Sights of Cameroon

January 18th, 2018 by bobebill

MPI: Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in the United States

January 18th, 2018 by bobebill

Immigration from Africa has been in the news lately as a result of vulgar and inaccurate comments by President Trump. The Migration Policy Institute’s report has been the source of correct information about African immigrants, posted and linked blow.

Contemporary migration from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States, which is a relatively recent phenomenon, has risen steadily over the past several decades. The sub-Saharan African immigrant population roughly doubled every decade between 1980 and 2010, and increased by 29 percent over the following five years. In 2015, 1.7 million sub-Saharan Africans lived in the United States, accounting for a small but growing share (4 percent) of the 43.3 million immigrants in the United States. They also made up 83 percent of the 2.1 million immigrants from Africa, the remainder coming from North Africa. The current flow of sub-Saharan Africans consists of skilled professionals, individuals seeking reunification with relatives, and refugees from war-torn countries.
Sub-Saharan immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations. In 2015, 39 percent of sub-Saharan Africans (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of the total foreign-born population and 31 percent of the U.S.-born population. Nigerians and South Africans were the most highly educated, with 57 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree, followed by Kenyans (44 percent), Ghanaians (40 percent), Liberians (32 percent), and Ethiopians (29 percent). Meanwhile, Somalis had the lowest educational attainment of all sub-Saharan Africans, with 11 percent having graduated from a four-year college.
Read the full report at:

New email process for development application submission

January 18th, 2018 by bobebill

In order to facilitate the application if development projects, FOC will only accept applications by email at or Please fill out the form and return a scanned copy tothese email addresses. If you are unable to scan the form, please send a email to the addresses above, and we will provide a snail mail address. PCVs with Peace Corps Partnership projects should notify FOC of the project and request support.

Please use the attached form:
2006 FOC project form A

Local man shares Cameroonian Peace Corps experience

January 16th, 2018 by bobebill

Nate Stephens, right, and Community Center of Rural Development Co-founder Eric led a training course to local Bandjoun residents. Stephens, originally from St. Onge, volunteered for two years with the Peace Corps in Cameroon.
BELLE FOURCHE — One local man shared his Peace Corps experience with friends, family, and locals in Belle Fourche Wednesday when he spoke about international service, cross-cultural exchange, and the ups and downs of being 7,000 miles away from home.

Nate Stephens, who grew up on his family’s ranch in St. Onge and attended school in Belle Fourche, said he was at least the fourth Peace Corps volunteer from St. Onge and that several teachers who shared their international experiences with him peaked his interest as a child.

“I guess I was drawn to the Peace Corps because I was looking for an opportunity to know and learn from another culture as genuinely and locally as possible,” he said.

He painted a colorful picture of his time in Cameroon for those attending his presentation at the United Church of Christ.

Cameroon, Stephens explained, is a west central African country the size of California, with a population of 22 million people. He said Cameroon has been independent from the U.K. and France since 1961, and in that time has had only two presidents.

Stephens participated in the community economic development program within the Peace Corps, and the purpose of his undertaking was to become embedded in a community where he and fellow volunteers learned the local language and helped people develop their businesses to make their livelihoods more sustainable.

In a nation where 250 different languages are spoken, Stephens described the difficultly some experienced in working to bridge entrepreneurial gaps.

The nation, he said, strives toward bilingualism — English and French — but in reality, very few Cameroonians speak both, and many speak neither. Stephens said neighboring villages speak slightly distinctive and unique languages from one another, adding to the difficulty of the task.

“The linguistic diversity is such that it is really hard to bring people together,” Stephens said.

Stephens resided in the village of Bandjoun in the western region of Cameroon, where French is the predominant language.

He explained that in the Cameroonian culture, there is a lot of “code switching,” which he explained as people speaking one language in one context, and another language in another context. He described how he could best relate to the practice by comparing it to growing up on a ranch.

“I grew up here on a ranch,” he explained. “So we had home clothes — ranch clothes where I had a ranch identity — and then we had town clothes where there is a different identity that you wear in town. Not everyone switches those identities, but some people do, and it’s very similar in Cameroon.”

He said that the region he volunteered in was very traditional and had a lot of material culture that has been passed down through the generations. He explained that the area’s traditional culture applies to religion and language, as well as traditional religious beliefs about the spirits of ancestors, sorcery, and animism — which is the belief that that various objects, places, and creatures possess distinctive spiritual qualities.

Stephens explained that people in Cameroon, just like in the United States, can be superstitious.

“When I would give people business trainings, part of the training would include the role of sorcery in business,” Stephens said. “People, just like here, have superstitions around who’s influencing them and where bad luck is coming from.”

He explained that in Bandjoun, a frequent explanation for bad luck is a curse that has been put upon a person by another. He said people would track down the potential curser or figure out how to counteract said curse.

“To me, it’s not terribly different to throwing salt over your shoulder when you spill salt,” Stephens said. “It’s just a different relationship that people have balancing that western religion — Christianity in the case of most of my friends in my village — with traditional Cameroonian beliefs.”

Officially, he said, Bandjoun is a village of about 120,000 people, but he added, it is difficult to navigate the boundaries of the village.

“It’s just small family farm after small family farm after small family farm,” he said. “So, when I explain to people that I’m from a village of 12,000 people, it’s kind of confusing, but it’s just really densely populated.”

He explained how his daily physical existence was not what he would call uncomfortable, but classified it as “definitely more involved that it is here in South Dakota.”

Although he didn’t have running water, Stephens described himself as “lucky enough” to have a well within his compound

“If I needed water, I had to cart it up a flight of stairs, so I got pretty good at conserving water,” he said.

Stephens said during his time in Cameroon, he worked on several different projects, training people about business and agriculture.

“I think my dad got a kick out of it because I always swore I would never work in agriculture, and then for two years in Cameroon that was a big part of my daily life,” he joked.

The largest project he worked on was co-founding a rabbit production farm and entrepreneurial training center with his Cameroonian friend, Eric.

The Community Center of Rural Development, he explained, involved two separate components. The first was entrepreneurial training, where he and Eric trained young people and adults in all aspects of business management. Many things that typically come as second hand to Americans do not necessarily transmit in the village context where people don’t have access to financial support like banking, Stephens explained.

Because of this, he said, financial literacy is a big obstacle in his trainings.

He said in Africa, people are much more community-oriented and have a different relationship with money than is typically seen in the United States.

“Here in the United States, we’re all out for ourselves — for the most part — and in Africa, people are much more likely to help their neighbor and close their business,” he said. “My friends in Cameroon — they’re a lot happier than Americans for the most part; humility is more a part of daily life there.”

The second component involved in the training at the community center is teaching rabbit husbandry. Stephens said people were historically interested in raising rabbits both to consume and as an income-generating avenue. However, training was required to do so because rabbits are generally not well suited for tropical life. With Eric’s more than 30 years’ experience raising rabbits he was a very well respected source of rabbit-rearing knowledge, Stephens said.

Upon successful completion of the training, graduates are given two doe rabbits to begin their own operations.

In addition to the training center, Stephens and Eric set up a rabbit-raising cooperative in an effort to continue to meet the goals and aspirations of its members.

Although Stephens left Cameroon one year ago, the project is still ongoing. He said the cooperative is 250-members strong and that it is in final talks to secure a contract with the largest supermarket in Cameroon to provide a secure market for the cooperative’s rabbits.

Stephens shared slides of photos and stories of his Cameroonian adventures with the group, and travel was a topic that seemed to strike both fear and entertainment in the young traveler. He said between towns, people take packed taxis, but within the village or to get into the countryside, people utilize motorcycle taxis. He said in his adventures, he’s ridden on the back of motorcycles with a pig, four kids, and even a bedframe.

“One of the holy grails of a Peace Corps volunteer is to see a motorcycle on a motorcycle — which you see pretty frequently,” he joked.

He shared another harrowing adventure in which he was kayaking on a river and suddenly became stranded upon rocks by a pair of hippos — a mother and her baby. He ranked the experience as one of the top three more dangerous situations he’s found himself in during his life.

Upon his return home, he said he’s experienced a few minor growing pains.

“I loved having a pretty simple and humble existence in Cameroon,” he said. “It’s just taking a long time to figure out how to relate to people; you have to recalibrate your personality.”

For now, Stephens lives in Washington, D.C., working for a small international organization that travels to work with non-governmental organizations and local organizations — mainly in developing countries — to assist them in working together more functionally. In the last year, he said he’s worked in Nigeria, Senegal, Columbia, and Guatemala.

“Usually, it’s with a network of organizations, and we get them in the same room and ask pointed questions about how they’re currently collaborating and what they’re trying to solve so they can set a common agenda,” he said.

Reflecting on his experience in Cameroon, Stephens said he returned with an outlook that has rippled immeasurably throughout his daily life.

“Now that I’m a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I see how my two years living in a Cameroonian village gave me new perspective on my own life and country that pushes me to question and contribute in new ways,” he said. “My Cameroonian friends and family also taught me about the value of generosity and community, something I’m trying to bring back to my life in the U.S.”

Stephens was part of a 31-member Peace Corps cohort, ranging in ages from 22 to 70 and with whom he remains in contact with to this day.

Educare-Africa donates to Cameroon schools

January 15th, 2018 by bobebill

PCV Tatum
Pavla Zakova-Laney of Albany took her 18th trip to Cameroon in May and June to support schools in the country through her Albany-based nonprofit group, Educare-Africa. (NOTE: FOC has previouly provided funding for Educare-Africa.)

Zakova-Laney raises funds to purchase school supplies, additional science lab equipment and other items for public high schools in a rural northwest region in that country.

Traveling to the village of Tatum, Zakova-Laney and a former student and current Educare-Africa board member donated science laboratory equipment to schools G.H.S. Nseh and G.H.S. Mbu-Warr, thanks to a grant from the VWR Foundation. Other donated equipment went to G.H.S. Lus.

Thanks to Labdoo in California, two laptop computers were donated to G.T.C. Tatum and to I.S.S. Nseh. Six more laptops arrived in a sea container and were to be distributed later together with nine shortwave radios donated by Ears To Our World of North Carolina, along with 15 solar lamps purchased by an Educare-Africa board member and three solar panels with batteries and lights.

Other donations included three microscopes to three rural secondary schools: G.S.S. Ntaba, G.S.S. Mbawrong and G.S.S. Mbonsoh.

Not all donated items arrived before Lakova-Laney departed the area.

Zakova-Laney and several former students met to check on the progress of the construction of the Educare-Africa Resource Center in Tatum. The group saw the completion of the roof, inner walls, fireplace, window and door protectors, a foundation for a few rooms and an outdoor kitchen, thanks to donors and a grant from the $10 Club.

Zakova-Laney also spent time traveling to other communities to talk with Peace Corps staff, and with other former students about fundraising and the future of Educare-Africa.

As a side project, she met with a representative of the Cameroon Baptist Center in Bamenda and a member of an organization called Born Free Cameroon to hand over donations from the Reid Veterinary Hospital and SafeHaven Humane Society in Albany. She then rented a car and visited many dog owners and breeders in Bamenda to check on their dogs.

Zakova-Laney hopes to assist about 180 secondary/high school students and about 20 university students in a future trip and is hoping to raise $15,000 by mid-September for the effort.

For more information, call Zakova-Laney at 541-924-9290 or email her at, or check the Educare-Africa website at Donations can be made to Educare-Africa, P.O. Box 3278, Albany, OR 97321. All donations are tax-deductible.


There’s no place like home for the holidays . . .

January 15th, 2018 by bobebill

“Until you live without the little things, you don’t realize how much you miss them. To see and talk to family daily . . . even the simplest thing like, watching the morning news or getting to say goodnight [to someone] in person . . . These are things we don’t think about”, said Jacob Moore. Moore said it is easy to take what we have for granted.

Moore isn’t missing those little things this Christmas season. Moore is home for the holidays for the first time in five years. Moore says he is excited to be home spending the holidays with his family. He says his favorite family Christmas tradition is, “Christmas at Grandma’s”. Moore says, he enjoys playing games and having Scatagories contests with his competitive older brother, Jeff. “It’s just lovely to be home”, Moore said.

Raised in Mace, Moore graduated from Southmont in 2008 and attended Wabash College directly after. It was during his senior year at Wabash that Moore spoke to a friend about the Peace Corps. He took no time in deciding, this was sure to be his next adventure in life. “I’m always one to live in the present and not think of the future”, said Moore. “I love to travel and I love to help people. It was a great fit.”

Moore says his mother, Diane McCormick, set a path, teaching her children to give back at a young age. “My mom always worked in non-profits her whole life and taking us back and forth. So, I’ve grown up helping the less privileged . . . [the] less fortunate” said Moore. After his application was accepted, the Peace Corps called with an offer for Moore to go to Cameroon. Moore was originally hoping to go towards South America to utilize his Spanish. “I decided I didn’t join the Peace Corps. to ‘better myself’, I joined to help the less privileged and have the opportunity to travel” Moore said. So, off to the French speaking country of Cameroon he went.

Moore has lived in Cameroon for many years and has developed a deep love for Cameroon’s many cultures and people. He has dedicated his life to helping others. Moore spent 3 years in Cameroon serving as an agro-forestry extension volunteer. The Crawfordsville native focused on food security issues, teaching gardening courses and how to build nurseries. After his time in the Peace Corps. was up, Moore made the bold decision to extend his stay. He has now been living in Cameroon for five years, continuing to help others.

Moore and three other former Peace Corps Volunteers and their host country counterparts founded, ScholarShop Africa. (NOTE: ScholarShop Africa previously received FOC project funding.) ScholarShop Africa is an innovative new program that rewards civic engagement and hard work with the school supplies that students need to succeed. Participants are empowered to drive their communities forward. Helping to building the next generation in sub-Saharan Africa. ScholarShop is an innovative development model that furnishes students in Sub-Saharan Africa with school supplies, leadership skills, and a commitment to public service. With years of grassroots development experience and the support of local community leaders, we are able to implement programs that build on internal community assets to unlock the full potential of students and schools. Moore is also the founder of a sustainable community garden that helps feed five villages in Cameroon, in addition to teaching modern agricultural techniques to local farmers.

Moore says he has no intention of moving back to the states any time soon. Saying, “I hope to make a profession of ScholarShop if possible.” By 2020, Moore is expected to have reach several schools in Cameroon and plans to move onto other countries that can benefit from the ScholarShop project.

Moore is currently preparing his cross country bike trip to raise money for the ScholarShop project. He will be riding 5,000 miles, to raise money for ScholarShop.
ScholarShop is a non-profit organization and is funded by charitable donors. For more information on the ScholarShop Africa project, log on to or . If you would like to help Moore in his mission, he can be contacted at

Reconnect with Peace Corps Connect this September

July 30th, 2016 by bobebill

Have you signed up for Peace Corps Connect?

Peace Corps Connect