December 10, 2013
Last week I spent four days working at one of the hospital’s small satellite clinics in the village of Elemughong. I stayed in the home of the nurse who worked the night shift. My time there away from the sheltered atmosphere of the hospital was a more realistic representation of life in Cameroon. My host’s name was Clifford. He’s 26 years old and only 3 months removed from nursing school. For the few hours each day that we were in his house together, we played checkers while his DVD player played music videos from Cameroon Christian rock artists and American 90’s boy bands; a somewhat disorienting combination. Food was fufu, jama jama, rice, potatoes, and beans; all locally grown of course; “organic” is a superfluous label here. Water for drinking, cooking, and showering was drawn from a communal village tap, and the latrine doubled as the shower. I’m glad I had the foresight to bring my own toilet paper, towel, and soap. There was a light outside Clifford’s house that attracted grasshoppers, and children in equal proportions. They were catching the large green bugs by the bucketful in order to fry them up and eat as crunchy salty snacks. I can say from experience that I prefer potato chips, but, “when in Rome…” Going to bed was an adventure, as the darkness helped stimulate the activity of mice under the bed and in the ceiling. In the morning I turned the keys over to Clifford and went to the health clinic for the day.
There was not much action at the clinic while I was there; only one lady with malaria and a pregnancy. I was able to teach a couple kids how to juggle, though and I spent some time each day doing home visits with some Community Health Workers (CHWs). The CHWs are the core of MFH’s initiative here. Their outreach work is the centerpiece of the project, so being able to tag along with them provided great insights and great experience. Basically, we went compound to compound, checking in to see how mosquito nets were being used and seeing if anyone should be referred to the health center. Most of the people in Elemughong live in mud brick houses with dirt floors, tin roofs, and no electricity. Often times, one man presides over a compound consisting of several buildings. Some have multiple wives, while others serve as the patriarch for their sons and their families. Either way, there are lots of little kids running around as well as roaming chickens and goats. In a few homes, guinea pigs foraged among the pots and pans and beds. The people were extremely hospitable, often insisting that we stay and eat a little something before moving on.
Despite the extreme poverty people seemed to be very happy, and because of the richness of the land, there’s no shortage of food. But it’s sad to think of how little opportunity there is in such an isolated place where warm water from a bucket for a shower is a luxury, and having your own bed and eating chicken is a luxury. Elemughong is nearly an hour from a paved road and so the subsistence farming is augmented by the very small profit made from selling excess crops during harvest time. This money is spent on a few necessities such as clothes and cooking oil, then what’s left goes to healthcare and school fees. There is a good school in town that was built by a man from the village who has been successful running a handful of other schools in the area, so education is a viable possibility here. I’ve certainly come away with a renewed appreciation for the work MFH is doing, as well as a newfound appreciation for being born in America. My time here has been wonderful, but I’m very much looking forward to getting home in two weeks, just in time for Christmas.
About the author: Drew Fink is a graduate of University of Wisconsin where he was a pre-med student. He travelled to Cameroon to do a 3 month internship at the St. Martin de Porres Hospital in Njinikom.
The hospital is managed by MFH in-country partner Sr. Xaveria Ntenmusi and the Tertisary Sisters of St. Francis – Cameroon. These are entries from Drew’s journal about his experiences in Cameroon.