August 7, 2014

Rain and Other Things

by Nelly Marianne Weledji

Nelly Marianne Weledji '15 is a Royce Fellow.

So you think it rains a lot in Providence? It's currently the “rainy season” in most of West and Central Africa, specifically in Cameroon where I am right now. I’ve never experienced rain like this, day after day, where if you are not careful as you walk the narrow roads in the Southwest Provence of Cameroon you may easily be carried into the not-so-narrow gutters (some as wide as a small car) that run through the towns and villages.

This is a picture of one of the roads on the lower parts of Mount Cameroon (the second highest mountain in Africa) but you cannot even see the mountain here because the storm clouds are so dense during the rainy season.

 

 

This is a picture of one of the roads on the lower parts of Mount Cameroon (the second highest mountain in Africa) but you cannot even see the mountain here because the storm clouds are so dense during the rainy season.

 

 

 

Naturally, the amount of rain here presented me with a slight challenge in regards to what I had planned for my Royce project. I didn’t have difficulty starting my research of health care system in Cameroon because the hospital in which I am working is indoors. However, the plan I had to integrate sport with the health and community research I am doing had to be modified. To be honest, this did worry me as I struggled to adapt the first few days I was here. I was desperately trying to find a way to have every aspect of my project come together perfectly, but this approach proved futile.

Fortunately, once I was able to step back and willingly approach each aspect of my project from different angles, I finally started seeing some progress. I identified what I thought to be key obstacles in the health care system and the way it is perceived in Cameroon and made them teaching points as areas of focus in the sports and games I played with a local group of children who have undoubtedly become the highlight of my trip.

 

This is a picture of me with some of the children I’ve been working with. We were able to find an indoor space at the local church to use for lessons and games.

 

 

 

The work I am doing and the information that I am gathering from working at the health center has hopefully allowed me to impact the community even if I am working with a small group of about 30 kids. I’ve noticed that a lot of problems within the health care system extend into multiple aspects of life in Cameroon—be it socially, politically, economically, etc. And from how I’ve seen these children enjoy and learn from what I’ve been teaching them, I know that they are capable of passing it on and teaching their friends, neighbors, and families.

I’m learning that sports are a great medium for teaching and communicating, especially when somewhat of a language barrier is present because children learn from doing and active participation. Growing up doing all sorts of sports—soccer, basketball, softball, dance, gymnastics, etc.—I’ve learned to appreciate the benefits that being active through sports can bring beyond calorie burning. These include lifelong and widely applicable lessons like teamwork, discipline, respect, communication, and trust. In addition, sports, exercising, and playing not only strengthen your body physically, but do so mentally as well.

In addition, I’ve learned more about myself. I realized that straying from a predetermined script can be frightening but it could also be a blessing in disguise. It is in risks like these I am experiencing here in Cameroon, risks that opened me to new people and opportunities, that I am able to experience the world in a way I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. It is truly an amazing experience.

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