“Work. Discipline. Success.”
-Fultang Bilingual College
I had a dream that I was in the states until I began to stop appreciating showers. I took long hot baths with careless amounts of water, I drank never-ending fountain drinks, I ate chicken with no bones, I got to go the movies lots with my family, I drove my Grandma to Wal-Mart… and I saw everyone that I needed to see. Of course it was not enough time. You can never make enough time for the people that you care about most; you just try to do the best thing at the time. I saw my mother the happiest I think I have ever seen her, owning a house and being a grandmother. I saw my sister on the track she saw herself on and mapped out for herself. I ate tiramisu. I taught my goddaughter some French phrases! I spent a few scandalous days with my best friend and gathered enough motivation to finish out my service. My luck even led me into some lovely conversations with wonderful, supportive strangers that were eager to hear some of my stories. In this dream, I visited all the places that I love most- all the people that have made up my idea of “home”, even if they have been an ocean away for the past year. It was home.
But then I awake underneath my mosquito net, feeling refreshed and ready to start in on my next 10 months in this country as an Education Volunteer for my community- starting with mon fils, Franck. After the first visit to the Fultang Bilingual College and boarding school in Nkongsamba, I knew that this would be the best thing for Franck. Not only will this put pressure on his success in terms of his education, but this will help prepare the both of us for my departure next year. He will make friendships that I hope will support him as much as I have. His father dead at four and his mother only visiting every few months, he was just another orphan in the community going hungry at lunch time and walking two hours to school in shoes that didn’t even cover his heels. I remember him before he became my 14 year old son with a little belly on him from eating so much with me, who irritates me to no end but then again listens to what I tell him most of the time, who I have come to really enjoy having around. Somewhere in between, I instilled within him at the very least one principle- the necessity for a good education, something that he knows will lead him into a future where he can become whoever he aspires to be (and personally hoping that he will be standing next to me in the family photo one day). After talking it out with friends and my parents -and taking out a loan from a close friend- I enrolled Franck into 5ieme at Fultang. I bought his textbooks and notebooks today, in which he wrote his name inside. He is starting to get excited, getting his name sewn into all of his new uniforms and buying new shoes and everything else that the school requires. Trying on his no sleeve sweater, he looked like a student straight out of Dead Poets Society. I am so impressed with this school that expects hard work and success from each of their students. Fultang has laboratories and a library, with teachers that show up every day and where homework is required. Classes contain about 20 students. These things that you may consider simplicities are extraordinary in Cameroon, where corruption is all too common everywhere within the government schools and where teachers are hardly motivated to show up to their 100+ student classes. More over, everyone is expected to work hard, and whether you are the deputy’s daughter or from a lower-class family, you will be treated exactly the same. Students all come in with the same uniforms and materials.
I do fully realize that I have gone out on a limb of faith in the people who care about Franck from the other side. I am relying on some helping hands in getting everything covered. The school costs about 600 dollars per year for everything with the exception of textbooks and uniforms which I have paid for. If I had more money, and when I have more money, I will take full responsibility of these costs- but as a volunteer, I am already spending a good part of my Volunteer stipend taking care of him. That being said, if you want to contribute to Franck’s education, you are more than welcome.
For most projects that my Cameroonian income cannot take suffice for, I take out from my Bank of America account. You can make a deposit there (to Tara Lynn Smith). I don’t blame anyone that finds this a little shady; but at the end of the day, know that I end up spending more of my money and using my family’s support to follow through with these volunteer projects that have become my life. I am also willing and open to suggestions for fundraising for Franck. But for now, I am simply going to ask you for your help.
I will get more video blogs up that feature Franck in them as soon as I can get faster internet. Also remember to visit my video blogs on www.YouTube.com under the profile: Mlle.Tara.Smith. It’s really nice to know that there are people that like to get so involved with my missions here. Thank you, I love you, and as Cameroonians say, “On est ensemble”: “We are together”.