Firstly, a note of apology: we’ve managed to be so busy in the last few weeks that we haven’t posted a blog for ages. We’re sorry! But, never fear—we are indeed still here and hard at work. A brief recap of the activities of the past few weeks:
  • At all of our schools, we’ve closed out our YAN classes for the year! Final classes at all of our schools was rather hectic, since events at each school at the end of the school year, combined with a national holiday, combined with preparations for the administration of the G.C.E. exam for Form 5 students, all conspired to make our own classes very difficult to schedule (That national holiday, by the way, was the 50th annual Cameroonian Unification Day, held on May 20 to mark the day in 1963 that the Anglophone western provinces merged with the Francophone eastern provinces to become modern Cameroon). Nonetheless, we did manage to track down our students at each school to finish up videos, take a final YAN survey, watch a video we put together for them, and say goodbye. It was really great seeing our students one last time, and we’re going to miss them—and teaching classes here in Cameroon—a lot. Plus, our kids have put together some pretty awesome video projects, which we can’t wait to share on YouTube when we get back to the U.S. in July. And luckily, it wasn’t too tearful a goodbye (at least not yet), because…
  • Tomorrow will be our YAN graduation ceremony! We’re so excited to present our students with diplomas and congratulate them on all of their hard work, and have been hard at work the last 72 hours getting everything ready (i.e. speakers, projectors, food, drinks, diplomas) and hoping that the power and weather both cooperate. We’ve invited lots of people from around town—local women from the market, teachers, YAN students’ parents, other foreign volunteers, and of course our students themselves—and are really hoping that many will come. Not only will attendees be there to celebrate with our students, but this will also be an occasion to show some of our students’ video projects about their communities, and thereby engage in the advocacy work that our students have been immersed in all year long. 
  • As if that weren’t enough for the coming days, the YAN internship officially kicks off on Monday! The internship will involve 9 full-time interns, and handful of other part-time interns, drawn from our YAN classes. Interns will serve at several local organizations in the Buea area, creating websites and blogs and, in turn, learning about these organizations’ vital work in the Buea area. We’re looking forward to this exciting (and nascent) project, and will report on how it is going in about a week. Just as a shameless plug, we’re still looking for donors to sponsor interns—just $48 supports one of our young Cameroonian student intern for the entirety of their month-long experience, as they learn about a local NGO and build their skills in the non-profit community development sector. For more information, or to sponsor an intern, check out _____. Lastly, many thanks to our partner organizations for supporting YAN students and YAN; check out what these organizations are doing at their websites below!
    • The Environment and Rural Development Foundation/Trees for the Future (ERuDeF) engages in environmental activism across Cameroon, including cross-river gorilla protection programs and agroforestry education and support. See what they do at
    • The International Centre for Environmental Education and Community Development (ICENECDEV) supports Buea-area environmental education and prison-based education initiatives, and houses a growing library of sustainable development literature. Their website will be improved by YAN interns in the coming month.
    • ProClimate International conducts educational programs across Southwestern Cameroon to support the use of safe cooking stoves. Like ICENECDEV, their website will be improved by YAN interns in the coming month.
  • In the midst of all of this, Clara and I have also gone on two short trips to Nkongsamba (site of a beautiful waterfall and a pair of volcanic crater lakes) and Campo (site of the gorilla and chimpanzee-rich Campo-Ma’an National Park).

The bottom line: the last few weeks have been full of good things! Details on the internship and final graduation are forthcoming, we promise.

Before I wrap up this blog post, I wanted to share a quick story from a few weeks back that may represent one of the best moments that has happened in our YAN classes so far. Since May 1, students in all of our classes have been eagerly learning how to edit video projects, and then diving into editing their own, but nowhere more so that in Buea Town. With our students all living right near our house, and with school ending at erratic times each day, we were greeted most days by several students, who popped by over the course of the afternoon to polish their own project on our computers. Many of our more driven students had previously shot good interviews, so their work entailed putting the pieces of their video together with text and transitions; however, two of our groups had not taken the initiative to shoot a good interview yet. Stella and Pauline, who were focusing on malaria prevention, had shot a short interview with a nurse about their topic, but the interview was conducted in a dark location and was short and mediocre; and Gibril and Gwisho, studying water pollution, had not yet shot an interview at all.

One of those mornings in early May, all of these four students popped by, two by two. Stella and Pauline came first, at around 9 in the morning, asking to borrow a camera and providing little explanation of what they intended to do with it; and then Gwisho and Gibril came by, asking to borrow another. When Stella and Pauline came back, we learned that they had taken the camera to Mount Mary Hospital down the road, and had independently entered the hospital, asked to speak with a nurse, and conducted a full-length interview with her about preventing malaria in Buea. For all of our students’ other interviews, we had helped to coordinate logistical details; so hearing that Stella and Pauline had gone and done and interview independently, and in their free time, made us beyond proud. I think that one of the coolest moments of YAN this past year was getting to watch the footage that they had shot in the hospital; we saw usually-shy Stella on camera saying to her interviewee, “Hello, my name is Stella, and I am a student of the Youth Advocacy Network, a local organization that engages in advocacy work in the Buea community. I’d like to ask you a few questions about malaria, if you have some free time…”). Gwisho and Gibril returned to our house a few hours later, and made us just as proud, even though they were slightly less successful. They had independently taken taxis down to Small Soppo, where they had tried to interview a representative from CamWater, Cameroon’s nationalized water provider, to discuss water pollution and water scarcity. They were told that they needed to submit such a request in writing, and so they returned to our house asking if we could help them with writing such a letter to that they could conduct their interview. We did so together, and they delivered the letter; though they’re still waiting for a reply about when to return to conduct it, we are confident that they will get it done.

So, I suppose this story turned out to be slightly longer than expected. The point, though, is that four of our strong (but not extraordinary) students decided to independently take taxis around town, conduct interviews, and engage in meaningful fact-finding work, all in service of their YAN advocacy video. All of this, they did in their free time, and they went far above and beyond the demands of our class (although, I should mention, almost two dozen of our Buea Town students have been coming by to work on videos at all hours of the day; these kids are loving their projects, and they are relentless! Junior and Cedric, it should be noted, have spent probably four hours each editing videos on our laptops). But these four–Stella, Pauline, Gwisho, and Gibril—have made us incredibly proud. They get what YAN is all about, and they are working so hard to make their projects as great as possible. And there is no doubt that, given the right push, they will go and do amazing things for themselves and for their communities.


P.S. A few shots of the last few weeks: kids editing videos at our house, Nkongsamba’s 80-meter-high Ekom falls, and the twin crater lakes in nearby Bangem. Clara is jumping in front of the “female” lake, and I’m in front of the “male” lake. I’m not sure what’s with my pose, but I do think that of the three attempts at “jumping” photos that we took, this is the only one that looks reasonable—that should give you a sense of what the other two look like…