Cameroon Task Force
The project activities are self-sustaining, yet has benefited from Saint John UMC support to expand operations and enhance services. Multi-generational mission teams in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017 have worked alongside Cameroonian partners and youth on construction and service projects, cultural exchange and fellowship – building meaningful and enduring relationships.
Our Kribi partners say “Thank you St. John UMC and friends!”
A Historical Timeline
(1989 - 2017)
In the beginning – Cathie Clements and Jay Hermanson each served in the Peace Corp in Africa. After they married, they served four years as humanitarian workers in Benin, West Africa. St. John UMC has been their home church since the 1980’s and where they continue to attend with their two sons.
Leaders – Cathie met Pastor Mathieu and Pauline Nzameyo while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon (1990-92). The Nzameyo’s are regarded as both spiritual and humanitarian leaders in the region. While working as teachers and school administrators they also led a local Presbyterian church and women’s group, provided safe shelter, food and outreach to hundreds of needy in the community, often lodging 20 or more orphans or destitute women/families at any given time in their home.
Cathie met Kelly Keeter, another Peace Corps Volunteer, at the same time. Kelly moved to Anchorage and has been part of the coordination effort since the 1990s.
A story of two Peace Corps volunteers – Kelly Keeter met Cathie in 1990 while serving as a Health Volunteer in Kribi, Cameroon; worked closely with her during the following 1.5 years on ameliorating the health status of Cameroonians residing in the South Province of Cameroon.
After their return to the US and both earning their Master’s degrees in Public Health, Kelly collaborated with Cathie on fulfilling Nzameyo’s initial vision of health and education project (~ ’93-’95). Kelly worked with Cathie stateside on fundraising and practical aspects of fulfilling that vision and planning for their first trip back in 1995.
Kelly’s contribution – In between trips, Kelly has actively participated on the executive leadership team on various fundraising activities, including the successful Cardio For Cameroun fun walk held for 5 years at the Alaska Dome in Anchorage.
Kelly assisted in leading successive trips in 2007, 2012, and 2015, with 15 – 22 trip participants each, including her mother, Bonnie, and brother, Ray.
1st mission trip – Kelly, Cathie, and Cathie’s dad (Ray) chaperoned the inaugural trip to Kribi, Cameroon, in 1995. Under the leadership of local Pastor Mathieu Nzameyo and his wife, Pauline, the group establish a need for a community center with space for positive local activities.the construction of this non-profit “the wellness center” facility begins with help from the Service High work team (this was before the group became affiliated with St. John UMC).
9 teens and 4 adults from Anchorage, AK – The Service High School teens help make cement bricks for local experts to lay the foundation for the Wellness Center: Two rooms, no electricity, with hand built benches and tables, and blackboard paint and it was ready for community gatherings.
Wellness center (grand opening) – The Wellness Center officially opens, providing dormitories for 40 high school students and meeting facilities for community development learning and health education.
Extending their ministry through “Centre Social Protestant” (or Wellness Center as we have called it), had long been a dream of the Nzameyo’s. All of this, plus their own desire to build intentional relationships and exchanges with other church communities seemed like a good fit for St. John UMC’s mission outreach.
The church participates – St. John UMC’s involvement in the Cameroon Mission project began in 2005, under the leadership of Pastor Dave Beckett and Diaconal Minister Rose McLean. At that time, the church was exploring ways to expand its direct support of missions. The intent was to engage more church members in work team efforts and build relationships both in our community and beyond our borders. Ideas for possible international mission projects to connect with were being considered.eady for community gatherings.
2nd mission trip – This is the first “official” St. John UMC work group effort. Rose McLean is assigned as the St. John lead to the Cameroon mission project. The issue was access to education. The team directed its attention towards adding two large rooms as dormitories for youth from nearby village who wanted to attend high school. One large room contained 10 sets of bunk-beds and a single bathroom, serving twenty boys. The other room housed 20 girls. And a coat of paint on the outside offered an opportunity to work side-by-side with our Kribi friends.
Shortly after the team’s return from Cameroon, the St. John UMC “Cameroon Task Force” was formed to generate on-going support of mission efforts.
Pastor Nzameyo’s passing – Pastor Nzameyo passed away, despite challenging efforts to provide for his medical care. This left the future of the Wellness Center and other community initiatives in the capable hands of the Pastor’s wife, Pauline, and their five adult children. considered.eady for community gatherings.
3rd mission trip – Under the church leadership of Pastor Jo Ann Schaadt a second mission team of 21 church members and youth traveled to Cameroon in May/June 2010. $20,000 in project funding was raised to lay the groundwork for a new, Nurse’s Aide Training School to be added to the Wellness Center.
With only one doctor for every 20,000 people, primary health care workers are desperately needed, and no other such schools currently exist in this region of the Cameroon.
What we did –
- Distribution of 200+ pairs of prescription eyeglasses refurbished by the Palmer Lions Club for distribution.
- Built cement bricks for the school’s kitchen
- Assisted with painting projects – chalk board, doors, windows,
- An emergency trauma response training was conducted for 25 local doctors and nurses by a physician (Dr. Marilyn Sandford) participating on our mission team
- 32 adult and child-sized PETs Personal Energy Transportation hand-powered tricycles) were assembled and distributed, providing mobility to people experiencing a disability
- Distributed 12 canes for the blind donated by Lion’s Club
- Donation of 1,500 lbs of medical supplies packed in the luggage of volunteers
- Team was on hand to participate in the dedication of a local church bearing Pastor Nzameyo’s name
- Dedication of the Janet Hines’s Memorial Well
A special visit – In November 2011, Task Force members welcomed Madame Pauline Nzameyo, our lead project director on the Cameroon side, to Alaska for her first-ever visit to the U.S.! Pauline’s time in Alaska, a short 2.5 weeks was focued on sharing further information about our project goals and acivities with Alaska’s faith-based, medical, and service organizations and groups, as well as educating herself about our health and social services in Alaska to “feed” her future goals for the Task Force.
4th mission trip – The 2012 work team was led again by Pastor Jo Ann Schaadt. Participants included 20 adults, children and youth, including a Pastor Tom from Jewel Lake Parish in Anchorage. Also joining the trip was a Cameroon-American family now living in Anchorage, who offered valuable expertise and local knowledge. Half of the 2012 participants were second-time mission travellers to Cameroon seeking to build upon relationships and experiences – delighting many of our Cameroonian friends to have them return.
The Cameroon Task Force raised $20,000 for the Nurse’s Aide program.
What we did –
- Joined Kribi community members creating cement blocks to be used to build an enclosure around the Center compound
- Painted the entire exterior of the Wellness Center
- Taught computer skills to local partners on how to use the laptops donated to the school (thanks to Walt Hays, Lion’s Club and individual donors for 22 refurbished laptops that members hand carried).
- Twenty women received training in sewing to make items that can be sold in the local markets to generate income for their families (led by sewing master Barbara Knapp)
- Provided eye examinations and distributed 300 pairs of prescription eyeglasses
- Distributed 150 solar lamps in villages where there is no electricity
- Three PETs given as gifts to recipients
- Dedicated two wells in two different villages in honour of retired Pastor Rose McLean
- Donation of 1,500 lbs of medical supplies packed in the luggage of volunteers
- Upon return, Laura Knapp designs and launches a new project website for Cameroon Task Force at http://cameroontaskforce.org
5th mission trip – In May 2015, twelve St. John UMC members travelled to Cameroon, West Africa, to assist our local partners through several special initiatives.
Two economic development projects were started: An escargot (snail) farm and a pig farm.
What we did –
- Escargot (snail) Farm – An escargot snail farm was established just prior to the visit in 2015. It does not look much like a farm – more like a stack of lumber, cement blocks and corrugated aluminum- and is located in the garden of a long time member of the Kribi team. It is built to be hidden it from view, and kept secure so our giant friends do not escape.
- Pig Farm – A building was constructed in the Pastor’s village of Bissiang to house 4 little piglets – a long term village economic development project supported by the Jewel Lake Presbyterian Parrish of Anchorage.
- Provided eye examinations and distributed 725+ pairs of prescription eyeglasses refurbished by the Palmer Lions Club.
- Another successful sewing workshop. Three local sewing machines were purchased for the The Kribi Sewing Project – 2 treadle (foot powered) machines and an electric machine. This economic development project has become so successful the project is opening a Sewing and Crafts School in the Wellness Center.
- Assembled and delivered a Personal Energy Transportation (PET) carts, bringing mobility and dignity to those who are unable to walk.
- Ten laptop computers were hand carried to replace older laptops delivered in 2012. Kribi students were brought up to date with current office products loaded by Anchorage Lion Bill and Mission Team members Laura and Paula.
- Issac Hermanson, 10-year-old, and veteran of all the St. John UMC trips took the lead of making paper airplanes with the children. He also brought his Lego collection, divided it up and gave them as gifts to each youth.
- 25 soccer balls which were distributed among very eager children in Kribi and several villages.
- Malaria Prevention: Donated mosquito nets to local families.
- With the help of private donors two Kribi men reached very important professional achievements in 2015: Pastor Antoine Samnick was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Dr. Nazel Nwateh graduated from Medical School in Cameroon and opened his practice in August, 2015.
6th mission trip –
In May 2017, a 5th generation intergenerational group of St. John UMC members travelled to Cameroon, West Africa, to assist our local partners through several projects.
The focus of the 2017 mission trip was to support sustainable development and health promotion projects designed by a partnering church women’s group in the community of Kribi, Cameroon, Central Africa. The mission is in its 10th year, previously sending 4 teams and receiving 2 groups of Cameroonian partners.
What we did –
Training and Small Business Start-Up for Girls & Women
- Seamstress training, plus sewing machines for business start-up
- Microsoft Office comupter training for young women, with computers to start a lab
- Small animal husbandry projects – raising pigs and snails for income generating projects benefiting women and families
- Repairs to Education Center where training activities take place
- Training medical professionals on eye injuries and disorders by Anchorage Ophthalmologist Dr. Robin Grendahl
- Pediatric eye exams by Dr. Robin Grendahl
- Distribution of 900+ pairs of eyeglasses
- Malaria prevention education and distribution of mosquito nets
- Celebrating the construction of 2 wells providing clean drinking water for 2 villages