A future with hope
One Great Hour of Sharing funds are empowering communities in rural Cameroon
By Christi Boyd
"I want to become a journalist.”
Stéphanie Youpa sounds determined when asked about her ambitions. The 14-year-old lives with her family in the African nation of Cameroon, where her father, Pierre Youpa, is a papaya farmer.
Only a few months earlier, Stéphanie’s dream seemed all but crushed when she was sent home because of unpaid school fees. She recalled her feelings of shame: “I hid myself, and after the teacher had stepped out for a moment, I slipped back into the classroom. No one else had been dismissed from school. I was the only one. I did not want to go back home.
“I want to go to school because I want a future,” she insists.
Stéphanie’s teacher sent her home three times. Finally her father was able to pay the school fees with a loan from RELUFA, part of the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Joining Hands network. Funds from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering have made possible much of RELUFA’s work addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty in Cameroon.
“I think that from now on things will be OK,” says Stéphanie, who is back in school, with her fees fully paid.
Things are looking up for her father as well. Three times over the past 10 years Pierre Youpa has been evicted from the land he was farming by a transnational fruit business acquiring land for its plantations. Impoverished by the recurrent losses, he decided to establish a new farm well beyond the boundaries of the huge agricultural estate, despite the added transportation costs and difficulty bringing his crops to town.
Now Youpa commutes to his farm daily on a motorcycle. Asked why he doesn’t relocate his family to a place closer to his farm, he is resolute: the education of his three children comes first. Without a secondary school nearby, such a move is out of the question.
Three years ago, Youpa was invited to participate in RELUFA’s fair trade dried fruit project, which gives farmers consistent and reasonable prices for their fruit. The fruit is dried and then marketed to consumers overseas, including many U.S. Presbyterians. The Fair Fruit program also offers farmers platforms to share their stories, accompaniment in their legal battles and access to loans to expand their agricultural activities. All of the participating farmers and most of the dryers come from families with a history of being evicted from their land.
Pierre Youpa, a papaya farmer, participates in a fair trade dried fruit project that gives farmers consistent and reasonable prices for their fruit and sells it to consumers overseas, including many U.S. Presbyterians.
“RELUFA pays a price that suits both the farmers and the dryers,” says Youpa, explaining why the project is important for his livelihood. “The price on the local market fluctuates from one day to the other, which makes it impossible for us farmers to do our projections.” In contrast, RELUFA’s fruit prices remain stable for as long as six months and are also higher—$25 for a 100-kilogram bag of papaya, compared with the $18–$21 per bag offered by local merchants.
“That is a big difference,” says Youpa.
There are other differences as well. The added income helps pay for fuel. “Because of the long distance I need to go every single day, I used to buy fuel on credit,” Youpa says. “There were days I could not go to my farm because I hadn’t yet paid the fuel costs from the day before.” Now he pays cash to fill up his gas tank.
The extra income also helps Youpa keep his business moving: “In the past, I could not afford to hire a day laborer,” he says. “So I waited for the school holidays to do certain small tasks with the children.” Now, instead of depending on his children for labor, he can afford to hire the help he needs for planting, weeding and harvesting.
Meanwhile, Stéphanie keeps on working toward her goal of completing school and becoming a journalist. Her 12-year-old brother, Kameni, also is thinking ahead. Besides dreaming of a soccer career like every other Cameroonian boy his age, Kameni wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer. With land increasingly being usurped by the transnational company that forced his father to farm on the fringes, however, it is not apparent how Kameni’s modest aspiration might come true. But the boost his family has received from RELUFA in their quest for a better life has given him a reason to hope.
Christi Boyd, who has served with her husband, Jeff, as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission worker since 1990, is companionship facilitator for Joining Hands in Cameroon, an initiative of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Follow the money
From the offering plate to a family in need
Gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing have made a difference for the Youpa family and their community in rural Cameroon. Here’s how:
- The offering funds three programs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Self-Development of People, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
- A grant from the Self-Development of People program helped fund Credit Against Poverty (CAP), a loan program that supports the start-up of small income-generating projects and helps with health care and education costs for families like the Youpas. Loans from CAP ensured the schooling of Stéphanie Youpa and some 600 other Cameroonian students between 2007 and 2010.
- CAP is one of the programs developed by RELUFA, part of the Joining Hands network of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, which addresses systemic causes of hunger and poverty in Cameroon.
- RELUFA also operates community grain banks, which got their start with funding from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
GIVE to the One Great Hour of Sharing
One Great Hour of Sharing is one of the PC(USA)’s four churchwide special offerings. Most congregations receive the offering on Easter or Palm Sunday or other times during Lent. For more information and to download free bulletin inserts, visit the One Great Hour of Sharing web page.