(excerpts from Visit Report of February 2008 - see also more recent allocation of aid from the Bamenda Fund)
ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture – B’da. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) 16th Jan 08 Doc No.3-3A Sr Hedwig is the main Catholic member of this institution. It is an ecumenical international Human Right Organisation, functioning in Bamenda since 1994. Its office is in the Tower of Bamenda Cathedral. Although primarily to defend people from direct ill treatment, its function includes a wider ranger of justice and peace issues. It works by organising seminars for local leaders, women leaders, college youths, Nkambe prison officers, a Radio Programme ‘New Vision’. For those wishing to adopt specific projects, we have been given written details of their requirements for all these items (See Docs 3 and 3A)
ARCHDIOCESAN DRUG DISPENSARY Adjacent to though not part of St. Blaise’s is the Archdiocesan Dispensary, under Mrs Rebecca (at present officially assistant to Sr. Chiara, Archdiocesan Health Coordinator). This dispensary makes available drugs to the various Catholic Health Centres throughout the Archdiocese. I am not clear if the drugs donated by Clinicare are stored here or sent direct to designated hospitals / health centres.
AKUM HEALTH CENTRE We met Sr. Virginia, a Holy Rosary Sister, who with another sister bursar, runs a well-established and busy health centre. They have a doctor, but he is soon to move on and she is arranging for a replacement. Building is in progress to offer better housing incentive to doctors. They are in sore need of equipment. A written list (doc 7) of items of medical equipment which need to be adopted are available on request.
AZIRE PRIMARY SCHOOL We went to meet the schoolchildren of St. Theresa’s Parish Azire. About 600 were paraded in their yard. They sang and danced for us. A speech highlighted the need to refurbish their ageing school buildings, and to help children unable to pay school fees (because HIV/AIDS, etc.). Those wishing to support this school in some way should ask for more details.
BAMBUI WATER PROJECT The main construction of this water project is now completed and the water is now supplying Bambui and its surroundings (including the Major Seminary etc.). Fr Bibi drove us first to Bambui 4 corner, where Sofa Stanislaus Lord Mayor of Tubah Council, the able Project coordinator Mr. Fornimoh Chrysanthus, and a delegation of the local community were waiting to welcome us. The Lord Mayor gave a speech (8A) in which he warmly acknowledged our contribution of £10,500 (not including £3,000 from Oaklands). The group then continued some distance into the Bambili hills, where we trekked for about an hour, inspecting the various catchment tanks. The work is well done. Finally we reached the functioning main reservoir, where the Fon and His Council awaited us. There Mr Chrysanthus gave a speech (8B) giving details of the project. It serves a population of 25,000, including a large number of educational establishments (Catholic and not - c.f. doc. 8E) in the vicinity. The project had been begun in 2005. The total cost had been approx. £88,000m of which approx. £19,000 had been raised by the local community, £55,000 by two Italian charities based in Padua and Milan, and the rest from the UK. There are now 25 public stand taps. However a problem has arisen from the number of people who, having paid for pipe extensions to their compounds are wasting the limited water supply. Consequently there is the need for two supplementary projects: a management and maintenance office and equipment (costed at £15,000), and a system of metering to control private use (£15,000). Written details are available (docs 8c and 8d for those who may wish to help toward this project. (We lunched at Bambui Major Seminary where we were received by the Rector Fr. Agapitus Nfon. We met the Parish Priest Fr Oliver Gam, and an old friend Fr Joseph Ayeah, now retired.) (As Sr. Catherine of the Sisters of Christ Convent, who had first asked us and Oaklands School to support the water project was absent, on Thurs 24th we went again to visit her in their convent. She showed us that she had meticulously kept records of monies received, but there was no real reason why she had not given previous feedback to Oaklands School and to our Committee. Also present again was the Project leader Chrysanthus, who is a better contact).
BAMENDA PRISON We went to visit Bamenda Prison (about 4 km away) with Fr Ignatius and Sr. Dorothy, the current pastoral leader there. We were met at the humble main door by the Prison Governor, who welcomed the longstanding pastoral and material help that the Church offered the Prison, and welcomed us to tour the prison and speak to the inmates. Sr Hedwig who has worked in the Prison for years and knows the people there also joined us. There are about 500 inmates in the prison including 40 – 50 teenagers and 8 women. We met many of the prisoners both in the prison yard, and in the Chapel, and saw the poor conditions where they lived and slept. There is a school for the young offenders, and basic craft shops. The latter however lacked materials and needed ongoing support. The Church also supplements the prisoners’ meagre diet with money raised both locally and through ourselves. It needs fund for the support it gives to the humanitarian work of giving food, medicines, clothing, bedding, didactic materials, and basic sport materials to the Prisoners. It also helps prisoners to keep in contact with their families. Many of the inmates are kept for long periods on remand without trial. The Church sometimes arranges legal aid for prisoners without means. For those wishing to adopt specific projects, we have been given written details of their requirements for all these items. An amusing item: in the Governor’s office hangs a dilapidated colour picture of Prince Philip and Diana!
BUKOW – BAMESSING HEALTH CENTRE Wed 23rd Jan 2008 Within Babanki Tungo Parish, on the main provincial ring road, it is not far from St. Theresa’s Mission Station Bamessing, where the Christians have built a priest’s houses in the hope of being declared a separate parish. This community-based health centre has the good support of the whole population, crowds of whom turned out to welcome us. Recently founded, and staffed by lay nurses employed by the Archdiocese, it currently serves about 90 patients a month. It needs a lot of equipment, but most of all it suffers from the lack of mains electricity. There is no clear reason why it has not yet been connected. We should endeavour to help them make a success of this project.
CATHOLIC EDUCATION SECRETARY
Fr. John Ambe, the Catholic Education Secretary, has responsibility for the funding and management of all the Catholic primary and secondary school in the Archdiocese. His office is situated in the Cathedra compound in refurbished buildings previously occupied by M.H.M. brothers.
There are 127 Primary schools with 565 for nearly 26,000 children, while there are 11 secondary schools with 251 teachers for over 5,000 students.
To support the schools there is a well established mobile R/E team. In addition there is a team of mobile catechists instructing many Catholic Children in Government and Private schools.
Despite a very good academic and moral record, Catholic schools are facing a massive challenge. Built by the people and staffed by the Archdiocese, the Government used to pay a subvention to help pay the teachers. For years the Government has failed to give anything, and at the same time have planted ‘free’ Government schools, with inadequate staff.
School fees are not excessive but beyond the means of many orphans and those affected by the HIV/AIDS endemic in some 20% of the Population. While in some areas support Groups and parochial initiatives strive to help needy children, recently the Archbishop has set up a special Scholarship Fund to spread similar help to Schools throughout the Archdiocese.
The current annual School fees (inclusive of necessary books) are approximately: £15 (Primary in urban areas); £10 (Primary in rural areas); £30 (nursery schools); £100 (typical Secondary School). `
CHAPLAINCY TO FORCES OF LAW AND ORDER
We met Fr George Ngalim from Bayelle who works with Sr Dorothy organising days of recollection and seminars for members of the armed forces and the Police.
For those wishing to adopt specific projects, we have some written information.
COUNSELLING FOR HIV/AIDS VICTIMS AND AFFECTED PEOPLE. Led by Sr Sheila McElroy, she has a large group of local people whose attitude and response to AIDS has been transformed through her programme. 78 people are attending the present programme. She also offers other support (school fees for children etc.), home visits, and a primary school sexuality programme. This is a functioning and worthwhile project.
FEDERATION OF CATHOLIC YOUTH CENTRE - Mankon Mr Walter Nsoh, Archdiocesan President of the Youth Federation, along with about 40 young members of local branches, welcomed us to their Hall, a large but dilapidated building, with a considerable site adjacent. The Chaplain Fr George Ngwa was out of town. Portsmouth priest Fr. Tony Gatt had been a founding chaplain of the Federation, and Portsmouth had previously given money which had been used to built a security wall around their site, and to provide chairs and tables in the hall. However the wall, though substantially in place had not been completed, and repairs to the hall promised in 2005 had not been carried out. The Address informed us that the Federation organises annual youth camps, leadership seminars in cooperation with the British Council leadership Programme. Local groups meet weekly for prayer, reflection or formation. Fr George visits the parishes to promote Youth work. They appeal for funds to complete the fencing, to purchase farming implements, to set up small income-generating projects, like rearing pigs, tailoring and haircutting etc. This appeal for farm implements is not entirely convincing these are widely available and owned by the poorest families. Advice and details are available to those wishing to support the youth.
JOHN PAUL II SECONDARY SCHOOL WUM
This is a new Catholic boarding College, with only its first year of pupils. We were welcomed by the pupils and staff, under their principal, Father Ben Nsom, who had studied in Southampton. We joined them for Mass. At present they do not any premises of their own, They have repaired are temporarily using old council buildings. The children’s sleeping accommodation is extremely cramped with many sleeping on simple bunks in one room. They have no chapel and use a classroom. Due to lack of accommodation, intake for the first year had to be restricted to about 50. It is estimated that the yearly intake could easily be double this. Despite this it was evident that there was a good spirit of discipline and cooperation. The students look after their own school cleanliness and hygiene, and work a small farm to help with the diet.
Fr Ben is working hard to build a proper school. A nearby 55 acre plot has been allocated to them, and he has used some funds donated by other established diocesan colleges to have thousands of cement block made, and to order timber. The overall cost could be £30,000+.
LA VERNA HIV/AIDS SUPPORT GROUPS Adults of the local ‘La Verna’ [named after the local house of retreat run by the Franciscan Sisters] support groups numbering well over a hundred people came together on the Friday in a Hall of Bayelle Parish to thank the Portsmouth Delegation for their ongoing support. On Saturday a great number of children (there are 510 on the books) met us in the Bayelle Parish Hall, to dance and sing for us, while one read a formal thank you (see Doc 9E). Though led and motivated by Sisters Hedwig* and Chiara, these groups are based in the local community, embrace those affected by AIDS whatever their Faith, and strive by local fund-raising and small businesses to support AIDS victims and their (often orphaned) children. We were given 2 moving DVDs (docs 9a and 9b) of the Bamendankwe Branch’s efforts. In addition a written report (9c) appeals for continued support for medicines, food, income-generating projects, and school fees for the children. This project is very practical and every little contribution makes a difference. For rates for school fees, see No. 19 below, the report of visit to Education Secretary. * Re. Sr. Hedwig. For many years she has done great work in the prison and serving the social needs of the Bamenda area. Now she is to be given a 3 month sabbatical at the Redemptorist House at Hawkstone Hall in the UK. She has already partial funding. The total cost is £5,400, and she is urgently seeking £2,700 from us (see Doc. 9D).
MARYVALE CATECHETICAL INSTITUTE BAFUT This Institute is named after and linked academically with Maryvale Birmingham, where Fr Bibi the Director was himself trained in catechetics. Catechists play a crucial role in Bamenda, where most parishes have a good number of Mission Stations. Every Church has at least one catechist, often several. Some are full-time trained leaders who are paid (though a very modest sum).
A representative number of catechists who have taken part in the course assembled to welcome us and present us with Thank You letters / cards (see docs 19 and 20). An informative speech was presented by Elizabeth Nomasse, assistant to the Director (see Doc. No.17).
The programme consists of a two year distance-learning course approved by Rome in 1989. At present there are 33 students enrolled in first year and 21 in second year, an increase on the previous year (see doc. No. 18).
Portsmouth has supported this institute not only by funding Fr. Bibi’s training, but by helping with books, equipment and fees. Recently we had allocated £1,000 to the purchase of the Echoes Packs *.
The Centre has no exclusive premises, and uses the Parish Hall at Bafut as classroom and refectory. They have one dormitory for all students and have to rent out near-by accommodation for Elizabeth Nomasse. They appeal to us to continue to support their Echoes programme, and if possible with other improvements to their plant. A formal plan for a Chapel was presented to the Delegation (see Doc. 21).
However, the Archbishop at our final meeting with his committee, indicted proposals to move the Centre to the site of the Pastoral Formation Centre.
* Note: Exchange rates and commission charges had reduced the amount credited to Maryvale Bafut to approx. 850,000 francs. This would be further reduced if UK bills were to be paid from Cameroon. Consequently, it was agreed that the current credit would be frozen, to await allocation to another project, and that I would pay invoices from CTS in UK, for amounts of approx £1,000 which had been previously allocated. Similar procedures would be followed for any future allocation of funds for Echoes Packs.(See Doc 21A)
NTARINKON – A PROPOSED NEW MISSION STATION of Azire 17th Jan 08 doc No.5 We are accompanied by the PP, Mr James Ndi (PPC Chair) and other Azire and Ntarinkon Christians, to a site which has been purchased (at a cost of £6,000) for a large new Church (to seat approx 800 – 1000) to take the pressure off Azire (see their typical Parish n/letter Doc. No 5A), where the three Masses are overcrowded. £9,000 has been collected locally, Fr Oprins donated £1,000, and Rome has given a £13,000 grant. However another £50,000 is still needed to complete the project. For those wishing to support this urgent need, a more specific breakdown can be obtained.
St. EDMUND’S MULANG (outstation of Azire [Small Mankon] Parish, in the outskirts of Bamenda Town).
We met Fr Engelbert Kofon VG the Parish Priest of Azire, John Achuo President of the Mission Station Committee, and the catechist who also runs the Diocesan printing press. We were taken to Mulang, where we were warmly welcomed and presented with gifts including a live fowl who later managed twice to escape from its basket into our vehicle!
They have a large Church seating at least 1000 people. I said Mass there one Sunday and it was filled with Mass goers. The cost of the foundations and first footings were paid for in part by Portsmouth Donations when I was Parish Priest there in the early 90s. The building was completed under the direction of Fr Cornelius Oprins MHM, who died in Holland the day before we visited.
There is no other building on site and the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved due to lack of anyone resident to ensure security. They have had prepared detailed plans for a Hall and have appealed for funding.
However at a recent Confirmation ceremony the Archbishop pointed out that the first priority is to build a house, for a catechist and perhaps in due time for a priest. The Community have taken this on board, and appealing to the Parishioners to contribute towards this. This is a project we should consider supporting.
For those wishing to adopt this project, ask for further details.
Project Budget 2008 - Summary Read more...
Project Budget 2008 - Other projects Read more...
Project Budget 2008 - Catechetics Read more...
Bamenda visit 2005 by Dr John Hughes and Mgr Jeremy Garratt