Caught between Two Wars

Over the past four years, I have painfully witnessed my country of Cameroon be ravaged by a steadily escalating war which has displaced thousands of civilians internally, and into neighboring countries. As the president of Community Green Engagement (COMGREEN), I and my colleagues have strived to ensure the communities which we serve not only have sustainable access to food, but also engage communities on existential climate change issues.

In the current period, we have been forced to watch, helpless to prevent the entire destruction of villages because of the fighting. Many flee to places such as Bamenda, where Community Green Engagement has its headquarters. run to the major towns like bamenda where we have our headquarters. Unrelenting gunfire and the sincere risk of interpersonal violence by warring groups makes it nearly impossible for us to work.

Further, due to the deadly clashes which have mostly been in the rural areas, farmers and ranchers have abandoned their properties leading to drastic food shortages. Now, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are upon us as well. Though we have few confirmed cases of virus infection, like too many countries throughout Africa and around the world we struggle with rigorous medical testing for the disease. Additionally, the police and military are seizing the opportunity offered by the pandemic to further restrict civilian movement by enacting curfews, and deep fines for those who are outside of their home without official permission, or subjectively valid reasons. Some have been beaten for these reasons as well.

With the support of the Goldin Institute. Community Green Engagement is launching a FaceBook fundraising drive to secure foodstuffs and livestock for Bamenda and the surrounding areas we serve.

It is a very difficult time for us here in Cameroon, but Community Green Engagement continues to offer resources, training and hope. Before the fighting in Cameroon, between Anglophone and Francophone factions, COMGREEN maintained a beekeeping project, gardening, and oversaw the construction of a community center through regular civilian-focused consultations, Many stakeholders came together to discuss our most pressing problems and collectively come up with solutions. We pray the time will come again soon when we can resume such inspiring outcomes, again.

Click Here to Support the Community in Cameroon

Responding to COVID-19 in the Bedouin Community

As a minority group within Israel, the Bedouin Community has had a long history of strife in dealings with the Israeli government. During these dire times of Covid-19 the government has failed in many areas to support Negev Bedouins through funds resources and information. As a result many families have been facing unemployment, health and communication concerns. Students who do not have computers can’t do school from home households with over ten people are having trouble with social distancing and unrecognized villages are unable to maintain a sanitized environment due to limited water.

A New Dawn in the Negev has been taking action in three areas:

  1. Established an emergency Covid-19 Hotline for receiving calls from those in need of urgent care and assistance;
  2. Proactive outreach through our call-center, managed by our staff and volunteers, to reach out to those that might feel apprehensive or afraid to cross social norms; and
  3. Building an online platform, still in process, that will generate opportunities to share initiatives, hold discussions and promote peer to peer volunteer ideas.

Through all these approaches we provide both structural and culturally-sensitive opportunities to express their needs and find responses based on solidarity.

[quote]A New Dawn is actively involved in the fight against Covid-19, and our work is effective because we have trust and local knowledge earned over years of experience working with vulnerable communities.[/quote]

We are more than happy to share our knowledge and experiences and coach other organizations who are facing similar situations and obstacles with social-governmental tensions. By working together, we can become stronger and more equipped for our work indivually and collectively. A New Dawn in the Negev is always seeking new connections for resource building and sharing.

A New Dawn’s biggest obstacle now is infrastructure and resources for our current endeavors. We’re working on a phone switchboard, computer tablets, hot line operating software and other activities, as well as an Internet platform via WhatsApp to build online community, and subscribing to an existing platform while adapting to the specific needs of the Bedouin company and training a limited team of operators.

We need to urgently respond to this crisis today, but we also have to rethink our work for the future.

Even before the coronavirus hit our community, our organization was often short on resources, facing neglect from the government, and having to deal with already high unemployment rates and poverty. Now the Coronavirus has given us no choice but to quadruple our efforts and prioritize our programs. We have to safeguard our infrastructure and make it adaptable to the new social norms of social distancing. Before the crisis, meeting people and engaging with them was paramount. Now, we have to apply all our work to a virtual world.

For our community as a whole, the crisis has impacted our way of life and culture. Now more than ever, cultural competency plays a role in the future of our people; we must not forget who we are.

During this time, we have grown virtually connected with our world more than ever before. Our experiences are in need of being shared to others through this heightened medium of communication. Connecting to my network of Global Fellows is critical in this time of physical isolation and the Goldin Institute is definitely one of our greatest partners.  We wish to strengthen our ties with all the alumni and otherpartners to build a better future together.