The Social Welfare Commission is cited in an office at the Cathedral compound. They are charged with developing smaller Social welfare commissions in the parishes which will then identify and work together on social needs in their areas.The team has been lead by Sr Benedicta Muffah but she will be handing over the role to Fr Paul Njokikang in the coming months
An example of their work is as follows:
Pit Toilet Project – Ambele Zone
Originally the community requested a Health Centre. The Social Welfare team encouraged them to develop basic hygiene through community toilets. Individuals offered the use of private land for community toilet blocks.
Raw materials could only come part way by road. Some of the community contributed by carrying materials, making mud blocks or providing the labour to build the toilet blocks.
Others contributed through part payment in oil. Some of the villagers have special needs and so adaptations have been made to some blocks to enable those with disabilities to use them.
There is no provision for clean water in the local villages so the Social Welfare team generated local involvement and encouraged them to work on developing a catchment area from a local spring. They have now cemented in the source of the spring in order to ensure the quality of the water is not contaminated.
In 2017-18 a new project was agreed to link the spring water down to a large tank and 11 standpipes to supply three villages. Click on the video to see how they are progressing with it.
Youth and Women’s’ Empowerment Project – Esu
Esu is a village situated in the Fundong Sub-Division of Menchum Division in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, an area of Primary Evangelisation. It has on parish, St. Therese Parish Esu with one resident priest. The remoteness of the area and its poor road links means that there is much poverty.
With the support and encouragement of the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee (PBC) the Social Welfare Office under the leadership of Sr. Benedicta has embarked on an ambitious project to set up a Youth and Empowerment Centre near Esu. The construction of this Centre will enable the training of youths and single mothers in needlework, embroidery, hand and machine knitting, food and nutrition, housekeeping, kitchen gardening and also enhance agricultural and animal productivity.
We are also indebted to the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission for their generous donation of £13,000 towards the funding of the project.
The scheme also has the enthusiastic support of the Fon and the local community which has helped in creating the road access to the site. Once it is up and running the Project should be self financing and can serve as a template for other projects elsewhere in the Diocese.
In 2016 the centre opened its doors to new students but sadly the closure of many educational establishments during the current political crisis has deterred some from registering or attending which means that the project is not yet financially self-sustaining. Nevertheless, there are more students than machines in the centre and so this year some new equipment will be invested in to facilitate the development of their skills and encourage new learners.
Bamenda prison should house 400 inmates but in the current crisis (2017-18) we were told that there are more than 900, 25 of whom are women! Many are said to be entirely innocent but had been victims of arbitrary arrest and military crack down on people protesting against perceived marginalisation and discrimination of the Anglophone Cameroonians.
Bamenda funds (in particular raised by St Joseph's parish in Copnor) have for many years provided supplementary food (100 sacks of rice) to the prisoners and supported training and rehabilitation workshops. Training opportunities and workshops have included: basic education, shoe making, sewing / embroidery, cookery, IT instruction, mechanics, poultry farming, vegetable production. These have been difficult to sustain with so few resources and so many inmates purely needing their basic needs met. Sr Juliana who now provides the pastoral care / inreach, told us that many of the prisoners are barefoot, sick and abandoned.
Projects in recent years have supported the repair of dividing walls in the prison to enhance the safety of male and female segregation and also provided improved toilet and shower facilities in the female area to allow them more privacy and dignity.
Justice and Peace Team
The Justice and Peace team in Bamenda do very impressive work and are highly motivated. Laura Anyola who leads the team reported positively on having supported the first case to have achieved a conviction for human trafficking. A ministerial desk now exists in government. The Commission also works on various topics including: “Peace Building” through education in schools; awareness raising through media interviews such as “Cameroon calling”; providing access to justice (a judge and barrister providing pro bono work); and conciliation between areas affected by tribal boundary disputes etc.
Our own Justice, Peace and Social Responsibility team are now linked with the Bamenda J and P Commission and are hoping for some fruitful sharing of issues and common resources.
Church and School Building Baworro 2011
This building is in an area of recent conflict and deprivation near the Nigerian border. It was chosen for support by St Paul’s Primary School children in Paulsgrove following an awareness raising exercise on Bamenda in the school. The children donated £323.50 they had raised.