Partnerships and Cooperation
Partnership with the School for International Training
The center was lucky to start its activities with a partnership with an American Institute of higher learning: The School for International Training (SIT). Since 1999, the center has contributed tremendously to the SIT “Culture and Development” Program. Roughly 200 American students have been hosted by the Center and about half of their independent study projects have been supervised by a staff member of the Center. Additionally, the Center has, for the last 8 years, organized and coordinated a Community Development Prospectus as part of its cooperation with SIT. In this prospectus, groups composed of Cameroonian and American Students have been assigned to complete research projects on specific aspects of community development in the Ngaoundéré. The Community Development Prospectus program has given students the opportunity to learn from each other in a multicultural environment, improve field work skills, and then present their work on a given community development issues. It has been a fertile terrain for the sharing of research methods and cultural values between young Cameroonians and Americans. Many American and Cameroonian students have created long-lasting friendships via the Community Development Prospectus. Having students from the global South and North working together on community development appears to be an effective strategy to promote mutual understanding, create cultural dialogue, and reduce conflict in this ever-globalizing world.
Many SIT alumni are coming back to work with their Cameroonians counterparts via COREDEC and many Cameroonians have had the opportunity to visit their American friends in the USA.
The Cooperation with SEDET (Universite de Paris 7)
In 2004, The Laboratory of SEDET hosted Mamoudou (then academic coordinator at COREDEC) for a short-term stay in SEDET where he finished his PhD thesis. Dr Mamoudou defended his thesis in 2005 and was in 2007 hired as Assistant Professor at the State University of Douala-Cameroon.
Cooperation with individual researchers
Jeanne Francoise Vincent, an ethnologist from France, visited the Center in 2001. She presented her work at many symposia during her three days in Ngaoundéré and also screened a recently completed film to the students of the University of Ngaoundéré. She benefited tremendously from comments made by students and professors. It was a special experience for her to premiere the movie before a Cameroonian audience. Since Dr. Vincent’s 2001 visit, COREDEC has created a scholars’ exchange program with Vincent’s Laboratoire in France. Dr. Vincent participated in a conference with research staff of COREDEC to discuss the Sunnayali an exceptional and rarereligious and social phenomenon in Idool (a small village situated at approximately 30 miles east of Ngaoundéré).
Host of a Fulbright-Hay Student
From November 2002 through December 2003, Ms. Libbie Freed, an American PhD student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was hosted at COREDEC and Dr Taguem Fah acted as her academic advisor during her fieldwork stay in Cameroon. Libbie took advantage of her visit both to make progress in her PhD research and to integrate into the Ngaoundéré Community. Libbie and Dr Taguem Fah conducted fieldwork together over the course of her stay. Libbie will tell you she benefited greatly from COREDEC’s library and research database. Dr Freed defended her thesis in the Spring of 2006 and was immediately hired by the University of NewYork at Potsdam, where she teaches African History.
In February, 2007 Dr. Taguem spent a week with Dr. Freed in Potsdam to give lectures, and speak before symposia. It was a unique experience for Dr. Taguem and Potsdam students expressed their gratitude, as it was their very first interaction with an African Scholar who is actually African.
Once Dr. Taguem’s stint as Fulbright Visiting Professor ended, Dr Freed donated an entire box of books for the COREDEC library. She said it was her own way to express her gratitude to the Center and its director/founder. The books are currently available at the Center’s library.
Cooperation with Breaking Ground
Breaking Ground is an American all-volunteer Non-Governmental Organization and 501(c)(3) charity that facilitates small-scale community development projects in Cameroon, Central Africa. Breaking Ground volunteers seek out communities that have embarked on development initiatives and facilitate the completion of those projects by providing funds, technical expertise, and organizational support.
Volunteers, called Ground Coordinators (GCs), draw upon their passions and skills to determine with Breaking Ground the sort of volunteer work they are interested in pursuing. We then use our network of contacts and advisors in Cameroon (including Dr. Taguem) to find existing Cameroonian organizations that work in a GC’s area of interest. GCs are placed in a Cameroonian home, taught French and the local traditional language, and given a set of educational materials ranging in topic from anthropological essays to economic development challenges. Experienced GCs, already in Cameroon, provide an orientation and support network for newly arriving volunteers. Once GCs have successfully integrated into their host communities, they act as facilitators for Breaking Ground to finance small scale community-driven development initiatives. Each GC spends a minimum of eight months in Cameroon.
COREDEC is expanding rapidly after only nine months of cooperation with Breaking Ground. Breaking Ground is committed to the fight against poverty and the promotion of sustainable development through education, health, and capacity building of vulnerable populations (particularly youth and women). Breaking Ground’s objectives and goals closely match those of COREDEC with respect to development activities.
Breaking Ground Associate Director Sarah Oxford arrived in Ngaoundéré in October, 2007. In collaboration with the Center and the Provincial Delegation of Sport, she initiated a Girls’ Soccer Program called Breaking Ground Football. About 200 girls are currently taking part in this program, and the Ngaoundéré population sees this as a unique opportunity to build leadership skills among girls. Breaking Ground Football is focused on strengthening young women’s sense of self-worth as well as developing (inter-ethnic) teamwork and discipline. Participation of young women is paramount to the program, and thus winning is not emphasized. The enthusiasm of parents and the community shows that Ngaoundéré as a whole has come to support this initiative.
Also in collaboration COREDEC and the Provincial Delegation for the Promotion of Women and Family, Sarah started a Women’s Entrepreneurial Program to empower women to overcome poverty using creative ideas and personal effort. This is especially important in Ngaoundéré where women have few opportunities.
To date, 104 women have attended a six-week business course and received a certificate at the end of their training. The first set of 32 leaders was trained during the fall 2007. Seven of these exceptional women were given funds to start up or grow their business activities and are currently benefiting from the follow up and technical expertise—both from COREDEC staff and Sarah Oxford.
Last but not least, COREDEC has played a crucial role in helping Breaking Ground to implement its Women Entreprneurial Program. Within this framework, a private elementary school has just been built up in Ngaoundal (a small city of Adamaoua province of Northern Cameroon) where the majority of children do not attend school because of the lack of facilities and cultural constraints.
The new elementary school will help fill an important gap in Ngaoundal. We estimate that roughly 75 kids will benefit from the new facility in 2008 and 100 in 2009.
COREDEC’s collaboration with Breaking Ground has been enhanced with the arrival of Brendan Schwartz in Ngaoundéré. Brendan has dedicated himself to help expand COREDEC’s community development initiatives and the library.