When my group of 39 American volunteers first got to Cameroon, we thought we were in a way bringing a new idea to Africa. Our principle of volunteerism, to take time away from making money for ourselves to help others poorer than ourselves help themselves, would spread through Cameroon and Africa so that all over the continent people would be lending a helping hand to those less fortunate.

During training, a fellow volunteer wanted to dedicate his efforts for two years in teaching and helping Africans to volunteer.

This in a way smells of pride and ethnocentrism.

Truth is that Africans can teach Americans a thing or two about volunteering. For example, the last two weeks, the Chief of Bangou has been preparing the chefferie and the whole village for a visit from a French delegation of congressmen who the Chief and the congressman from Bangou met on their trip to France.

People from Bangou paid for the Chief’s ticket to France, his lodging (The Chief can’t just stay at someone’s house). Also, all the preparations that are under way at the Chefferie are being paid for by the people of Bangou.

Being that I am part of the community, I dusted off my machete* and got to work helping my village. Two days before the arrival of the French delegation, I was out there, along with 20-30 other villagers cutting grass to the road leading to the chefferie. Some people were mad that there were only 30 people there and said that if the whole male population would show up, the work would take only a few minutes.

So we got to grass cutting and whenever anyone from the village would drive by in a motto or car, they would make them stop give them a machete and tell them to (faire ta part), “do your part”.

Additionally, there were dozens more at the chefferie cleaning, painting, cutting and cooking in preparation for the festivities.

These people were not being paid for their work, and they were not drafted as in some army. They were merely doing their part to help their village. This wasn’t going across the planet to help people in need. This was helping your neighbor (well, your chief), literally.

It was great to be part of, and a great example of why Bangou is a great place that’s just missing some money and structure to really become a great village.

When I got home from ‘debrussing’ (my hands were already blistering after little more than an hour), I thought about why this appealed to me so much. It was what a libertarian society would look like!

Can you imagine in the US, the mayor of your town calling on you to cut the grass on the median, help build roads and to go paint their house? That’s the government’s job in America. But in Africa, where people can’t depend on their government to build them a road or provide water or good education for them, the libertarian ideas are alive and well.

*Asked a friend to let me borrow one

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