Curva Fin Bloque
POSTS 4 MARCH, 2012

A message from Manuel Herranz from Northern Cameroon

by Manuel Herranz

Dear friends, colleagues, and acquaintances

Many of you already know that I am in northern Cameroon in a small town called Gouria for almost two months doing volunteer work. I had to travel 50 km on a motorcycle to write this email. It is the third day I try since the connection is so unreliable. It is very difficult to get into my gmail mail account because the computers are old and do not load modern pages well. In addition, another 20 miles today and over an hour just to identify and enter into GMail, not counting the time of writing the message. Internet speed is no more than 46kb, what we had almost 20 years ago. I write this message in WordPad because even once inside, the connection may fail at any time. I’ll paste it in the body of the message when finished.

You all know me for the development in machine translation and the applications of machine translation to LSPs. Anyone who thinks I left work, family to go on a safari is wrong, This is a humbling experience for anyone in the first world even in times of crisis. My mission here was to rebuild a library for the school that with much effort Judith one of my wife’s colleagues at her school, has built. Admirably, almost single handedly. You can find all information at www.malimaproject.org

Also, I came with two laptops and the thought of setting everything in motion, including computer training so that children can touch a keyboard for the first time, enter their name and that of their family and any sentence that comes to mind. Education is one of the basic rights of humanity. But soon I realized that I cannot stand idly by once I have seen firsthand how half the world population lives [again] and particularly the urgent needs as we have here. I’m here and I can help with many more issues until April 10th. I’m talking about small very basic knowledge of medicine and engineering.

I’m not going to ask for much. In the town where I live there is practically no electricity at any house, which are mostly built with mud bricks. The Malima school is a fortunate island. There is also no running water. Water is a huge problem that can be solved fairly easily because it rains a lot in August and September, but they have no means to collect, store or sanitize the water, which would be good and keep them alive throughout the year. They make do with forage, underground wells. I want to ask you to take advantage of my stay here to send some very simple things, but which can make the difference between a painful infection and permanent blindness or save someone’s eyes.

Even toothbrushes and toothpaste will be a good advancement in dental care and education. I am here until 10th April, so there is time. Solutions for stomach pain like bicarbonate soda or just chamomile tea. Something to clean wounds, nothing more. Things that are easily available in our world like water peroxide that you can get easily in a supermarket to kill the initial bacteria if you have a minor cut or bleeding brush, gauze, alcohol, bandages, eye drops, aspirin, a few drops for otitis or to wash eye infection, but simply toothbrushes will help. Even with just bicarbonate I can work wonders and fix digestion and take care of small infections. I can make and show them very basic toothpaste with bicarbonate, herb paste and a little bit of alcohol.

They live with nothing but what we throw away in developed countries to recycle containers or worse still, with what more fortunate countries of Africa itself throw away. My mirror to have a shave is the side mirror of a car that has been stripped off. I understand the terrible crisis we all live in our side of the world, but believe me, it is a rich man’s small cold when confronted how more than 50% of the population live in the real world. If you want to send any of the above whilst I am here, the address in Cameroun is

KORIHE VANDI
Manuel Herranz / Cooperation Malima
S C Malima Primary School
Boite Postal 15 MOGODE
CAMEROUN

Otherwise, if posting is too troublesome, you can make a small 5 euro donation to La Caixa with the message # to manuel herranz, gouria # and the association will get supplies and educational material over here during the next trip. Even petty change that you have left over from any trip to Europe will be fine. You can find the bank account details on the website  and the organization, small as it is and all volunteers can be contacted in supportgroup@malimaproject.org,

All funds can be gathered to sponsor a child for a couple of years and provide an opportunity for a brighter future. Even run the next round of vaccinations, dental education, etc. If you cannot send a bank transfer, you can send cash safely in an envelope (wrap it up inside another smaller envelope) FAO
Judith Burnett / Deborah Carr
Cambridge Community College
Calle Profesorado Espanol
Rocafort, Valencia
Spain

Luckily, the Post Office, the Health Care system and the national education system are some of the things that work well in Spain despite the government cuts. I’m not asking for much, is what we pay for a pint of beer, is what we pay for a snack at the bar and a drink. If you prefer to donate to the bank account, you will find on the website of www.projectmalima.org but receiving some items by post like toothbrushes or dental paste, aspirins will make the whole town infinitely happy. Forasking sake, I would ask for disinfectants or antibacterials or antimicrobials with a brief explanation in French if possible, if not in English.

Fixing the water problem is no big deal, I was in engineering long enough to realize that it would suffice with drilling a water. One already exists, but the water is not potable. Other funding can go to buying books for the library, purchasing textiles so the children can go in a sort of uniform to school and not rags.

Having a school creates a local economy also as women can get involved in sowing uniforms and have their first salary. It all can be done locally and the local community can get involved. This is no present from the First World. It would not be difficult in the medium term, but for now it will suffice to take stock of basic things such as bicarbonate, water peroxide, cotton, gauze, Mercurochrome, ibuprofen, aspirin and band-aids to cover the basics or to save a small amount for a second well where people can go and collect water. Please, pass this message to as many people as possible. I can do lots whilst here in the next 4 weeks, but when I am gone, the locals will not have a clue how to cure a rash, what are the tablets for or how to apply a first aid kit. Just like two PCs have been stored in their boxes as nobody knew how to put them in motion. Old copies of software in French like text editors or spreadsheet programs like excel or similar, for old fashioned PCs, or OpenOffice for PCs running on 1 Gb RAM and less will also be appreciated, like any educational software in French. You can post them to the address in Mogode. Unfortunately, the website of the association has no paypal account yet and it is just a small association in Valencia. A local web company and me will work on the website so even very small donations are possible when I return home.

Just think that what we spend of a coffee or tea a day can make such a huge difference as having a child in school and not working the land from 5 years of age. The conditions of the government schools are very hard. That will require collection and funding, which I am prepared to do on a volunteer basis and engage Pangeanic as much as possible. But that will be upon return. What I spend some days in mineral water 1000 or 1500 CFA (1 euro is equivalent to 650 Cameroon francs, about 2.5 euros in total) is what an entire family of 6 people has to eat. It makes me feel sick with myself.

There are orphans everywhere, which are then readopted by grandparents or uncles, according to things. In addition, a relative can send you a child who will grow up with you if you have good heart and things are going well. There is a boy of about 10 years with the family I am staying, almost the same age as my son, he is sponsored by a Spanish family. He is no relative of them, but they have found a place in the haystack, among sacks of corn and rice and is more than happy. The opportunity to go to Malima School for them is like going to a good private school in any European city where you can learn English in addition to the French that everyone is educated in and they learn through life.

The family with whom I stay in Gouria, is about 3 km from Malima school, manages the organization of the school. Vandi, the father, is extremely helpful. I have dinner with them and share all they do. I told them I do not want them to do anything special for me, but I cannot imagine what luxuries could they have. A sachet of tomato concentrate is a luxurious article. Obviously, being fat is a sign of wealth. When I arrived neighbors began to come out, people from other houses. All authorities in the region know I’m here. It is absolutely safe and you are looked after. As Muslims mix with Catholics, Protestants of all branches and some animists, I had to notify each particular authority of my presence, from the gendarmerie to Muslim subprophet and an Italian priest to spread the word that there is an arassa man (pale skin) for 2 months and he is coming to do good to the community and the school. My mission is to build a library, plaster it, buy school books and with whatever is left, In time on me. I will also computerize the school but at a very basic level, so that children can touch a keyboard and write their name and a couple of sentences on the screen. It will also help to keep a register of children and communication with children’s sponsors and administration personnel, all volunteers. The teachers will be able to type and print exams for ages 6 to 12.

Sponsoring a child is around 10 or 15 euros per month, what for us is a daily menu and a drink. That guarantees school fees, teachers’ salaries, the maintenance of the buildings and some other projects like the non potable water well as you can see in the attached jpg.

I will take 3 buses, an overnight stay at Garoua and another overnight train to Yaounde and another bus to Douala to return to Valencia via Paris. It takes between 3 or 4 days to get here, near the border with Nigeria. So if you just post anything this week or the next, you will have not only my eternal gratitude, but you will have helped a community of about 10.000 people have their first dental treatment, headache relieve, and help set up an ongoing First Aid Post in forgotten land.

Best to all and remember nobody died thinking “I wished I stayed a little bit longer in the office” but many die thinking “I wish I could have done better”.
Manuel Herranz