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Restoring Hope to Internally Displaced Youth in Cameroon

Use This Alumni And Volunteers

By Njounkeng Daize Merville (YES 2017-2018, Cameroon, hosted by PAX in Zanesville, IN)

I believe empowered youth can change the world. My exchange year in the U.S. taught me a lot and added a whole new dimension to my way of seeing life. My view on the power of youth expanded, and a new word was added to my dictionary: volunteerism.

Use This Alumni And Volunteers Preparing For Outreach
Alumni and volunteers reviewing their outreach plan to recruit participants

Returning home, I had one goal as an alumna: to use every opportunity to make an impact in my home country. Cameroon is gradually changing; youth leadership and a volunteer mindset is on the rise. Cameroon’s politics and current affairs are teaching youth that they are the leaders of tomorrow. Contrary to this doctrine, I believe our young people need to start leading today. 

Due to political instability in some regions of Cameroon, many young people have grown up as internally displaced persons in neighboring regions or even countries. At far too young of an age, they have faced the loss of loved ones. Some have had to drop out of school and others hustle for three square meals a day. These youths lose hope, causing many young girls to get married and have children at a very young age, and many boys to turn to drug abuse as a form of comfort and stealing as a form of livelihood. 

Use This Making Beaded Decoration For Flip Flops
Making beaded decoration for flip flops

It is with this situation in mind that I decided to apply for a YES Alumni Grant to conduct Project Restoring Hope to Internally Displaced Youths. In August and September 2019, our project team trained 40 internally displaced youths, ages 13 to 19, to produce soap, make fish pie, and design beaded jewelry with the aim of giving them an avenue for entrepreneurship. Our goal was to empower them economically and psychologically and give them a reason to hope. We also made it a safe space for participants to share their stories and experiences. Many stories were very painful, but it was important because participants learned they were not alone in the struggle. 

Use This Lukong Leslie Director Of American Corner University Of Buea Encouraging The Participants
Lukong Leslie, Director of American Corner at the University Of Buea, speaking to participants

We also invited local community organizers and leaders to speak to and inspire the participants. Faith Mpara, co-founder of New Generation Technology, encouraged participants to never stop dreaming, comparing their dreams to seeds that need to be nurtured with care. Lukong Leslie, Director of the American Corner at the University of Buea, told the youths that even though they find themselves in these difficult circumstances, they shouldn’t stop working to harness their full potential. There is hope for the future, he stressed.

The training program directly and indirectly impacted more than 70 people, and our YES alumni project team is looking forward to long lasting relationships with the program’s beneficiaries. The youths and their parents repeatedly thanked the project team for giving them this opportunity and a reason to continue dreaming. 

Use This Group Pic Volunteers
Volunteer group photo

To receive such genuine “thank yous” from members of the community was the best reward for all our hard work. We are proud and grateful that we were able to connect with our community, make an impact in the lives of others, and create strong relationships.

We extend our immense thanks the YES Program and its sponsor, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, for making this project a success. 


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