Katharina Held (My Year In Cameroon)
“During my voluntary service with the CBC Health Board in Cameroon I have seen the world from a different point of view. The voluntary service gave me the opportunity not only to get to know another culture, but also to live in it. Furthermore, I´ve developed an understanding for different world views, global connections and culturally determined patterns of actions and communication. In my work and everyday life, I have learned to deal with different perspectives and approaches.
Flexibility played a very important role. It was necessary to react quickly and flexibly and to change plans because of unexpected events. Also, I’ve learned to deal flexibly with time and local/place circumstances. I always saw new situations as learning opportunities. I’ve also learned to achieve a lot with few resources. Here, you have to work with existing resources and achieve the best with them.
I also used the time to adapt to work and live successfully. Patience and staying power were needed for it and so I’ve strengthened these characteristics. I have also learned that large projects can be mastered with distinct lines, open and consistent communication.
I worked with the CBC Health Board in different fields.
HIV/AIDS education and psycho-social care
I’ve worked in the HIV Care and Treatment Center in Bamenda for about seven months. I participated in HIV/AIDS awareness workshops and HIV screening for young people. Furthermore I worked in psycho-social health counseling. I did the following tasks:
- Personal counseling before and after an HIV test.
- Developed and carried out presentations and workshops to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Did conception and elaboration of a project proposal for HIV/AIDS education for young people in rural areas.
- Prepared radio broadcasts on the subject “Youth and Health”
- Did data collection and analysis.
- Was involved in in psycho-social counseling sessions.
- Carried out “adherence counseling” (counseling of HIV positive clients who have not taken their anti-retroviral drugs used to strengthen their immune system for a certain period).
Life Abundant Primary Health Care (Health care in rural communities)
Life Abundant Primary Health Care (LAP) is a programme that builds up medicalservices for remote villages and coordinates and supervises the created Primary Health Centers. Furthermore, the LAP carries out studies on health care. I’ve been working with this project for about 5 months. During this period I did the following tasks:
- Carried out a survey of the health situation in two places.
- Participated in the collection of data and creation of a “city map” of the villages.
- Was independently responsible for statistical data analysis.
- Participated in support visits, including the implementation of “compound cards“ and participation in Health Committee Meetings.
- Developed teaching and learning materials for effective meetings and goal achievement.
- Participated in a Resource Pool Meeting (half-yearly evaluation meetings).
- Worked for about three weeks in a Primary Health Center.
- Did data entry and analysis.
My feeling is that I learned a lot during the voluntary service. It was not always easy. But I think that all difficult situations strengthened me.
I spent most of the time in Bamenda working with the Youth Network for Health programme. Through this, I learned how young people in Cameroon think and behave. Furthermore, we went to rural areas and saw the differences between city life and village life in Cameroon.
During my work with the LAP, I went out to villages and experienced how people in these communities work and live together. Because I already did social work, it was very interesting for me to see how people are interacting with each other in the villages. I really feel that this time working with the LAP was a big gift to me.
Even though I have been in Cameroon for about 11 months, some things are still not easy. Some people here still look at me with strangeness and at times they will look at me and shout ‘White man’. I prefer to live in Kumbo because it is more relaxed to go to the market or walk through the streets there.”