Friday 10 December 2010

Back to Bafia

As I am always one to keep promises, I headed back to visit the host family and friends in Bafia. Remember that odd, nostalgic feeling when one visits their old high school? It was EXACTLY like that!

The City Itself 
After the car took off from Yaounde, we had to turn around as the driver forgot to take a generator. C’est normale. Two hours later, I was back on a moto in the center of Bafia watching the town I spent three months living in go by. It was bigger than I remembered it and though the same, there were small changes like umbrellas in a local bar and a new hotel. 

The People

Simon at the post office was happy to see me as I mailed out my holiday cards and Shantal, one of the first neighbors I ever met, yelled at me on the moto like it was just yesterday that we had seen each other. And the family? Well, right when I walked in the door, it felt like nothing had changed. I definitely (and they definitely) could tell that my French had improved, but other than that? Felt just like I had come home from a day of training.

I headed over to the house of Tatiana, the nine-year-old kid that would wait to walk me home nearly every single day of training. As I had the wrong phone number for her mom, it was a fun surprise to show up at the house. Wearing her blue school uniform and an over-sized backpack, the once timid kid yelled out my name and ran for a big hug – adorable!

The Business Impact!

The best part of the visit back to Bafia was seeing the entrepreneur and cyber cafĂ© that I consulted for two months during training. At the end of Pre-Service Training, he had started an accounting system (he didn’t write anything down before) and minus a few fluke expenses, he was making a profit.

Flash forward four months later…

He’s made over 400,000CFA worth of profit! During our consulting sessions, he stated that he couldn’t stand it when several high school students would gather around one computer. When I asked why he thought they did that, it was simply because they didn’t have any money. A quick suggestion and a final report later, he decided to take my recommendation and give students a discount. Well, now students pour through the cyber and since he advertised at the local high school, a staff member asked him if he could make and laminate ALL the students’ ID cards! Money!

Further, he opened up a separate business account at MC2 (the host institution many Small Enterprise Development PCV’s work with) and bought computer software that tracked when people use the internet and for how long (an exercise I had him do by hand). His employee stopped the accounting book, but I’ll let that go as he still knows exactly how much he is making. His first two weeks of income go towards expenses and the next two weeks of income go straight to profit. This week alone, he has made 47,000CFA (the same amount that some teachers usually make in two months!).

Who knew that while I would learn to speak French, my small advice might actually have an impact. Hindsight is everything. Good visit if I do say so!

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