I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with friends and Cameroonian family! I have posted picures of Franck opening presents from Papa, and others including my wonderful counterparts, Ernest and Sintia. I even managed to see my mom is Bangangte. Even though I found myself homesick at times, listening to country music and missing you guys, I really enjoyed being with all these people that are so dear to me!

Hope you had a merry merry Christmas too, where you were!

I spent a few days in Kribi to help out with the new volunteers training. This is the same training that I went through myself last year. But this year was much harder, you see… it was just work work work! LOL!

“The possibilities of what you can accomplish are endless when you’re not concerned with being recognized or taking the credit.”

Today I successfully distributed the books that were provided by all of you generous folks who participated in the bracelet donations this past summer!

After the organization and carrying out of the bracelet fundraising, I returned to my high school with 100 application forms for les bourses scolaires or educational scholarships. I knew that I wanted to provide the students with something durable -and not money because that would go directly to their families or perhaps to something else unrelated to education. I had originally wanted to pay the yearly school fees and then hand out receipts to the kids, but because of communication difficulties and the lateness of many students who applied that I wanted to have the opportunity, most school fees had already been paid for- so as the project called it, the profits went directly to notebooks for the students. They serve great purpose because most students use these in place of textbooks, and also students who are going into university next year will be able to use them there too.

I asked the students (any student in the school was eligible) to fill out the applications along with a copy of their last report card and an essay stating why they need the aide, what their dreams for the future are, and how education would help them accomplish their dreams. In the end, there were 40 applicants that had completed the forms and handed them into the vice-principal. Ernest and I read through each one and decided to divide them into three groups based on their motivation, grades and need. It was difficult! But working with Ernest made everything easier. He helped me a lot. He even went to Douala (the nearest big city) to get wonderful quality notebooks at a good price. One of most impressive students I have ever met, Stephen Bakari, also helped me in organizing the thank you letters and coordinating with the administration for the ceremony.

The 10 most outstanding students received a big stack of books, the moyen (14) received a medium-size stack, and the remaining 17 were given a couple of notebooks for their efforts. Everyone received at least one pen (Thank you Jeff Allen at Ken Allen Insurance!). The ten outstanding students are those who have personally written letters to all of you who gave me an address to write to (look for these in the mail in January).

I will also be posting videos of the students on www.youtube.com under the search of Tara Smith Cameroon.

The students are truly grateful for the gifts that you have given them. Most of the students who applied actually fund their education themselves -mostly through selling on the street- so they understand what it takes to work hard in order to succeed and force their way through school. To give them a helping hand is also giving them hope for the future. I could really see this in the smiles I witnessed today as I handed out the fruits of your labor. On behalf of the government high school of Bare, thank you so much!

The most beautiful gift you can give a woman is a house.
-Ernest Fondja, my best friend in Cameroon

Everyone in my Cameroonian life is in joyful spirits! In the same week that the Piggy Bank project was completed, Ernest and his family moved into their newly built house. They waited to prepare the first dinner until I could be there, and together we celebrated the new home over palm wine, plantains with peanut sauce, gospel music playing loudly, and a joy that is impossible to explain, but could easily be felt through out the entire compound. We were together and we are together now; the joy that radiates from my best friend’s family radiates into my life, and all I can do is continue to be grateful for the blessings I have in my life.