What does your company or organizations do?
LINK-UP provides various forms of sponsorship opportunities to disadvantaged orphans and vulnerable children in Cameroon. Through the Village Library, we enhance access to books by establishing a distribution and sales network that will enable more children to have books.
What is your role? How is a typical day being you?
My role is to ensure that the organization succeeds in its mission and objectives, by ensuring that we hire the right persons and define their task. A typical day for me will comprise, review pending reports, attend meetings, receive official guest and communicate with partners either by phone or the Internet.
What come that you took exactly this path that you have chosen?
I took to this path as a result of the personal difficulties that I faced after losing my mother at the age of 16 and who was my only parent. This exposed me practically to the plight of orphans, their challenges and the very limited facilities designed to assist them. Hence in my struggle to succeed in life, I kept thinking on how best I can contribute in mitigating this situation, taking into consideration the fact that Cameroon is not a welfare state and the Government has got no instrument for the direct support to such children.
What is you dream or vision? What is your next step?
My dream is to keep inspiring, especially children in difficulties to have hope and confidence in themselves, to see value in themselves and work hard to bring out the best in them through the various support and sponsorship opportunities we give to them. My next step is to ensure that every child should have three core textbooks, through the Village Library in Cameroon.
Being a social entrepreneur is most often not to follow the straight wide road. Can you tell us about any road less traveled that you have taken, and how it turned out?
When I visited the Buea CENTRAL Prison in December 1999 for the first time I was exposed to the extreme difficulties faced by the prisoners, especially the minors awaiting trial. My heart jumped and I developed a soft spot for them immediately. I went home and could not sleep but kept thinking of how I could in the beast way help and improve the situation for these children. I decided to organize one-week campaign to raise awareness and solicit assistance for the prisoners. It was a very successful exercise and within the process, many of the people who supported the campaign, encouraged me to establish an organization that can enable people to help each other directly.
I needed a focus and my thought went first to the plight of the children that I met in prison.
The next question that came to mind was how do I prevent disadvantaged or vulnerable children from getting to prison. This led to a three weeks survey with street children in Douala in 2001 to find out who are most likely to end in prison and what could be done to help them. Many of them had been living on the streets for five and ten years and had no education. Most of them could not spell their names and were already more than 15 years old. They had similar stories that centered around poverty and neglect.
Based on this I felt the need to give them the opportunity to have at least the primary or basic education in order to get them off the streets.
At this stage, I had already established an institution, constituted a board made up of some of the people who support the prison campaign and had the organization registered as LINK-UP to serve as a link between those in need and those who can help especially children.
Our prime challenge now was to establish a credible system or structure that will enable children in need to be assisted directly. We directed our research into public schools, had information on the most obstacles that prevented children from attending school, and then designed the child sponsorship program to reflect this needs. These needs included fees, books, writing material, uniforms, meals and shelter for some. We also realized that the needs of a child do not expire after the child has been identified and given support once. Thus we designed our support programs to enable us to track the development and progress of the child on a yearly basis.
Since 2003, over 3000 children have benefited from our ongoing child sponsorship programs and by the end of this year, we shall be completing the cycle of sponsorship, for one of our first beneficiaries who has been sponsored from primary school and will be graduating this year from the University of Buea – Cameroon, with a degree in Journalism.
What impact to you aim to make? What impacts have you seen so far?
Providing educational opportunities for children in need is the most effective means of taking them and their families out of poverty. Keeping children in school also protect them from social ills as prostitution, child trafficking, illiteracy and crimes. Children who were without sponsors are now in school doing well and confident for to have a bright future.
Why does this, the impact you are trying to make, matter to you?
By given children in need a chance to education and seeing them developing from kids, pupils, teenagers and young adults positively is the greatest fulfillment anyone can imagine of.
Tell us one thing about you that not too many people know about you.
I work from conviction and not for fame or to please others.
Why are you participating in the SE Outreach Accelerator? What were (are your expectations) What are your needs? How has your experience been so far?
I am grateful to be part of this. SE Outreach Accelerator enables me to show my social business venture that provides books to especially children in need in Cameroon to a wider audience. I am here to refine the business plan to make it more appealing and appropriate for donors and investors to identify with the venture. My experiences have been very great, and I look forward to the remaining five weeks
Any good tips you will like to share with the outside world?
The best way to serve God is to serving man, especially those in need.
If you wish to sponsor a child or the Village Library, or support the cause in any other form, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.