainy season or we might have need to get out and push. Some of the holes in the road could swallow a small car. I will need to visit a chiropractor when I return to Canada.
Why are we travelling to Ndu? Many of you probably know the Cameroon Baptist Theological School (CBTS) is located in Cameroon. While not connected to White Cross in the same way as Health Services, CBTS does benefit from White Cross shipments including books, tools, furniture, personal items for the staff, etc. Moreover, as part of Taylor, White Cross Canada has more reason to make connections with CBTS because of the common connection with Taylor Seminary. Discussion continues between the two institutions for finding ways to strengthen the connections between them and perhaps finding ways to develop a partnership that will benefit both schools. Connections already abound. The vice-president of CBTS is a graduate of Taylor (I had the privilege of teaching him during my tenure as a professor). Several current and past faculty have travelled to CBTS to teach and offer administrative assistance. Most recently Dr. Syd Page was here in 2013.
Day 3: Travel up to Bamenda
- Written by Keir Hammer
With an elevation climb of over 6000 ft. we moved from the coastal to the grassland region of Cameroon.
The heat and humidity are not nearly as intense in this part of Cameroon, although it is still hot and dusty as the rainy season has not yet reached this area.
Driving in Cameroon is quite the experience. Sometimes there are three “lanes” sometimes two (on what would be a two-lane road in Canada). Besides the cars, there are many, many motorcycles, which weave through the narrow gaps between cars, large trucks and the constant stream of people. People are always walking at the side of the road, seemingly oblivious to the constant stream of traffic. Sometimes you will see an entire class of children travelling home from school along the side of the road (recognize them by their uniforms). There is no rope for them to grab, no adults in front and behind—often there are not adults with them at all. In the 6 hour trip from the city of Mutengene to the city of Bamenda, we almost never had a time without people along the side of the road. Yet it has its own kind of order. Although I am told that accidents do occur, we never saw a single one on the entire trip. The best rule of the road seem to be: always yield to that which is larger.
Cameroon is an amazing nation. The bulk of the population is hard-working, creative and very entrepreneurial. While much of their lives are very different from the Western “ideal,” they manage to make a reasonable living on very limited incomes. Food is everywhere—this is the breadbasket of West Africa and you are usually allowed to collect food from the field, although only for personal need, not to sell. Meat is a part of the diet, but it differs from the usual fare. Chickens are everywhere, and served as a source of eggs and meat. However, I don’t think everything tastes like chicken. We saw rodents of various kinds for sale at the side of the road (they just hold the dead animal up and wave it to attract your attention). I did not eat any rat or other rodent species, but did enjoy some roast goat and fresh fruit.
In contrast, medical care might not be so readily available, at least if it were not for the work of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services. As we travelled for miles past thousands of people I was struck by the clear value of the Health Centres (both Primary and Integrated) that continue to expand in order to serve the medical needs of Cameroonians.
Day 4: Experiencing Mbingo Hospital
- Written by Keir Hammer
Today, as I was reflecting back over the last few days, I thought back to the interview Tim Willson did with Nathan Wanyu,who is the Chief of Drug Unit and responsible for all the supplies that flow through the Central Pharmacy in Mutengene. Nathan was born in a CBC hospital and is quite certain that his mother received a baby layette (a baby blanket, jacket and diaper—all hand sewn) when she left the hospital with her new infant (him). I am informed that a significant number of the CBC hospital personnel received treatment through Health Services at one point in their lives. Their experiences and the quality of care they received led them to pursue a medical career (many are even trained at the CBC Private Training Centre) and come to work in the Health Services Department of the CBC.
Mbingo Hospital is situated in a beautiful bowl surrounded by green hills and beautiful waterfalls. Originally, this facility began as a treatment facility for a leper colony but now it is one of the flagship hospitals in Cameroon. Here training of surgeons and specialists occurs. This is also a referral hospital, which means that more difficult cases are referred here. On our way to the children’s ward, an infant was rushed past us, arms hanging limp, obviously one of the referral cases from another hospital.
At the next ward, we were greeted politely by the doctor on call. He chatted very briefly and then said, rather casually, “if you excuse me, I have a baby that is trying to die on me,” and he rushed off to care for the infant we had seen minutes earlier. We never heard the typical cries that accompany a death and can only assume that he was successful in treating the child. JJ Williams recognized the doctor’s name because he ships many items specifically requested by that doctor. In the course of our tour I saw many, many items that had passed through my hands in the course of being shipped by White Cross Canada. I know that these items make a difference.
Please stay tuned. More pictures and posts will be added to the blog as soon as bandwidth allows. In the meantime, make sure to check out Taylor’s Facebook page where more pictures have been posted (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.647524395301138.1073741833.132478983472351&type=3).
Day 2: Tour of Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services facilities in Mutengene
- Written by Keir Hammer
We certainly notice the weather! Hot. Humid. And then it rains. It is the rainy season in Cameroon. I think we should promote a visit to Cameroon as part of a guaranteed weight loss program. I must have dropped 5-10 pounds in water weight today.
Today was eye-opening!
We started the day touring the “Central Pharmacy” (CP) of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS--Cameroonians love their acronyms). This is a warehouse complex where all of the medical/hospital goods shipped to Cameroon arrive before being sorted and distributed among the various institutions of the CBCHS. As its name indicates (“Central”), this place is the center for the distribution of supplies in Cameroon. All materials shipped by White Cross (as well as other agencies) arrive at the Central Pharmacy: every hospital bed, every bandage, every baby blanket, every wheelchair, every order of latex gloves, every bolt of material, etc. is unloaded here and fills orders from institutions across the country. They also produce many other medical supplies right here. Over 300 people (all Cameroonian) work at Central Pharmacy.
What stood out more than all the bustle of activity were the clearly heart-felt expressions of gratitude for the provisions supplied by White Cross over the years and the hope that this will continue well into the foreseeable future. Although I have not yet toured the hospital and health centres where these supplies are used, I could already sense how important the White Cross supplies are to the CBCHS.
The important of White Cross supplies was confirmed by Dr. Emmanuel Tambe, a leading eye surgeon in Cameroon who works at Mutengene hospital (different from the Central Pharmacy, but in the same city). Dr. Tambe told us a story of how someone was able to afford eye surgery because the ongoing contributions from White Cross help to lower costs. Dr. Tambe, who is a native Cameroonian, spent some time in Canada studying and teaching; his heart for God and for his people is so evident.