By Edimo M. Andrew
Over fifty thousand books, four thousand raincoats and nine thousand pencils recently arrived villages in Cameroon courtesy of Oroko Cultural Association (OCA) -USA. In a distribution ceremony held in Kake on Friday February 17, 2012, Oroko villages collected over 500 books each to stock their libraries or community spaces designated now as libraries. This move by OCA-USA is a bid to improve opportunities for reading and research for both the students and older adults of these villages which are far from the more developed townships where libraries exist.
The Oroko Cultural Association (OCA) – USA is a 25 year old association which started in 1987 as a social gathering for people from the Oroko ethnic group living in Atlanta GA and its environs. The association enabled them to spend Thanksgiving and other such family oriented holidays together, helping them overcome the feeling of being away from their own families back in Cameroon. Seeing how well the group worked in Georgia, members joined others nation-wide and decided to make it a national association in 1997.
The Oroko Cultural Association – USA is over 14 years in existence and is recognized by all Orokos as the first and the oldest Oroko organization that embodies the ten clans of the Oroko ethnic group from both Meme and Ndian divisions in the Southwest region of Cameroon. It is also known as “the cradle of Oroko Unity.”
Oroko Cultural Association-USA is a not-for-profit/tax exempt organization as defined by IRS Code 501(c) (3) in the United States of America with a mission to serve the Communities here in America and back in Cameroons. It is engaged in projects to provide assistance to Oroko people: motivating them to reach their full potential by wrestling with the causes of poverty. It promotes Oroko culture by exposing the culture to society both in Cameroon and USA. OCA assists either by creating and operating projects that will directly benefit people in Cameroon or by partnering with other organizations to assist the people.
Under the leadership of Dr. Iya Mercy Mabian, the first elected lady to head Oroko Cultural Association- USA, the executive in 2010 decided to undertake a book drive project entitled “Books For Knowledge and Empowerment” with a mission and vision to collect books in the United States of America, establish reading rooms and libraries in Oroko villages: in partnership with villagers.
Considering the fact that most students go through school in Cameroon reading only text books, if only their parents could buy them, the Oroko Cultural Association-USA was determined to make books available to every village in Oroko land that has or can create a reading room or library.
Many organizations and individuals were contacted to donate books towards the Books For Knowledge and Empowerment Project Cameroon and Books For Africa, a Minnesota based Non-profit organization (http://www.booksforafrica.org/) which has been feeding the book starving populations of Africa with books for years, agreed to donate 22,000 books from nursery to high school to the project if Oroko Cultural Association pays the sum of $9, 800.00 for handling and shipping of the books to Cameroon.
OCA – USA could not pass up on such an opportunity though it did not have that much money in its account. OCA USA paid the first $1,000 and then working with Books for Africa, set up a web link to receive donations. Friends and other supporters began making donations.
As the organization sought more sponsors and more books, another non-profit organization in Maryland: Books for International Goodwill ( http://www.big-books.org/) under the leadership of Mr. Steve Frantzich agreed to ship a 20 foot container of 20,000 books to Cameroon for OCA –USA for $ 4000: to be shared equally with a Dschang based library in the Western region of Cameroon and a Rotary international chapter in Maryland paid for the shipment.
More support came from the First Presbyterian Church in Lansing, Michigan (www.lansingfirstpres.org) when they learned of the project through the appeal made by one of their members, Andrew Edimo. More than 10,000 assorted books were donated as well as the sum of $2,500.00. Another well-wisher in Atlanta donated over five thousand books.
By December 2010, over 58,000 books, ,200 raincoats, 9,000 pencils, etc acquired by OCA-USA had left the shores of the United States of America to Cameroon to establish reading rooms and libraries in several Cameroonian villages. Unfortunately, the books arrived the Douala Seaport during rainy season which renders the roads to Oroko villages unusable. The books were stored until the dry season.
The distribution was made on Friday February 17, 2012 when all the target villages sent representatives to attend the distributions of the books, pens, pencils, and raincoats in Government Secondary School, Kake. In the interest of fairness, the items were distributed by clans, with the understanding that the representatives from each clan will in turn distribute books to the villages within their clan in an equitable manner. Reports and pictures sent to OCA-USA attest to the fact that the distribution was a huge success.
The Books for Knowledge and Empowerment project is an ongoing project. The Oroko Cultural Association (OCA) – USA) still welcomes books and financial donations which helps them take care of shipment to Cameroon. OCA-USA is currently working on a project to install solar lamps in the reading rooms or libraries since these villages lack electricity. You can visit www.orokousa.org to learn more about Oroko Cultural Association (OCA) USA and make a Paypal donation to the Books for Knowledge and Empowerment Project.
OCA-USA is appealing for help from all well-wishers to create and maintain the culture of reading, educating, empowering and mobilizing the Oroko people against stigma of ignorance by donating books or money to the Books for Knowledge and Empowerment project so that our people can have the ability to identify, create, and be involved in the continuum of daily learning; so that they can achieve their goals, develop their know-how and be able to participate fully in their communities, the nation, and the world at large.
Edimo M. Andrew
Chairperson of Natural Resources and Development committee
Oroko Cultural Association (OCA) USA