Reach Out Cameroon (REO)

Community Vision Underprivileged and marginalized groups are aware of their rights to participate in decision making, have equal access to resources and benefits, and become self-reliant within a supportive policy environment for sustainable development in Cameroon. Core Values ACT: Accountability, Commitment, Transparency Organizational Mission REACH OUT supports underprivileged and marginalized groups within the communities on health issues, wealth creation, and provide capacity building and information through the use of participatory approaches and advocacy. Vision for the organization REO is a self-sustained organization, attracting skilled staffs that work in cohesion to deliver se...
Dec 29, 2016

Thank you for this 2016

Girveline giving her graduation speech
Girveline giving her graduation speech

Dear donors,

You’ve closed 2016 with grand style.

  • 20 more new girls trained and supported this November.
  • A meeting with 2-year long beneficiaries in a microfinance institution, to facilitate their access to loans.
  • 3 bigger grants given, one transformed into a loan of 600$! (we paid the opening of an account in that microfinance institution)
  • Also, an exciting 200% bonus to anybody who signs for monthly donations is available! Tell your friends!

This is a lot of information, so we will only focus on the first part in this report and you will know more about the rest this January. We also want to take the opportunity to share with you what we think we can do this 2017, if you keep trusting us.

This November 2016 we began selection of 20 more girls to join the program. This did not require any door-to-door work as in the past because we have already been identifying potential girls while doing our follow-up work in the community. Also, community stakeholders (the traditional authorities, 2 women groups, a small local NGO and even some of the old girls, as you learned from Renata in last report) have provided some additional names, and others were trained and registered during the Innovation Challenge this August. (check it out!). Like Remy, a young single mother of 19 years who fixes clothes and zips for a living. She will be starting a second-hand clothes business with your help, a first step to something bigger. It’s striking to see somebody so young to have such entrepreneurial capacity, she also had a great proposal during the Innovation Challenge.

You might be already familiar with this: We train first, we give a first small grant and do 1on1 coaching during the following weeks and months, after we give a bigger grant if they have proven to be constant and follow the bookkeeping, that’s the start. The first 2 steps were done this November and early December, giving out 20 grants of 30,000 francs, a total of about 1000 dollars USD in grants in one day in the Chiefdom Hall for everybody to see. It was a big day in the community and for us.

“The chiefdom is part of this project, and we will be following-up each one of you alongside Reach Out. We will do our separate follow-up. This is Christmas period, avoid temptation, use the money for your business, we are all responsible for the image of the village” Said the representative of the chief of the village.

The core of the training was similar to this March’s training (here) except for key insights that came from self-evaluation: Smaller (20, not 40) and shorter is better, focusing on key messages and assimilating them. This time more practice and no long talks. We facilitated, tried for them to come up with the answers and hand out none. We have a culture of constant evaluation, most of what we did in March was great, and yet we decided to change much of it, because it could be better. It was great to see the girls question and answer each other and interact on how to improve on their business propositions, and we still learn a lot from them.

We love teaching bookkeeping, but we knew somebody that could teach it better. Somebody with their same voice and perspective. The girls that had succeeded at doing it! We called on Elekta, who was supported this March and again this August (and has a small fully-funded microproject for her because of her relentless drive and strength! ) to come to the training and explain how she does it. She was a bit nervous at first but later on relaxed and did a great job, we hope to keep repeating. With time, we have learned to talk less and less, our job is to make their voices be heard, not ours.

The core of the training (bookkeeping, coming up with a business and short business plans) is complemented by two lessons (one each day) on Gender Based Violence and Sexual Reproductive Health. Reach Out Cameroon has a holistic approach and we believe in the synergies between Health, Human Rights and Economic Development. We were lucky to have staff from other departments to come and do the talks for us, and the girls loved it. In a community with high rates of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, the talk was highly necessary. 120 condoms were distributed, and more will be distributed as we do our 1on1 coaching sessions during the following weeks.

This has been a great year for this project, you have directly and meaningfully supported 52 girls, more than in the last 3 years combined (and with bigger grant sizes!). When you reflect on what you have achieved this year, don’t forget all the lives you continue to change here. 2017 will be the year to expand to another community, and we aim to help at least 80 girls! We know it won't be the same, as we have an exceptional relationship with the community in Tole, we have a few challenges ahead of us, but we know the program is good, and it's time to start helping more people. We hope you can trust us with your support.

As the girls took their 30,000 francs (50 dollars grants) they all made their short speeches, this is my favorite one:

“I’m not here for this money, I’m here for the 50,000 to come 3 months from now, when you see how much I’ve worked on my business, and to make myself out of poverty forever.“ Fokanji (19 years)

It’s been a pleasure to work for them.

 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Have a great 2017, you deserve it.

 

P.D: No better way to support them than a monthly donation, these donations, no matter the size, give us the security to plan ahead. Also, if you sign up for a monthly donation GlobalGiving gives another donation 2 times the size, as a bonus! Sign up here:

P.D2: Our website is back ! Browse through it and give us your feedback! Our first blog post talks about this project and the story of Marie, the girl that just took the 600$ loan, but you can also get to know more about what Reach Out Cameroon is all about: Health, Human Rights, Governance, Gender Equality, Sustainable Agriculture.. a rich story of 20 years of work for the underprivileged!

Remy
Remy
Sexual Health Lesson
Sexual Health Lesson
Marie with her baby and writing her business plan
Marie with her baby and writing her business plan
writing their business plans
writing their business plans
Thank you! More and better in 2017!
Thank you! More and better in 2017!

Links:

Dec 16, 2016

Building the School of Hope

Dear Donors,

These past months several things have been happening in the orphanage. The first one, the school project is growing, form hiring a teacher to save some nursery school fees a year ago, to having more than 30 students and four classrooms, benefitting also other destitute children of the community. They have big dreams of building a cemented classroom, and we want to help them with our latest microproject!

A local donor has made a donation of 1,000,000 francs CFA (about 2000$) to secure the education of the children one more year! As you see you are not alone, many of us, from different backgrounds and with our different means, believe and continue to believe in Mah Di’s orphanage.

You won’t be surprised to know that there’s a new income-generating activity in the orphanage, snail rearing! And as usual all the children are involved in the maintenance of the snailery, with about 2000 snails. This is a local delicacy much appreciated that can be sold at good prices during the dry season, as it’s rare in markets during this period. Poultry and piggery keep on expanding and even the fishpond gave its first harvest! A small stream of profits and agricultural outputs are entering the orphanage, all thanks to you and Mah Di. We were happy to assist them technically, as Reach Out Cameroon is also rearing snails.

These past weeks Mah Diana, Charles (18, one of the leaders of the orphanage) and ourselves have been discussing the possibility of the orphanage taking on direct communication with you, the donor. While it is still a learning process, we have decided that from now on it will be Mah Diana, assisted by the older orphans and ourselves, who will be writing reports and thank you letters. We also wrote together the new micro-project, to build a solid and properly equipped classroom, Check it out !

We think this is a great step and we are excited to try it out, they are more than able to communicate with you directly, using their own voices. We think this will also be good for you, so you will get the opportunity to know them better. Finally, this is the most sustainable strategy, we want them to continue raising money for decades, and eventually when they are ready, they should be able to enter GlobalGiving themselves as an entity of their own right.

Moreover, if this experience is successful we plan to train two more orphanages over 2017 to also enter GlobalGiving with us and fundraise for themselves! We have learned a lot working for Mah Di’s (and through the GlobalGiving Ambassadors project we have been running for GlobalGiving this year) and it’s time to extend our impact to more children in need.

Thank you for trusting them, you will have the next report by late January.

 

Reminder: GlobalGiving is matching any recurring donation by 200%! for just a few days !sign in for a monthly donation of let's say 20 dollars and we will get an extra 40!

the school room as it is now
the school room as it is now
Ua left us. She
Ua left us. She's been reunited with her family
Meeting - Discussing our page management
Meeting - Discussing our page management
The piggery has grown a lot!
The piggery has grown a lot!
Dec 12, 2016

The Concept

 

Dear Donor,thanks for believing in us, while waiting to receive enough donations to execute a new Innovation Challenge by early 2017 (Thanks to you we will have enough funds to start up by January!), we offer you this report about the first pilot project executed this 2016, which was self-funded by us, so you understand better the concept you are getting behind.

 

Why is it that 90% of the girls we help want to start a hairdressing business?

Why would somebody see the neighbor selling roasted corn and go and start a roasting corn business in front of her?

Why is it that all stores have the same products?

 

Since I came to Cameroon I’ve heard those kind of questions, I’ve asked them, when I came as a new volunteer, and I’ve tried to answer them as I received others. There are economic answers to explain this, but lack of a creative environment plays a significant role.

One day we got tired of talking about it and thought about doing something, we had tried to introduce creative thinking into our trainings of basic business management; the response was first shy and gradually more participative. But we could do more, if the problem was so important; why not dedicate a project just to it?

But what could we do?

All over the world we hear about Innovation Challenges, we don’t claim ownership of the concept. companies, foundations, government, they love to have a huge number of people competing to proof that not only can they do something great, they can do something different. We knew about the methodology because we ourselves, as NGO, have participated in many of them writing our projects. Why not apply that to a community? If creativity is needed at a basic level, why not focus on bringing innovation to the grassroots?

Creativity can be learned, everybody that has studied in the field agrees, and our team fervently believed in this idea. We still do. So we just had to look at what has been written about boosting creativity and translate it, literally (to Pidgin English) and figuratively (to something real, practical, useful for somebody living in an underserved community of the South-West Region of Cameroon). Luckily so much has been written about it, we did not even get to read all the materials that were sent to us by friends and supporters. We need to thank The Innovator’s DNA ( http://innovatorsdna.com/ ) , from which we designed most of our materials.

What else? For a month, everybody will be able to submit their new business ideas(everybody, we helped illiterate and semiliterate people, heard their ideas and wrote them for them), and there should be a prize to the best of them. The prizes will be symbolic monetary prizes for the best 4 and then we also offered follow-up for them so they could actually execute the idea, help them access foundations and credit.

But we also knew that participating on such challenge and not winning is a wearing experience. Our commitment is with the community as a whole and we extended this follow-up concept to most participants, at the end of the project we will have a small database, opportunities come up for example for young girls (like our Keep a Girl Alive project https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/keep-a-girl-alive/ ), people in need of micro-loans or to say, people who want to start a piggery, we will use the database to connect them to those opportunities.

We picked Tole, in Buea, one of the communities we have a long time relationship with, to facilitate the mobilization process. We went to churches, community groups and we even hired the local Town Crier to go around.

So the first day of training was there, and we were hesitating. There was no food prepared, the concept was a bit abstract, we were not giving out anything but a message…people had farms to take care of…will somebody come?

 

109 people attended the first day of training! We really pushed the limits of the school room that had been habilitated for the workshop. The rules of the challenge were explained and short exercises to enhance creativity were conducted, the first day focused mostly on setting the mindset for the brainstorming sessions to come (no wrong answers, being open to say crazy things) and on associating ideas and different businesses. Women (79) and men (30) of all ages gave their best in group work, each group was supposed to come up with ways of mixing their different backgrounds and businesses. They responded very well, groups presented on ways to develop their businesses together, share selling spaces, market each other’s products, organize in cooperatives even set up new informal microfinance systems.

So the first day was a blast, post-workshop evaluation was excellent, and people were already submitting their ideas…But will we really find disruptive innovators among them?

 

Read the next report!

 

Thank you for believing in crazy things.

Links:

 
   

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