My cultural counterpart told me a story of a Camerounean from Bangou named Hippolite. He grew up in Bangou along with the rest of his siblings and his mom. Like most families in Cameroun, they didn’t have much money. That sentence is of course relative, Someone making 6 bux an hour here would live like a king.

One day when Hippolite was helping cook for the family, a boiling pot of water fell on his chest and burned him severely. Since then he couldn’t do any heavy physical labor including working out on the field, which 99.9 percent of Camerouneans males do. So while the rest of his family was out on the field, he just sat at home.

Ypolite was a decent student, but that doesn’t get you very far here. You have to pay to go to school here, at least past middle school. His mom, trying to help, wanted to send him to a school in a bigger town, where they didn’t know anyone, so he could go to school there. She didn’t know anyone, but she knew there were people native from Bangou living in Baffosam, and asked a family to take in her boy and let them live with them.

He didn’t yet have the money to pay for High School, but he was now in a bigger town. Every day he would go out to the market stand around and try to make money somehow, even though he couldn’t really do anything too physical. During the weekends, the family that took him in worked on the field, but since he didn’t, because he couldn’t, he wasn’t allowed stay with them on weekends. So every weekend, he would be outside all day and all night.

One day a teacher at the school he wanted to go to, after seeing him at the same spot every day, all day, came over and asked his story. The teacher who turned out to also be from Bangou, asked him to move into a dormitory for students at the school. He said he would pay for it as long as he got good grades. Ypolite became the best student in his class and the teacher was glad to pay.

During this time he also started having heart problems that would not go away. The problem was too complex to be fixed in Cameroun, so he, along with the teacher started applying for a special medical leave to go to France, paid by the Camerounean government.

He got rejected, but he tried again next year and got accepted. He got to go to France and have his heart checked and hopefully fixed. While he was in France, his mom asked around the village and found a family from Bangou living in France. They took him in and let him stay with them.

His health improved and he finished school. However, the operation he needed for his heart was too risky at the time and no doctor would perform it. They didn’t want to take the chance at it failing and having the deal with the Camerounean government who would probably sue them. Ypolite said he would sign over all rights and give his body to science for the operation. At once, dozens of doctors, including some of the best in the country came to see this guy who had signed over his life and see if they could operate.

The operation took place, and Ypolite didn’t die. He still couldn’t do much physically, but he was now stable. He enrolled and finished college and got a job in France.

Ypolite never forgot the kindness of the Bangou people who helped him. I went to see the packages Ypolite sent from France to distribute to the community and help Bangou. This room was filled with books, notebooks, clothes, shoes, reading glasses and many computers. He didn’t send some packages, he sent a full shipping container from France. He’s also sent money for building schools and community centers which have been built, and are still being built around Bangou.

Although his health isn’t in good enough condition to travel anymore, he has found joy in helping the community he came from. So that another kid like him from Bangou, can have the opportunities he had.

One of the buildings getting rebuilt with Hippolite’s money. It’s being made into a computer classroom where they want me to teach. I’ll probably help organize, admin and curriculum, but I’ll leave the teaching to others. (that’s sustainability right?)

some cute baby goats near the building.