Friday, 16 August 2013

Meeting Ma Qui and learning about garri and pigs.

On Thursday we woke up to heavy rain and this persisted for much of the day, after all it is the rainy season here. It was also the feast of the Assumption, a public holiday in Cameroon and so our hosts picked us p at 10.00am after Mr Anu, the Director of NADEV had attended church. NADEV, the project that we are visiting, is partnered by MRDF. Although NADEV  is not a church organization it has become clear that every member of staff and board member is a committed Christian and this is what inspires them in their work.

NADEV works with women and helps them to develop their small businesses. Often these women are widows or single women who bear the responsibility of bringing up their children and paying for their education.  We drove to Tiko, where we met Mrs Celine Qui, known as Ma Qui in the local community where she is an elder and a preacher in the church. 

With Ma Qui in her shop. Ma Qui is wearing a red jacket.
 Ma Qui has a dressmaking and design business that she has developed after being widowed with 9 children to support. She shared her story with us without self-pity or anger. As I listened to her and sat beside her I was inspired by her faith, her courage and her leadership skills. Ma Qui has also started and leads 6 groups for the support of widows. In these groups the women support one another, are given information about their legal rights and helped to access the support that is available for them. In this area, when a woman is widowed the tradition is that she is locked into a smoke-filled room for the official period of mourning. The smoke is there to make her cry and mourn her husband and other women who have been widowed oversee the custom. After this period of mourning, many widows find themselves without support and are not aware of their legal rights to property that might be claimed by their husband’s family. The widows groups offer much to women who find themselves in this very vulnerable position.

Ma Qui with her son, Elvis. A Local Preacher, lawyer and politician.
We asked Ma Qui what she would like the Methodists in Britain to pray for the people of Cameroon. She asked that we pray for widows, that they might be given the strength to live their lives to their full potential. She also asked for prayers for the end of corruption among the leaders in society.

And what would Ma Qui want to say to people in Britain? She was clear about this. Man and woman are created equal in God’s eyes so women must be strong and take responsibility for their own lives. They should never allow themselves to be disregarded or limited but should do everything they could to fulfill their potential.

Before we left Ma Qui prayed with us, and she prayed for me as a woman in leadership. I was greatly blessed.

There was so much glory in that small shop on Thursday.

We drove on to the village of Malende where we met Helen, who has developed her small business with help from NADEV. NADEV offer training to women who have already begun to buy and sell goods or skills. Once trained in business management skills – book-keeping, customer relations, risk assessment – they are able to access loans to enable them to develop the business further. Helen sells smoked fish and other goods from a stall outside her home. 

Helen and her shop

 She took us further into the village where another woman and her children were preparing Garri for sale in the market the next day. Garri is a powder of cassava and palm oil which is a staple food here. The family were working under the overhang of a roof, which protected them from the rain, as they ground and cooked the cassava until it was a fine, yellow powder ready for sale. It was hard, labour intensive work. Stirring the cassava was the woman’s son who is a teacher in a local school, it is holiday time now. 

Making garri
Our final visit was to Tolle a village next to a large tea plantation on the slopes of Mount Cameroon. This had been owned by CDC (Cameroon Development Corporation) and under their ownership the village had been well supported. The plantation was sold to a Cameroonian some years ago and he is not treating the workers well. 

The tea plantation

 The roads have fallen into disrepair and the villagers are going through very difficult times. In this community there are many single women and widows. NADEV has assisted some of the widows to buy and raise a pig. They supply them with a pig and support them while they raise it until it can be sold. The pigs are kept in raised pens so that they don’t catch diseases from other pigs that roam around. When the pig is sold, a small part of the profit goes back to NADEV to help to fund the purchase of pigs for others. A trained veterinarian working with NADEV offers ongoing support to the women. This was a sign of hope in a difficult place – a glimpse of glory.


On Friday we move on to Limbe after an evening with our hosts from NADEV when we ate and drank together and were entertained by local dancers before saying goodbye to these people who give so generously of their time and skills. It has been a privilege to share with them.

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