COUNTRY: CAMEROON
PROJECT: COREDA
DIRECTOR: ETUGE SUMBEDE ELVIS
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Etuge Sumbede Elvis was born the youngest of 7 children in a poor, rural community of SW Cameroon. His mother was forced into a child marriage to a much older man who died when Etuge was a toddler. After his father’s death, his mother struggled to raise the children on her own. Due to extreme poverty, only four of the seven children survived, and none except Etuge was able to attend school past the free elementary level. Etuge had the great fortune of being the youngest, as his older brothers and mother pooled their resources to ensure Etuge not only received a secondary education, but was also able to attend the university where he received a BSc in Management and a post-graduate diploma in Teaching. Having experienced both the suffering of abject poverty as well as the great benefits resulting from educational sponsorship, he has committed his life to helping others as a tangible demonstration of his gratitude. To achieve this goal, he founded Community Relief and Development Action (COREDA) in 2010.

Environmental stewardship is one of his passions. Having grown up in a rural community, Etuge knows that farming is the lifeblood of poor Cameroonians. Over the past few decades, the productivity of the soil has been greatly diminished through unsustainable farming practices. This directly impacts poverty and suffering, especially among children and women in rural communities. He is therefore deeply committed to educating farmers on environmental stewardship and restoring the health and productivity of the ecosystem. Organic and regenerative agriculture is one of the most effective and immediate ways to improve the welfare of rural families, so this is a core activity for COREDA. Another of his passions is education.

Schools have been closed in the forest communities of Western Cameroon since 2016 due to the Anglophone war. Many families had to flee from their homes into the bush to escape rebels and government troops and were often separated from one another in the process. After surviving sometimes for two or three years in the bush, many families, or even children on their own, worked their way to Tiko to make a new life in crowded IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. These displaced children and orphans desperately wanted to attend school, but their dream was elusive until Etuge Sumbede Elvis opened a school for these marginalized children.

Etuge believes in holistic care, so he isn’t just providing the bare minimum. He is offering what is probably the best elementary education in the region. His teachers are well-trained, his students have access to textbooks (a rarity outside the big cities in western Cameroon), he provides a nutritious meal each day to children who used to cry from the trauma of deep hunger, and he even runs a traditional dance program to help the children heal from their trauma. To improve their health, he offers medical checks at school and treatment for intestinal worms. The school also has a well which provides clean water, and children fill up containers to take home – keeping them safe from the cholera which often infects others in the community.

The results are showing… Since starting his school in 2019, 100% of his graduating 6th graders have passed the national competency exams. Most schools in this region have pass rates of just 40-50%.

To encourage displaced children who struggle to stay in school, we wrote a storybook based on the true experiences of one of our students. The story, personally familiar to all IDP children, highlights the importance of an education and encourages children to never give up. We have distributed the book to about 2,000 children as of May 2024 and the comments we’ve received are very encouraging, like:

  • They killed my auntie and my uncle… At that time, I was very sad, very traumatized, very angry. When I read this book, I was very happy and no longer sad. I know there is hope.
  • I went through many traumatizing things, and I didn’t go to school for a while because of the crisis. The book has taught me how to be focused in life and never to give up no matter what, no matter the situation.
  • I want to tell people how this book has helped me. I got shot in Munya, but since I read this book, I am no longer scared.

Though we’re pleased with the primary school, it saddened us to think that, after sacrificing so much and working so hard, the education of these children needed to end after the 6th grade. So, we funded the construction of a secondary school that will teach a combination of academic subjects plus vocational skills so graduating students will be qualified to find jobs.

It is a joy to help these children because they are highly motivated to work hard and escape poverty. One 5th grader, for example, who lives in an orphanage, works hard to care for the younger children, getting up early to draw water from a well and collecting firewood so they can cook food. She says life in the orphanage is really difficult, but she is working hard for a better future. One day, she hopes she will be able to find her mother. Etuge’s school will give her the chance to do that!

We invite you to give hope to such children!

 

To donate to Cameroon-Etuge, click here.

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