Monday, June 2, 2008

Business Classes

May 30, 2008

Yesterday rapped up my first full round of business classes. I taught business and math skills at a girls' center in Baré early on, but it felt more like a warm-up to teaching. There were a couple of girls that I was proud to have taught, but a lot of them would talk, not pay attention, sleep, or just not show up. For the classes that I just finished, I did everything from start to finish. I marketed them, I found the classroom, I enrolled local entrepreneurs, and I taught the classes, adjusting preexisting Peace Corps-provided lesson plans to the needs of my community and my own teaching style.

There were 12 classes, each one lasting two hours. I only once a week, so finishing up a project that lasted 3 months felt like a pretty big accomplishment. The classes covered entrepreneurship, feasibility studies, goals and action plans, cash books, inventory, budgeting, marketing, income statements and balance sheets, leadership, financial services, and business plans. Planning the lessons, even already having lesson plans, was pretty time-intensive because (shhhh!) the majority of these things I’ve not even done in the US.

The last class was a couple of weeks ago, before my trip to Yaoundé, but last night was a reception that I planned so that I could give my students certificates proving completion of the course. Everyone paid $10 to take the class to offset the cost of photocopies and the classroom as well as to motivate them to be there each week. Photocopies are pretty cheap so there was a lot of money left over. It paid for a great spread of food and a room for the reception at my neighbor’s house. She runs a catering business and was the perfect person to know for the occasion.

For the vast majority of our work here as PCVs, we don’t get to see the fruits of our labor. Development is a slow process. Occasionally I’ll run into someone who’ll talk about a volunteer 10-15 years ago who changed their life, but in the here and now, we just have to hope that we’re making those kinds of positive impacts in peoples’ lives. So the reception last night was a rare and special occasion for me – an opportunity to receive positive recognition for the work that I’m doing here right now. There was even an impromptu moment where each of my about 20 students stood up one by one and shared why they thought the class was so important to their individual lives. I think the words that spoke to my the most were when someone stood up and talked about how those who have the means tend to leave the country for Europe of the US. The general thinking among far too many Cameroonians is that those living in Africa are suffering while everyone in the developed world is just living it up. This student was saying that my class empowered him to realize that he could succeed right here, that his hard work would pay off – the American Dream in Cameroon if you will. It was great to hear.

After everyone finished eating, I handed out the certificates one at a time and then we took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures – more than I took at my high school graduation. I even took pictures with the photographers that were there. This is a very Cameroonian thing to do and you just get used to it

So after about a year living in Cameroon, this was a nice boost to motivate me to continue doing what I’m doing. Next week when I pick up the new volunteers at the airport I’ll have one more positive experience to share.



Anonymous said...

Hey Tim, Congratulations! Looks as though the May 30 celebration was a big success. We enjoy reading your updates so keep them coming!

Norma & Ed Carter

Diane Schmutzler said...

Looking good in the pics Tim - I thought about you today and figured I'd try to search for your blog since Bryon was worthless in remembering the website address. Now I can catch up with what you've been doing! I hope things are going well, and know that there have been many many times in teh last year when Adam and I have said we "miss having Tim around." A lot has changed since you left - a bit of a rollar coaster of our own - just after you left last June I found out I was pregnant, and we now have a bouncing baby boy. Anyway, there's much to say but perhaps in a different medium. In any case, take care, keep up the good work and it's nice to have found you again!

- Diane in Baltimore :)