First, let me say that Chantal Biya – Cameroon’s shy and beloved First Lady – is one awesome gal. Not only is her hair les cheveux of legend, she couldn’t be a nicer or more regal and elegant lady. Let me explain how I know this:
One of the first priorities of the new country director was to increase Peace Corps’ profile in this country. Everyone knows Peace Corps, but not many people know what we do. So the new director organized a 50th anniversary celebration / showcase of our activities here. Each of the ten regions and each of the five sectors (Education, Environment/Agriculture, Health, Youth Development, and Community Economic Development) were given a table to show off examples of our work. About eighty PCVs in total and a couple of Cameroonian counterparts from each region attended. Octave (my colleague at GeoAid) came through in a major way and brought a selection of artifacts and products that people from the Lomie zone produced (and that Octave, myself, and others trained).
Somehow – very last minute – it was decided that I should be the one to represent the East and address the First Lady. Needless to say I was honored to do so. CRTV, the public news channel in Cameroon even did a 5-minute long news segment on it. Octave and I both had lots of people in Lomie telling us they saw us on the news.
Octave is still glowing from everything (you can see how tickled he is to be meeting the first lady. He’s the short guy in between the two white guys in blue shirts :)). He even mounted a massive photo of him shaking Chantal’s hand in his living room wall.
I also put together a video slideshow that we played at the East region’s table. It’s a selection of photos and videos from a handful of volunteers here showing where we live and what we do. Thanks to Michelle Hood, Mike “Sampson” Burbidge, Shonna Kaye Ferree, Eddie Rosenbaum, Justine Little, and Steph Gasior for providing so much great material.
I was really impressed by how well the event went. Congrats to Jackie (the new CD) and the entire admin team and volunteers organizers on a job well done, and to the new volunteers for successfully completing training!