It is time for me to document my experience here in Cameroon. I leave for the US on a red eye tonight with a day layover in Paris. Cameroon is referred to as “Little Africa” because it has a bit of all Africa throughout this small country located in the hinge of Africa. The country is half English speaking and half French which is primarily where I was visiting. I experienced the city and the jungle and both are unique but really not desirable. The best thing that can be said about Cameroon is that the country is politically stable and free of violence. But it is a country that does not have a lot going for it nor does it appear they care. The power players in the city are either government or NGOs dominated by UN aid organizations. The jungle or the Eastern province where my GeoAid is focused is the backwoods of any Cameroonian concern. Aid from any entity trickles to nothing by the time you reach the edge of civilization. The last outpost is the town of Lomie where GeoAid resides thanks to our partnership with the rapidly downsizing GeoVic mining operation.
I explained briefly why I am involved with GeoAid in my previous post, after this visit I am better able to evaluate our situation and advise our Board about the future strategic direction for GeoAid. That strategy, with respect to Cameroon, is focused on new corporate partnerships which is coming together just fine. Those partnerships will be about social responsibility for communities affected by their corporate activity, for which GeoAid is positioned as well as any NGO in Cameroon. But I have also been touched by the work that we have done in the Lomie area and realize that we need to maintain that base regardless of a local corporate connection. We have a connection to the people there and unfortunately they desperately need our support. There are some religious based missions and some Peace Corp type organizational present but none have resources of the caliber that GeoAid holds. So I leave Cameroon knowing that not only will I be advising GeoAid’s future but that I will be protecting GeoAid’s heritage. It is a great privilege to be allowed to “do good”.
I have occasionally mentioned other areas of my interest which don’t exactly qualify as Higher Education Technology, one of which is my involvement with GeoAid International. I am traveling to Cameroon, Africa, this Friday to represent GeoAid for my role of Chairman of the Board, so I feel that a blog post is the easiest way to explain how this relationship came to be. You can find out about GeoAid at http://www.geoaid.org. But now I will attempt to explain the rest of the story.
A little over 2 years ago, Bill Mitchell, who I knew of through my church, was engaged by the founder of GeoAid, Bill Buckovic, to review the current state of his Humanitarian Aid Organization that was created to serve the needs of the community affected by the GeoVic mining operation in Cameroon, Africa. Turns out the GeoAid that Bill Mitchell evaluated had some serious issues and he was asked if he would actively step in to steer GeoAid back on course. There was obviously a greater plan that brought Bill and I together and over the next year I offered advice and support as Bill converted GeoAid to a proper non-profit, Non-Government Organization, NGO, serving the Corporate Social Responsibilities, CSR, of the GeoVic Cobalt mining operation in Cameroon.
Great progress was made and much good was accomplished. Bill and I used to wonder why we had been put in this situation, but we were satisfied to know that God had a plan and if we were being given a chance to do “Good” then we just needed to run with it as long as we could. So the initial funding model for GeoAid was almost entirely based on a grant type commitment from GeoVic Mining Corporation, but that model has shifted to funding from various corporations and grants. This is somewhat novel for the Corporate entity to partner with an NGO but I believe we have proven that this type of arrangement may be far more effective.
GeoAid grew, we formed a Board of Directors on which I took on the role of Chairman. All was moving rather smooth until the unexpected death of our Executive Director, Bill Mitchell, see my post Tribute to Bill Mitchell. Then the role of Chairman of the Board took on a whole new meaning. Luckily we had begun the implementation of a succession plan about 6 months earlier but our plan was supposed to play out over a number of years. We did replace Bill with his son, Bryce, who is doing an amazing job filling his dad’s shoes. So the opportunity now presents itself for Bryce and I to go to Cameroon for official recognition of GeoAid accomplishments by various Cameroonian government and service organizations. A major event will be coordinated by the Chantal Biya Foundation scheduled for on February 24th at 11:00am.
GeoAid Cameroon is a highly effective organization with a great staff that is dedicated to the mission, our US Embassy in Cameroon just posted a great article that helps to document this success. This Cameroonian asset has proven itself and we will be discussing many new ventures while I am there for GeoAid to assist in serving the needs of other communities affected by the new development taking place in the country.
2/25/12 – About to head to Lomie – the week has gone incredibly well – I will do a post when I return. The Chantal Biya event was more then I expected, see photo link