>Greetings from Cameroon (Part 7)

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‘Cause it’s a party in the USA…

Is that song still a hit? Either way, I’ll open with that.

We arrived back in the States Saturday, the 31st of July. The last two weeks of work has been crazy, irregular, and hectic, and so I didn’t have the chance to write another fresh article mentioning that our time in Cameroon was coming to a close, and for that I apologize.

Our last two weeks were filled with visits to three villages and offering complete designs for two of them. Our work began in Teke, where we determined the locations of stand taps and confirmed the lengths of pipes. More importantly we had an important realization that the stream did not flow to the site we started our survey: during the dry season the waters from the nearby spring would be dried up or soaked into the ground along its banks. This is a stream that we couldn’t get an accurate measurement because the flow was so high (about 15 liters per second). It was hard for us to fathom that this stream would go dry.

One of the more frustrating things we have come across has been villages that want to start work immediately. We have instructed this village and a number of other villages to perform a simple test to measure the flow rate during the dry season November to March. This is in order to properly determine if a storage tank is needed and, if needed, its size. We tell them to continue to raise funds and wait. They do not want to wait, and the water committees are under pressure to get things going.

One of the more frustrating things we have come across has been villages that want to start work immediately. We have instructed this village and a number of other villages to perform a simple test to measure the flow rate during the dry season November to March. This is in order to properly determine if a storage tank is needed and, if needed, its size. We tell them to continue to raise funds and wait. They do not want to wait, and the water committees are under pressure to get things going.

We have found that perhaps the biggest reason the committees are under fire is because of the mindset of the people. With how much fraud and embezzlement happens, it is very difficult for people to hand over money if they don’t see work beginning. One man paraphrased it best: “When I want a bus ticket, I don’t hand over money unless I see the bus sitting there.” If people do not see pipes being laid or materials for a catchment brought in, they will get frustrated. This attitude prevents villages from investing money, and reduces the odds the village will have enough funds to build a project without the need for government and/or foreign aid. And so the villages wait. We have been trying to encourage villages to believe in their own ability to take ownership of a project and garner the funds on their own. There is no way we can change the culture of a nation or its peoples, but we can at least offer them a new perspective.

We finished the two weeks with a flurry of busy days, filled with completing our work and visiting the friends we had made. The anticipation of returning home and seeing familiar places and old faces was especially strong for me in the last days. I had a great trip, but I was ready to return home.

I can’t describe the smile on my face when I heard the Georgian and Atlanta accents in the Atlanta airport, nor can I describe how excited I was when we broke through the clouds on our approach to Dayton International. The journey home was long (beginning from the drive to the airport to arriving in Dayton – 36 hours), but it was well worth it to see my mom and girlfriend waiting for me at the airport. It is good to be back home.

With how much has happened over the past 10 weeks, there is far too little space to write it all, and to do Cameroon proper justice I will write one final entry to come. Until then, take care all!

[by Geoff Holmes, Civil Engineer, FE, GHS and University of Dayton ’10 graduate]

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