The CBC Health Services took centre stage, Thursday April 30, 2015 with the visit of the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria with accreditation to Cameroon, His Excellency Jonathan Richardson. The Aussie diplomat came to see first-hand the impact his government’s contribution is making in the lives of people living with disability with focus on the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) funded by the Australian Government through the Christofell Blinden Mission (CBM) Australia and CBM Cameroon. As it stands, SEEPD is Australia’s largest project in Cameroon since 2009.
H.E Jonathan Richardson came to the Baptist Centre in Bamenda in the company of NW Governor, Lele L’Afrique Aldophe, Australian Honorary Consul to Cameroon, Dr. Diane Acha-Morfaw, Christofell Blinden Mission (CBM) Regional Coordinator, Mr. Mue Peter Ngha, NW Regional Delegate of Social Affairs, traditional rulers, mayors, counsellors, and other stakeholders who all have a soft spot for PWDs and in support of programmes such as SEEPD that champions the course of disability. The programme, which is currently in its third phase has reached over 360, 000 people. SEEPD champions rehabilitation, social inclusion and economic empowerment of people living with disability in Cameroon.
Governor Lele L’Afrique thanked the Australian Government for making a remarkable improvement in the lives of persons with disability. He said they had become more assertive, coming to his office to make positive contributions to help the region.
The Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency Jonathan Richardson also visited Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) Bamenda to see the resource centre built by the SEEPD programme to promote inclusive education in this highly populated mainstream school. The centre has learning aids such as braille embossers, smart pens for recording lectures, a talking dictionary, and computer keyboards with braille stickers and text to speech software to ease learning for students with disability. The happy students were on hand to welcome and entertain the delegation, and show their appreciation for the opportunity they had to study among their peers.
The next stop was at the Women’s Initiative for Health, Education and Economic Development in Cameroon (WINHEEDCAM) where Mr. Richardson had the chance to see persons with disability earning their bread through petty businesses with micro loans obtained from WINHEEDCAM.
At WINHEEDCAM like in GBHS, the beneficiaries applauded the Australian government for support in terms of grant. Like Oliver Twist, they asked for more support to meet the needs of PWDs. The High Commissioner acknowledged the beneficiary stakeholders for achieving much result with very little resources. He revealed that his government takes particular interest in supporting programmes targeting disability, mental health, women and children. He lauded the work of SEEPD and WINHEEDCAM in financing micro-projects for people who would find it tough to get funding elsewhere.
The Director of Health Services (DHS), Prof. Tih Pius Muffih presented an overview of the CBCHS while the Programme Manager, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac gave a bird’s eye view of the SEEPD programme. According to Mr Awa Jacques Chirac, 10 percent of 2 million people in the Northwest region are disabled. He noted that SEEPD has built the capacity of 478 teachers to practise inclusive education, improving the livelihood of 1,726 PWDs and empowered three others to be elected as municipal counsellors. The SEEPD Programme Manager urged everyone to play their role in improving these figures, given that an inclusive approach will yield better results. The programme covers four domains of intervention which include: medical and rehabilitation care, education, livelihood and social inclusion. All four components are supported by an advocacy and research component.
The Christofell Blinden Mission (CBM) Regional Coordinator, Mr. Mue Peter Ngha said the achievements of SEEPD since 2009 go beyond figures as they showcase the importance of community partnerships in building an inclusive, meaningful society. Mr. Mue felt fulfilled that the funding from CBM is creating an impact in the lives of PWDs, especially as every strata of society has now come on board to enforce the course of inclusion.
In his final response, Mr Richardson recalled that his government’s involvement was a priority as a signatory to the International Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability, playing an important role in fighting poverty. He thanked the CBC Health Services and the people of the Northwest region for their hospitality accorded him during his visit. He pledged his government’s commitment to continue to provide resources to men and women who provide services so that persons with disability can contribute to society.
Residing in Nigeria, the Australian High Commissioner, HE Jonathan Richardson visited Cameroon for a diverse programme including engagements with the Cameroon-Australia Alumni Association (CAM3A), meetings with three universities, and visits to a number of development projects funded by the Australian Government.