Archive for February, 2010

He aims for lasting impact

February 2nd, 2010 by admin

PCV Brad Wagenaar, town of Clifton, is a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in the African west central country of Cameroon. His task is to promote rural public health. One project involved digging a new well to tap clean ground water as opposed to dirty surface water. His newest project is building a new primary school. Interested River Falls area residents can contribute. Next to Brad is his mother, Diane Mayberry, who visited him with her husband Steve in November. Cameroon villagers stand nearby.

(From River Falls Journal, Wisc., 2/1/10)
by Phil Pfuehler

Most college graduates want a decent-paying job and to move on with their lives.

Not Brad Wagenaar. Not yet. He’s moving on, but not for himself.

The rural River Falls resident graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with a clinical psychology degree.

Through the nonprofit group Bike and Build, he cycled 3,527 miles one summer through Florida, Louisiana, Texas and California, stopping to put up Habitat for Humanity affordable houses and raising money for the homeless.

After that he signed up for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps and got sent to Cameroon, a west-central African country that borders Nigeria.

His assignment: Public health improvements in the hinterlands among 20 villages with a collective population of 90,000 served by a two-bed hospital.

“It’s amazing, really, how much responsibility they assign to these young volunteers,” says Steve Mayberry, Brad’s dad, whose town of Clifton home borders Kinnickinnic State Park.

Brad has worked with Cameroon villagers on AIDS prevention education, early childhood development, proper hygiene, and urged couples to feed their kids a high-protein meal called “soybean mash,” which is grown locally.

There are language, religion and cultural barriers to overcome, says his father, Steve. The women tend to be segregated and less inclined to speak with men.

Brad’s first public health project was raising money and finding a German charity to dig a new well for cleaner drinking water.

His next project is to build a furnished, modern, primary school for some 500 kids ages 6-15 in the village of Ketcheble.

Locals have raised part of the money for the $21,000 school, but Brad is also seeking outside funds.

“He needs about another $5,800 by the end of February,” says Steve. “This will be a school using local labor that’s made of concrete blocks and a metal roof, with desks and chairs, that should last for 50 years.”

Two mud huts with rock walls and dirt floors now serve as schools. Each is smaller than most American living rooms.

One has a stick roof that gives shade but no protection from rain. Inside there’s only a blackboard and plastic chair for the teacher. The other school hut has rocks and planks for sitting.

School attendance is low and the villages find it hard to attract teachers with such primitive facilities.

Steve says that he, his wife and Brad were inspired by book “Three Cups of Tea,” written by humanitarian Greg Mortenson.

Mortenson started Central Asia Institute which cooperates with rural natives in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools. His mother, Jerene Mortenson, was principal at Westside Elementary in the 1990s.

It was Westside students in River Falls and their “Pennies for Pakistan” fundraiser that launched Mortenson school-building efforts that are now globally acclaimed and supported.

“What Greg Mortenson is doing gave Brad the idea to build a school,” Steve said. “Education is important because of its lasting value, and Brad is into sustainable projects, those that live on forever.”

The best way to support Brad Wagenaar’s school building project in Cameroon is to get out your credit card and visit this website: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=694-154. There’s a link to donate.

If people would rather mail a check, Steve said to use his town of Clifton address: Steve and Diane Mayberry/W12617 770th Ave./River Falls, WI 54022.

Funds needed to build elementary school in Cameroon

February 2nd, 2010 by admin

Hello,

Our son is in the PC there and would like to get the word out about a project he needs funding for…

Here is his story:

We have just learned that Brad has a project all scoped out – to build an elementary school in Cameroon. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you think might be interested in helping. We are very proud of his work there. Here are the details on the Peace Corp project he needs to raise $$ for:

Brad needs financial help to build an elementary school for Ketcheble, a hard working self starting village in need in Cameroon. The current elementary school for 300 students is made up of two woefully inadequate one room buildings each smaller than most American living rooms. The youngest students’ building has a roof of sticks that provide shade but no weather protection. It can’t be used during the 3 to 4 month rainy season. It also lacks floors, doors or windows and furniture except a black board and a plastic chair for the teacher. The older students have a tin roof, a door and sit on rocks or on planks between rocks on the ground. The Cameroon government provides two teachers and the villagers pay for a third. Class attendance is low. The funding Brad is seeking would build a new larger building with floors, walls, doors, windows, two class rooms, roof and furniture. It will be a key element in improving the education of the five village area that attends it.

$5,500 more must be donated by the end of February for the project to happen. This added to the $14,700 Brad has received to date from the local villagers and the US donations that are just coming in, will totally fund the project. The construction must start the first of March to insure it will be completed in the final 7 months of Brad’s 2 year Peace Corps stint.

You can use this link https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=694-154 to see the official Peace Corps project description, see amount of additional funding needed currently and to make a credit card donation for this project. Also, if you know of a group/corporation that can make a significant donation, the Peace Corps can provide documentation thanking them for their support and describing the project in more detail.

100% of your donation will go to Brad for his use in paying for materials and labor to build the school. There is no money spent on overhead costs. Brad does all the planning, coordination and administration for this project at no charge. The Peace Corps gets your donation changed to local currency and delivers it to Brad with no reduction. Unlike all official aid to Cameroon the corrupt Cameroon government doesn’t rip off a huge chunk for their self enrichment. As soon as the Peace Corp notifies Brad that the total donations have been received, Brad and Hamidou (a local volunteer who owns/runs one of the few stores in a nearby larger village where Brad lives) will go to Maroua, the state capital, and buy all the materials needed. They have the material lists prepared and agreements in place with the suppliers. The villagers from Ketcheble will provide their community owned “market” truck to transport the material to the building site. The next week, Halidou, the best local mason/building contractor will direct the Ketcheble volunteer workmen to find, prepare and move local sand and gravel to the site. Halidou will provide and supervise the skilled craftsman at customary prices to build the school. The school will be complete by June this year before the rainy season stops all construction till October. Both Hamidou and Halidou have proven experience in the local community and Brad knows them both well.

If you choose to donate and the project is not fully funded, your donation will be reassigned to another Cameroonian project that can be fully funded. The Ketcheble community understands this is a lot of money to raise and though disappointed will understand if can’t happen. They will still be happy as Brad has already received funding from a German charity to add to the villagers $500 for a simple drop a bucket in properly dug and covered well for the village. This will provide their first dependable source of clean water. The well will be dug and completed this April.

I have attached pictures we took at the site during our November visit with Brad and the villagers. Ketcheble along with most Cameroon villages is not on any published map. I have also attached a photo of the hand drawn map Brad has made to help him organize his work in the 20 or so smaller villages that surround Hina where he lives. Hina can occasionally be located by an experience geographer. The Extreme North state capital of Maroua is simpler to find.

Please feel free to E-mail or call Brad’s parents (Diane and Steve Mayberry at Stevemayberry@centurytel.net ) or Brad (wagenaarb@gmail.com) if you have any questions or suggestions. Brad can be hard to reach for extended periods of time as he (his entire village) has no computer or electricity where he lives and works.

Thanks in advance for considering this and helping us with this fund raising effort,

Diane and Steve Mayberry