Friday, April 9, 2010

Help me establish a Business Resource Center in Cameroon!


Greetings from Cameroon! My name is Courtney Maloney and I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Over the past year and 9 months, I have been welcomed into the lives of many wonderful, kind and gracious people. I have learned many valuable lessons, witnessed countless cultural events, and tried my hand at new languages. My work has been with the non-profit Micro Enterprise Development Consultants (MICROEDEC), doing on the ground development work with entrepreneurs, primarily women. As I wrap up my last few months in this developing country that has become my second home, I am undertaking a Peace Corps Partnership Program project with MICROEDEC that will create the first Business Resource Center in the community of Bamenda, the 5th largest town in Cameroon and the Northwest’s provincial capital.

I am writing today to ask for your support in making this project a reality.

Small and medium sized enterprises are truly at the heart of Cameroon’s economy. However, many small business entrepreneurs lack the basic business skills needed to succeed. MICROEDEC is dedicated to growing and educating the small business community here in Bamenda. Having outgrown our current location, MICROEDEC is relocating to a larger office space. This space has the capacity to house a Business Resource Center. The Business Resource Center will provide training for entrepreneurs, as well as computer access, library resources and the opportunity to network. MICROEDEC hopes to outfit the Business Resource Center with computers to teach basic computer skills/computerized accounting techniques, internet access, and a mini-library of relevant business related literature. In addition, we hope to furnish the center with furniture and equipment necessary for effective business trainings, including a projector, laptop, blackboard and flip chart stand, as well as a copy machine, scanner and spiral binder for producing training materials. With the Business Resource Center we can expand our outreach and provide needed skills in a welcoming, convenient space.

By donating to MICROEDEC’s Business Resource Center project, you will be helping to provide Bamenda’s small business community with many of the resources they need to be independent and successful...the resources with which most of our elementary students in the US are already familiar. I know many of you probably donate to charitable organizations on a regular basis. Here's your opportunity to donate to a known project where each and every cent contributed will go directly towards the project cost rather than administration. Plus, you'd be helping me do something good for the people I have come to love and respect.

To make your tax-deductible donation, please visit the following link: Or, go to, click on the “Donate Now” tab on the left hand side of the screen and then search for the Business Resource Center Project by my last name (Maloney), Project Number 694-162, or by country (Cameroon).

Please feel free to forward this information as far and wide as you wish. Thanks in advance for your help!



Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Wish List...

I know I need to update y'all on the latest here in Cameroon, but the internet here is a bitch and, let's be honest, some things take priority over others. Plus some of you have been asking what you should send my way, so here it is!

Below you will find my wish list in case you have the urge to send me a (much appreciated) package here. Make sure you read the info I posted on mailing stuff - c'est tres important in order for it to actually make it from you to me. :) You would be surprised how fiercely you miss certain things when thousands of miles away...

My Wish List...

Hand Sanitizer
Good Pens
DVDs of your favorite films that you think I might enjoy watching..
CDs of your favorite music that you think I might enjoy listening to...
BOOKS!!! Send me anything and everything you think might be worth reading!
CANDY!! Lately I've been craving sourpatch kids, peanut butter m & m's, and rolos, but pretty much anything would please me...
Beef Jerky
Dried Fruit - love dried apricots, apples, etc...
Chips - doritos, sunchips, 'em
Nuts - there are loads of peanuts here, but I really miss almonds and cashews
Peanut Butter - I know, they have lots of peanuts but no peanut butter, strange eh? Well, I should say peanut butter the way we think of peanut butter as they do have something they equate to pb, but its not the real thing...
Protein Bars (like Cliff Bars)
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal! :)
Dry Food cookie, cake or brownie mixes, or sauce mixes like alfredo or ranch or fun seasoning stuff like barbeque...we have simple stuff like eggs and milk that I can use to make them so anything that doesn't required too much to be added...
Games/Art Stuff - I'm thinking stuff like Sodoku, Paint by Numbers, Cross-Stitch, etc...
Surprises!!! :)

If I think of anything else I'll let you know. Love you guys!! Thank you!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Yup, I'm still alive...


Hello from Cameroon!

My apologies for not writing sooner, but the past couple weeks have been such a whirlwind! It actually feels like I’ve been in Cameroon and surrounded by my fellow stagiaires (Peace Corps Trainees) for much longer than a month. Let me catch you up…

Our time in Philly was filled with icebreakers and information on cultural adjustment and expectations. Every staff member there was a former PCV and it really does make you feel like you are joining a big family and an organization that encapsulates so many memories, hopes and history. Peter, our facilitator, was awesome and he even teared up when wishing us goodbye and good luck before we took off for the airport to catch a plane to Cameroon, so cute. The hotel was in the historic district and we got to explore a bit too – even though I’d been to Philly once, I must not have seen much of it because I was impressed by how charming it was. We didn’t have any trouble locating a few bars close to the hotel too J. Everyone in my training class seems great. I think I was surprised by how different we all are and how different our backgrounds are. Not everyone is the stereotypical hippie, liberal type I imagined. For instance, we have everything from a married couple with backgrounds in graphic design and art to someone who left his job at Deloitte doing securities auditing in London to enter the Peace Corps. There are 38 of us total. Cameroon has 4 PC programs in country: Agriculture, Health, Education and Business. Our training class has the Education and Business volunteers and the Agriculture and Health volunteers will arrive in September. Within Education, there are people here doing English, Science, Math, and Computer Literacy and within my group, Small Enterprise Development, we have Business Advisors, Agri-Business Advisors (only 2 people), and NGO Developers (only 3 people including me). As a group, we have a pretty good time together and an easy time getting along. Overall, Philly was an intense/good time spent getting to know one another.

That doesn’t mean that we weren’t aching to get out of Philadelphia and the U.S. generally by the end of it however. We were all pretty giddy at the airport. After about 24 hours of travel time routing through Paris, we landed in Yaounde. Local Peace Corps staff greeted us after we deboarded and have really taken care of us every step of the way. Really, they all seem so professional, approachable and just generally great, I feel lucky to have them watching out for our wellbeing here in Cameroon. We also have had several current volunteers helping us out who have been a great source of information on what to expect since they only went through this process a year or two ago. While we were in Yaounde we didn’t really get a chance to explore the city however, it felt kind of like we were being sequestered in the hotel actually. Because most people’s French isn’t so good and we really had no knowledge of Cameroonian culture or safety in the city, they didn’t let us venture out too far. Basically, we shuttled back and forth between the PC Headquarters and the hotel and ate all of our meals in the hotel too for fear of bacteria, etc. that would make us sick. We did go to the Country Director’s house for dinner one night however, which was pretty awesome. The US Ambassador to Cameroon was there as well, so it was great to meet her.

During our time in Yaounde, we’ve received a lot of info re: culture and safety, especially in regard to our health. They gave us a huge water filter and a honkin big medical kit with everything from bandaids to syringes…not to mention a kit for sending stool samples to the Peace Corps Medical Office in Yaounde. Just what I wanted as my first cadeaux in Cameroon. While I do want to be prepared for anything that comes my way, it’s a bit scary to think about actually needing to use the majority of the stuff included in the kit. But this is what I signed up for, n’est pas? So far, so good though. A few people in our group have fallen sick, but not I (knock on wood).

We also had to take a language test. I’ve been placed in Intermediate Low (the 2nd language class from the top). We took a technical test for Small Enterprise Development too. Tests don’t usually get me excited, but this one did – it was just a preliminary exam and sort of demonstrated what we will be learning over the next couple months. I’m super geeked. I already feel like I’m learning so much.

Now we’re all in Bangante, settled into our homestay families here and into the first couple weeks of training. The first couple nights at my homestay were a bit of an adjustment – I think it may have been the first time that it really hit me that ‘hey, I’m in Africa’….all the sudden struggling through conversation in French with the strangers I would be living with for the next 3 months in a house and environment which resembled nothing of that which I left behind in the States. Life is good though, life is good…

Before I go, here are a few random notes and observations from my first few weeks in Cameroon...

A la prochaine!

  • 6 shots in less than a week = really sore arms.
  • Beware: Asking for a Corona at a local bar in Cameroon may result in a big white rock. Who knew that was even on the menu?
  • Anyone can join Peace Corps – even celebrities. Amongst our crew we have a real live Indian music video star and a couple that had their green wedding taped for the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Even a bunch of supposedly mature, future PCV 20-somethings digress into giddy silliness when confronted with a health session surrounding the sole topic of diarrhea. Didn’t help that the power point started off with “Diarrhea Happens…”
  • Potato peelers – a device my host family here had never before seen – seem to be one of those fancy but useless technological advances, at least for Cameroonians. My host mom can peel upwards of 5 potatoes with a knife in the time it takes me, the white girl with her nifty western tool, to peel one. I actually think it was made for those of us who are simply impaired in terms of hand-eye coordination. I’ve already cut myself several times with the knife while helping my host fam prepare dinner. I think they were just trying to make me feel useful by letting me peel the fruit before, and now they just look concerned anytime I ask to help.
  • Markets/stores here are not constricted in terms of physical space as they are in the US. One of our trainers, a current volunteer, stated it best by saying that you could take out a lawn chair, cop a squat, and pop a beer anywhere in town and within no time at all, you’ll be shopping. Anything that you might have been looking for from mangoes to shoes will appear before your eyes. Even highways are fair game - people will come running up to your car to sell their goods at every gendarme stop. So far I’ve seen everything from dead monkeys to baby goats for sale at a window near you.
  • The mayor of Bangante (Madame La Maire) is a beast at Foozball.
  • After only being in Cameroon for a few short weeks, I can already feel it leaving an impression. For instance, I will never again think of mud in the same way. “Bu” as it is called here, is a force to be reckoned with. This is the rainy season (there are only two seasons in Cameroon – the rainy season and the dry season), so it rains just about every day, sometimes multiple times a day. The sky opens and it rains harder than I’ve ever seen it rain before, but only for a matter of minutes each time. Snow days might not exist in Cameroon, but on more than one occasion I’ve had one of my French classes delayed because there was no hearing each other over the drumming of the rain on the roof. The ‘bu’ ensues, caking your shoes and making you stand a good few inches above your normal height. Whats more is that this culture places a lot of emphasis on the cleanliness and presentation of one’s shoes, so people spend every evening cleaning the red earth out of crevices. I’m afraid I will never understand this part of the culture – honestly, if it were me, I think instead of placing an emphasis on having shiny shoes I would just make every pair of shoes the same color as the rouge dirt. Maybe I will start a campaign and make this my secondary project while in the Peace Corps. I think I might also try to make tank tops the norm…not trying to be culturally insensitive concerning conservativeness, but I’m really not digging this farmer’s tan I’ve been perfecting…
  • Somehow Spanish soap operas it seems, like some kind of opportunistic virus, find their way into nearly every television market around the world. I remember seeing them in all of their overly dramatic glory on television stations when traveling around the Middle East as well. Now I am forced to watch them nearly every night, dubbed into French (which only increases the drama mind you) when my family flips on the teli after dinner. Really, how does this happen? My only savior is the fact that our family’s television is tapped into the cable of our neighbors – meaning that if they change the station, the channel changes on ours as well. Awesome. I think the dad in the family next door isn’t a fan either. Thank god for that.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

je suis ici

The title of this blog would have an exclamation mark if I actually knew how to work this french, african keyboard....

But I just wanted to update my blog to let everyone know that I am here in Cameroon safe and is good. We go to the Country Directors house tonight for a welcome dinner should be fun.

Will write more when I can exclamation point.....

A Bientot

Friday, June 6, 2008


So, as I write, I am sitting in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Philly, PA surrounded by a bunch of other volunteers all powwowing and cherishing the last few moments of wireless internet access on our laptops.

In one hour time, we will be on a bus on our way to the airport and as of 6:45 pm this evening we will be en route to Paris and then onto Cameroon.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of getting to know people and taking in information. I don't have much time to write as a few of us are going to grab lunch before we have to leave - gotta take that first of two years worth of malaria pills on a full stomach, woohoo.

Will try to write more as soon as we touch down on African soil!


Mailing Suggestions

Apparently, receiving mail/packages is as good as crack while in the Peace in order to help me facilitate my addiction, please send me something :)!!

To help you do so, here are a few tips/suggestions...

1. My address: Courtney Maloney

Peace Corps Trainee

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 215

Yaoundé, Cameroon

2. Mail should be sent directly to the Yaoundé address, OR directly your Volunteer's post address once training is finished.

3. Both Volunteers and family members should number letters sent so that the receiver can determine whether any letters did not arrive.

4. Packages should be sent via air, not surface mail (surface mail has been known to take longer than two years to arrive.)

5. Sending packages to Cameroon is a risky proposition. Theft of packages is common. It may help if you insure the package, mark the package in red ink, put religious symbols on the package and/or address it to 'Sister Courtney Maloney'.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Packing List!

Here's my packing list...will likely change (read: shrink...) when I evaluate just how much will actually fit into my backpack/duffle :)....... Thanks to all of the current/future/returned volunteers who've helped me create this list by sharing their lists and suggestions!!


Nail Stuff (File, Polish, Remover)
Nail Clippers (2)
Hair Brush
Body Spray
Body Wipes
Hair Clips
Hair Bands
Bobby Pins
Face Lotion w/ SPF (2)
Hand Sanitizer
Deodorant (3)

Body Wash
Travel Toiletries for Philly
Foot Powder
Toothbrush (2)

Face Wash (2)
Dental Floss
Razor Blades
Panty Liners
Hair Gel/Product
Bar Soap
Make Up
Insect Repellent (Spray and Wipes)
Wash Cloth and Hand Towel


Shortwave Radio
French Correction Software (maybe also SysTran)
Ipod Speakers
Flashlight (2 – 1 Maglite)
Adapter/Converter Set
Cell Phone and Charger (taking my Egyptian phone)
Travel Alarm Clock
Extra Memory Card for Digital Camera
Digital Camera

Battery Recharger
Rechargeable Batteries (Duracell NiMH/NiCD)
Reliable Watch
USB Flashdrives (2)
Dell Laptop
Dell Laptop AC Adapter
Computer Sleeve
LAN Card/Wires
Solio Solar Charger


Umbrella (2)
Sunglasses and Cases (2)
Sunglass Cord
Cards (2 decks)
Mosquito Repellant Coils
Mosquito Repellant Candles
Sleeping Bag
Duct Tape
Luggage Locks
Stain Remover (Pen and Stick)
Sewing Kit
Superabsorbent Towel (2)
Extra Fold Up Duffle Bag
Passport Photos (12)

U.S. Stamps
Stationary/Greeting Cards
Writing Utensils
Art Supplies
Project Books/Articles
French Dictionary
Map of Africa/Cameroon/U.S./World
Photo Album with Pictures
PC Paperwork and Organizing Folders
Loan Paperwork
Address Book
Receipts for Electronics
Compressible Pillow?


Rain Poncho
Rain Jacket
Bathing Suit
Durable Jacket
Linen Pants
Athletic Shorts
Button Up Shirts/Blouses
Dark Cotton T-Shirts
Sports Bras
Shorts (1)
Tanktops (2)
Jeans (1)
Bike Gloves
Dress Pants
Long Skirts
Below-Knee Skirts
Belts (2)
Capri Pants
PJ/Lounge Pants
Paschmina (2)


Ziploc Bags
Plastic Containers
Measuring Spoons
Measuring Cups
Can Opener
Potato Peeler
Kitchen Knife
Knife Sharpener
Swiss Army Knife
Packaged Mixes (e.g. sauces, soups, salad dressing, drinks - lemonade)
Spices (chili, curry, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, cayenne pepper, rosemary, thyme)
Maple Syrup
Parmesan Cheese
Vegetable Seeds
Snack Food Ideas (Clif Bars, PB, Granola Bars, Dried Fruit, Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios), Gum, Ramen Noodles, Candy, Beef Jerky, Cheez-Its, Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix/Chocolate Chips)


Running Shoes
Hiking Boots
Dress Shoes
Black Work Sandals (Chacos)
Brown Work Sandals (Tevas)
Casual Sandals (Tevas)
Flip Flops (2)

Gifts for Host Family

Magnetic Maps of US
Perfume Men and Women

Michigan Stuff
Hot Sauce