Sr. Leul Teklay and the Capuchin Sisters of Blessed Mother Francesca Rubatto (SCMR), work as missionaries in Cameroon. The congregation runs a formation house, a kindergarten and also serves as the administrator of a primary school in the Archdiocese of Bamenda.
The two schools, founded in 2007, educate approximately 350 young minds.
“We are unable to pay the teachers completely from the money we get in running the school and this is a great challenge for us,” Sr. Leul comments.
In 2014-15, Sr. Leul attended ASEC’s Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) workshops to acquire better finance skills. During the SLDI workshop, participants also attended a field trip to Shumas Center, to see how the concepts they’re learning could be applied to their own work.
Shumas Centre trains peasant farmers and out of school unemployed youths in sustainable agriculture practices. Sr. Leul learned practical ways that renewable energy sources like electricity generated from a dam, biogas, solar power and wind turbines could help to sustain her community.
The field trip to Shumas Centre inspired Sr. Leul to implement what she learned in her own project.
First, Sr. Leul and her congregation tried to rear chickens and sell the eggs. But, the feed and medication became too expensive to yield any profit.
But Sr. Leul didn’t give up.
As an alumna of ASEC’s SLDI program, Sr. Leul learned finance skills, grant proposal writing and several ways to generate income through self-reliant projects. These skills, combined with the field trip experience, fueled her success.
She presented a new plan to her General Superior based on what she observed at Shumas Center. The congregation purchased a pregnant cow and hired a contractor to build a biogas digester tank. Sr. Leul knew the cow would provide fresh milk for drinking, preparing yogurt and making cheese and they could sell the reset to those who need it. She planned to use the cow dung for cooking fuel (biogas) and fertilizer for the garden.
“Thanks to ASEC and Hilton Foundation, my dream has finally come true. They did not give me fish but they taught me how to fish.”
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This project did not come without challenges, though. Milking a cow is not a skill that any of the sisters had. Hiring someone for this task would be too expensive, so the sisters are trying to learn this critical skill. In addition, their small plot of land combined with drought has made it challenging to grow grass to feed their cows. Additionally, the biogas required much more dung than one or two cows produce. So, the sisters purchased and transported about sixty wheelbarrows of dung to get the digester working.
Despite these challenges, Sr. Leul and her congregation came up with an innovative solution to reduce their cost of living and save money. She comments,
“By carrying out this project, though we do not have any income, it reduces our cost since we do not buy cooking gas, milk and manure. Through this means, we also protect the environment as a result of using natural things instead of artificial products.”
Now, the school teachers can be paid and the students in Bamenda receive a quality education.