Cameroon / Life / Peace Corps / Volunteering

All I Want For Christmas!

“Christmas, don’t be late…”
-Alvin and the Chipmunks

My dad asked me to start thinking about what I want or need for Christmas.

So there are lots of things I could say I want. There are lots of girly frilly things that would please me for a while, there are teas that I would enjoy and new work out pants would be nice, I could eat lots of pepperonis and freeze-dried ice cream, which I miss lots here… and a year ago I would have loved to splurge on nice restaurants and movies, and shopping at Bath & Body Works and clothing stores and such; I would still enjoy these things short-term, sure. But then they go away. Many of these unnecessary things we buy are eventually thrown aside, overly consumed or lost.

All of this luxury, that I didn’t even realize was luxury, was all around me. I remember during my visit, complaining about 20$ parking, saying it was too much and that I would rather walk a few blocks- and my cousin telling me, “You’re in America now. It’s not a lot of money!” Haha, later on she bought a beer for me because she knew that I wouldn’t spend the money on one. I just think of 20 dollars and what that would do for some orphans, or some primary kiddies running around with tires and boards for toys. Maybe it’s not that much, but it is in this context, which is what I am trying to help all of my American supporters realize.

I know you realize this, Dad, and that you care. You’ve always been my #1 fan and I always knew that you would support whatever was in my heart.

And so when it comes down to the core, I realize that in the long run what will fulfill me the most will be getting my projects underway and completed. I’ve been a little worried about everyone contributing though. People always say they want to help and contribute, and many family members and friends bought bracelets to support scholarships for school (which applications are being submitted for currently, and soon I will be going through them- and later there will be a ceremony of awards which you will hear all about for sure… please let everyone know that…) which is great, but there are so many needs that it’s been hard enough just to limit investing myself into a few! I really care about these projects and the people involved in them. I want to return from my mission, holding my head high because of the tremendous support and hope that I brought into my communities, because I impacted someone’s life significantly.

But I realize that it’s not all about me; it takes everyone’s helping hand. I keep hoping that people will realize that if everyone contributes a little bit, it will make a LOT of difference. I am already here doing all the necessary groundwork projects and following through. Everyone has a part, and not everyone is expected to be on this side of the world. You all can make a difference from your side, doing what you are good at and contributing in ways that I can’t!

It will make a difference for the orphans in the small village of Badzuidjong, where there is no water or electricity. It’s my priority to get these kids water. In addition, I am working together with my best friend in village, Ernest, who is from this village, and a priest who are both extremely caring and motivated for the same reasons. But they don’t have any other friends that have twenty dollars to contribute to the project. They have worked hard enough to gather the needed 25% from various groups and people for the project. The money is missing and I am that link. And I don’t mind giving up Christmas presents because I am needed here for something that will impact the rest of these Cameroonian lives.

It will make a difference for the primary school development in my village, where they began constructing an office for the school visitors and director but did not have enough funding to finish, where the Director is currently working out of an empty classroom along with his secretary. In beginning the office building, the Director himself laid the bricks that are there with his own hands. Cameroonians just don’t have the choice in getting their hands dirty most of the time. At least I do. I have the choice to bug and bother people for a few dollars, yes, I know. I have the choice to save and save until no end, and in doing so, knowing that there will always be some source of money for me (being able to work in America). Cameroonians don’t have that kind of security. I don’t know how I would stay sane without it. So I don’t mind begging for once in my life, especially after seeing so many Africans beg for the bare necessities. I am getting this project’s application (CEBEC School Development Project) submitted today, and will let everyone know when it is posted on the Peace Corps website.

ArnaudMy first project will always be Franck of course. Taking him in and getting him into the boarding school has been one of the best, yet most personally fulfilling, things I have done in my service here. It’s amazing how good it feels when you just give yourself completely to something. I realize that Franck is a life-long project! He is my adopted son, no matter what any document says.

I’ve said it before but it makes a lot of sense: If everyone contributes a little it will make a LOT of difference! Please take this to heart and into your communities- churches, organizations, groups, where you work… some people really want to help causes like this but don’t know how. This is one of the best ways, too, because the contribution goes straight to the project, without taking out a percentage for administrative costs which happens with many organizations. The contribution is direct and I will be happy to share with everyone exactly where it’s going.

All donations will be through the official Peace Corps website only.

So don’t worry or bother about sending me gifts. Just give me the gift of giving, and by giving everyone around you the opportunity to give also!

This is all I want for Christmas!

Sending lots of love from Africa,
Tara Lynn Smith

About Tara

Tara received her degree in French and Communications before jetting off to serve Cameroon for 2 years with the Peace Corps. She has forever since been inspired to serve in humanitarian projects around the world. She's a writer, tour guide, business owner, property manager, wifey, dog mom, and traveler. Tara lives in Dallas, Texas, where she's happily married to the tech genius who keeps her website pretty.