A New Style of Learning
CAC volunteer Cameron Hardington, student at Amherst College, blogs about his first week in Cameroon with Breaking Ground. This program is part of our great partnership with the Games 4 Good Foundation, who we thank for all of their support.
June 10th 2015. There are three passions that have categorized my early years: my passion for football, a desire to see and experience the world, and a love for people. It was these three qualities that inspired me to volunteer with CAC, so heading into Cameroon I was excited, but was also unsure what to expect. After a day and a half of plane flights, a night in Yaoundé, and an 8 hour bus ride we finally arrived in Dschang, the city that we would be working in this week.
The first day of training brought many difficulties for me including nerves, culture shock, and the most obvious obstacle, the language barrier. Nora had told Rachel ( the other volunteer) and me before the session that we would not be coaching that much this week as neither of us could speak French, but that we could hop in on games and do demonstrations. Not being able to speak or understand the language turned out to be one of the best blessings for me. I was able to see and understand the games through visual cues and was able to gauge what the coaches thought of the game by their laughs, smiles, energy, or the odd confused face here and there. Most of the time it was hard for me to follow what they were talking about in their discussions but I was able to catch the gist of it by their passion, expressions, and hand motions.
This group definitely had a passion for female empowerment and gender equity. It was obvious to see that during these games there were smiles and laughter on the faces of both men and women, but they were also extremely intentional and serious when we got down to talking about issues and how gender issues can be resolved. The most brilliant example of how highly they valued gender equity happened during a game called Marta for Gender Equity. The basic rules are that there are two teams and half the team is sitting out on the sideline while the other half plays. It’s a regular game of football, except when a team scores, they run over to the sideline and pick a player who is sitting out and say a good choice for empowerment such as “education” or “exercise” and the new player comes in to play giving a numbers advantage to the team that scores. It was near the end of the game, and neither team had been able to score, and then finally a team scored. Nora then yelled, “Choose three players to come in!” The young boy who scored ran straight over to where his two best friends were sitting and went to the first, grabbed him and said a good choice and he was in the game. He then went to his other best friend, reached down to grab his hand, then hesitated and you could see him think, and then he proceeded to pull his hand away and grab two of the women’s hands who then came in to play. This boy’s action was a perfect sample of this group’s attitude. They are passionate, courageous, and most importantly they are not afraid to adapt a game to show a different lesson than the one that Nora had intended.
I have a great hope and expectation for this group in the future. From the first day, it was evident that they were very open and eager to share issues that they faced in their community as well as possible solutions to the problem. I think that the most valuable asset that this team has is their willingness to listen to other’s ideas and feed off them to form new ones. This characteristic that they share collectively has the capability to make real change within the community, and I look forward to seeing where it takes them.
This week taught me one of the only things I value higher than learning which is a new way to learn. I have never been in a situation where I have had to rely on some type of communication other than speaking for 5 days straight. My French got better as the week wore on, but I learned through the games that we played, and the expressions that the coaches had on their faces rather than Nora’s translations or explanations of how to play each game. Starting in a community where I didn’t speak the language has prepared me greatly for the upcoming week in Kumba where I will get the opportunity to coach a few games.