Facing the Challenges of Rural Cameroon
Sr. Caroline Acha, Sisters of St. Therese (SST), serves in a remote, rural area of Northwest Cameroon called Sabongari. There are many challenges Sr. Caroline faces in Sabongari, such as lack of electricity, proper roads and potable water. This rural area also faces social issues such as high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, early marriages and child delinquency. As if these challenges aren’t enough, the area also lacks school and children often must walk far distances to get an education.
Issues like these are, sadly, the norm in rural areas of Africa. Catholic Nuns serving in these poverty-stricken areas are often put to the task without the proper skills and training to be effective in their ministry work. But through ASEC, African Sisters receive the education and tools needed to initiate positive change in the darkest of circumstances.
You'll see that Sr. Caroline is no exception.
Learning Administration and Grant-Writing Skills
Sr. Caroline is an alumna of ASEC’s Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program in Cameroon where she studied administration. Initiatied in 2007, SLDI is ASEC’s largest program. SLDI provides Sisters with technology, administration and finance training through one month workshops over three years.
Through SLDI, Sisters gain the practical skills and confidence to build strong networks and take up leadership roles in their congregations and communities. Sr. Caroline is one of many ASEC alumna who have been able to translate the skills she learned in the classroom to real-life success in achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sr. Caroline says of her ministry,
“Thanks to ASEC/SLDI, I was frightened but far from being discouraged. Our passion about the need to confront these challenges and let the entire population see themselves a success story, served as a motivation.”
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Quality and affordable education for the children of Cameroon
Sr. Caroline prioritized quality and affordable education for the children of Sabongari. She initiated the construction of classrooms and a computer lab at the St. Therese school. Through resource mobilization skills learned in SLDI, she secured funding to construct a classroom and a computer lab.
Sr. Caroline proudly asserts that because of the grant-writing and fundraising skills she’s learned that,
“Students now have opportunities to exploit their full academic potentials.”
Empowerment Center increases the self-reliance of local women
Sr. Caroline also incorporates a Women’s Empowerment Center as part of her ministry. The center offers a space where local women are offered training and education that help them create and obtain jobs, increasing their self-reliance.
The Center also produces reusable sanitary pads, empowering girls and women in the area to continue their work and schooling.
Sr. Caroline also teaches the women to buy food when prices are low, then sell when prices increase to widen their profit margins. This source of income helps women proudly send their children to school, and ensures they can take their children for medical care when they are sick, because they can now afford the fees.
With grant-writing skills attained through SLDI, Sr. Caroline also secured funds to construct classrooms and provide safe drinking water and sanitation for vulnerable students in the Northeastern areas of Kumbo and Sanonga.
She initiated this project to ensure that children who cannot attend school in the French region of Cameroon due to political unrest in the country have the opportunity and assistance to continue school in a safe environment.
Education improves Sr. Caroline's ministry work
Sr. Caroline credits the SLDI program and ASEC with the skills that help her work effectively in her ministry. She commented,
"ASEC has equipped me with a lot of new skills which I use to carry out my apostolate with a lot of inspiration and motivation."
After completing the SLDI program, she describes herself as, “...full of skill and vigour” and adds that,
“...the difference and excellence in my ministry cannot be dissociated from the soft skills and attitudes, gained during the sessions. ...Our hope is to maintain consistency and leave a legacy– based on the positive impact we create on the lives of the people we minister to.”