12.16.2014

An Update on Lomie

Yacouba (Right) after the Bafoussam Beekeeping Training
It seems as if I lived in Lomié a lifetime ago. There are days I miss Didja and Djouberou, my old neighbors, and Yacouba, my old Bamoun work partner, and my beekeeping and soy project with the Baka. I still call Djouberou to see how the patisserie he opened is going, and I talk to Didja about how her children are doing, and I call Yacouba on a weekly basis to see what artwork he is creating and I inquire about his rattan business. While a lot of bad things happened in Lomié, there are nonetheless aspects of it that I miss. But just the other day while I was sitting roadside with a couple of Fulbe men watching the cars go to and from Ngaoundal and Tibati, I met one man who is a logging truck driver that passes through Lomié. When I told him I lived in Lomié for a year, he replied with, “Lomié is a bad village. You are very lucky you were not drugged and bad things didn’t happen to you”. It’s moments like that where I remember it was good I was evacuated and I’m reminded of how grateful I am for my calm, welcoming, cheerful village and all it’s old Al-Hadjis and bæuf.

Yacouba in the Governor's Throne He Made
When I was in Lomié, I felt as if I hardly began any projects. Many days I look back and feel like I wasted a year there and I wonder if people will even remember the work I began. It’s discouraging. But this week Yacouba gave me a call and informed me that the work I start is being continued…by him! I knew Yacouba and Atangana were planning on continuing the beekeeping and soy cultivation project, just on a small scale without the grant, by Yacouba’s own kind donation and hard work. Yacouba is a really innovative and business-oriented man who spends all his free time helping others escape out of poverty, while making a buck or two himself. Yacouba’s art projects with the Baka and his interest in preserving their culture and ameliorating their living standards is driving his desire to continue the beekeeping/soy project with them. In the next few weeks they are launching the beginning education sessions with the three encampments I chose long ago.


While Yacouba told me he was going to continue the beekeeping and soy project, he gave me no indication he was continuing the more health-related projects, such as the Baka encampment health causeries. But just this week Yacouba called me and asked, “Where can I find some AIDS resources in Lomié? Can I stop by your old hospital and ask?” When I asked what he was up to, he informed me that due to popular demand, he wanted to continue the biweekly health talks at the Baka encampments, which I had only just barely begun to start before I was evacuated. I was shocked. Yacouba was going to talk about AIDS? In LOMIE?! The health center I worked at began testing everyone for AIDS who came in for a consultation, and the tests showed that 70% of those who came to the hospital had HIV/AIDS, which means the overall population of Lomié most likely has a HIV prevalence rate of well over 50% - it’s sickening and sad. But despite the fact that 1 in 2 people have HIV there, nobody talks about it, even in an informational/education setting. It’s a 110% taboo and off-limits conversation.

Not only am I incredibly appreciative and astounded that Yacouba wants to pick up my health education classes, I’m in awe that he is going to begin with a topic so sensitive as HIV. Yacouba is a man truly born in the wrong country. With this work ethnic, dedication, aspirations, and large heart, this man would succeed and win hearts and minds wherever he was in the world. When I asked him why he was continuing the health projects I began when that isn’t his area of expertise he replied with, “You gave up your time to help us, now it’s my turn to give back and help my community. It’s the least I can do.” I teared up as I thanked him for his endless work, and when we hung up, I realized how lucky I am to have not only a great work partner, but also a true friend. I can’t wait to see what Yacouba achieves in years to come.

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