Yvonne Aimee and Philip Deshayes, two French members of SEMIL (Education Service of Lassaliennes) from Rennes, France, offered their services through the Daughters of Jesus community,to construct a bridge between the literacy centre and the village.
They were welcomed to share the life of the community for two weeks
As work began , the question arose. “ Shall we have some help?” One by one , men women, young people , all of them volunteers, set off tool in hand , towards the building site where the French awaited them.
Three rickety planks , often washed away by the water, enabled us to cross a small stream, thin in the dry season but it can become an impetuous torrent in the rainy season.
We wished to replace the risky foot bridge with a proper bridge. Where to start?
The large group did not include a specialist builder. However a Muslim, an engineer friend of the community, produced a plan. Only two experienced masons and a few apprentices had any notion of masonry.
A lot of time would be apparently wasted , in discussing to how to set about things.
For ten days, twenty to twenty-five people worked relentlessly , with good humour, good will and enjoyment from 8am to 2pm. Alphonsine a postulant and on community experience, and Madeleine from the community got their hands dirty with the group.
Within two weeks, with only the use of simple tools a titanic task had been achieved. At the end of the project the parish priest blessed the bridge to the great joy of the people of Nkoteng. He thanked the sisters for their care in developing the region.
And the two French friends? Mixed in with works, they set to work quite simply, participated in everything . Often said a few words of encouragement, sometimes made a few discreet suggestions. They were the soul of the group.
A young man declared” I thought they would organise us”, ” do this do that “but that was not the case. It was more “Let’s do this”
Apart from what was realised materially the most important thing has without doubt was the meeting between two peoples.
The French were impressed by the courage, perseverance and tenacity of the Cameroonians , their capacity to face adversity,and their hard every day life.
The Cameroonians discovered a new aspect of the “ whites”. They appreciated the simple fraternal relations, their ardour for work and rigorous punctuality.
- The marvel of meetings at depth in mutual respect.
- Today the inhabitants of Nkoteng appreciate walking over a secure bridge.
The French are continuing their project in a different way. An exhibition in the School of the Adoration in Rennes is awakening the children to a new. An evening has been organized to reflect on the whole event.
A rich experience which deeply affected all those who had lived it.