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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Help Jayne & Bob build a school in Cameroon

Jayne Dambman recently requested help on LMNET to set up a small school library of about 1000 books in Africa. I was intrigued so I asked Jayne to tell us more.

My husband, Bob, and I are both public school teachers in PA. I am a librarian and my husband is a technical education teacher. As volunteers, we have formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and we are working  towards beginning a technical secondary school in Cameroon.

A few years ago we met a pastor from Cameroon, studying near our home in the Philadelphia area. We began to learn about the desperate need for technical skills for the youth in Cameroon. During our early teaching career, we both lived and taught in Nigeria for six years, making education in Africa important to us. After many discussions with this pastor, we went to Cameroon to meet with educational leaders to learn about their specific needs.

We’ve made several summer trips to Cameroon for the past few years – working out details and now there are 16 acres of land that have been donated by a chief. We had local builders build a gatehouse on that property. An architect from the Arizona spent time at the site and has drawn up the plans for the school’s buildings. A civil engineer is designing water for the school site. Currently, we are seeking funding for further construction.

Finding the large sums of funding for construction is a challenge. We are continuing to work on that goal. In 2009, we shipped a 20 foot container to Cameroon filled with 15,000 pounds of donated school equipment:  about 3,000 books, along with tools, computers, sewing machines and other equipment.

This summer we will spend a few weeks in Cameroon. We are taking a team of teachers to do some teacher training as well as setting up a library in a primary school and perhaps one more in a secondary school. The books are already there. We will need to have shelves and tables built and decide on how to organize the books.
We have visited many schools in Cameroon and it saddens me to see the children only having a few textbooks to read. I’ve only seen one or two small school libraries in secondary schools – with some very old, old books. Even the bookstores I have visited have very few books and only a handful of children’s books.

Last year, the elementary school I am currently a librarian in collected several hundred new or gently used books to put in the container we sent. It will be exciting this year to see those get into the hands of Cameroonian children, who do not have books. Every year we go, we take as many books as we can in our suitcases because it is such a blessing to see children and adults greatly appreciate the gift of books and the gift of reading.

What is the name of the non-profit organization and how can readers learn more? 

Our non-profit organization is called Comprehensive Vocational Academies International (C.V.A.I.). More information can be found on our website at www.cvai.org.

What range of funding are you seeking to build the school? 

We will need to raise 1.25 million dollars for the first phase of the school.

How can people contribute to this? 

Donations can be made through our website www.cvai.org. Donations can also be sent to CVAI 426 Flourtown Road, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444. All donations are tax deductible.

How much does shipping cost and how are you raising funds for the shipping? 

We have been raising all of our funds through the donations given by individuals and organizations, as well as in-kind gifts. Shipping the 20-foot container with 15,000 pounds of educational materials cost thousands of dollars. We felt that the items we shipped were invaluable.

Who are you working with locally? Do you have local teachers to train? 

In the U.S., we have a board that we meet with on a regular basis. In Cameroon, we have partnered with a national church that has started many primary and about 10 secondary schools. Our teacher training this summer will be for teachers from these schools.

I noticed in the CIA World Factbook that English and French are official languages but there are 24 major African language groups in Cameroon. What language are the books in? 

We are working in the English section of Cameroon. Education is in English and the books are all English.

Tell me more about the technical skills that will be taught in this school. 

After consulting with Cameroonian educational leaders, the goal is to have the following vocational skills taught: tailoring, home economics, electrical, electronics, and metalworking. Business skills and computer skills will be included in all areas. The school will be for 900 boys and girls ages 11 and up.

What impact do you believe your school will have on social issues in Cameroon? 

The school’s graduates will be well trained in a particular vocational skill, and prepared to be responsible and gainful citizens who work with diligence and integrity. Our motto is “Training for Life”.

Please feel free to email us with any further questions at dambman@cvai.org . Please contact us if you would like a booklet mailed to you.

Thanks so much for sharing with me and with the readers. I’d like to stay connected to learn more about your project. Best wishes and keep in touch with us. Readers, any questions?