(New York) – I Am That Child, a recently published book by popular author Elizabeth Geitz, documents her work with Sister Jane Maanka’s Good Shepherd Home for orphans of the AIDS epidemic in Cameroon. Below Geitz answers why she thinks Cameroonian athletes are disappearing from Olympics competition in London.
Why would seven Cameroonian Olympic athletes at the top of their game, risk the exposure of international coverage, and flee the games and hence their country?
While people commonly flee countries immersed in civil war, famine, or political instability, none of these reasons apply to Cameroon, a West African country slightly larger than the state of California, nestled beneath the country of Nigeria. So why would they leave? Economics. With an average living wage of $1,230 a year per person and with many living on less than $2/day, there is a very limited future for returning athletes. Where are the jobs? Where is the hope? There is none.
Do the athletes receive government support?
No, and this is symptomatic of many areas of Cameroonian life. I traveled to Cameroon with two other women of faith and stayed at the Good Shepherd Home in Bamenda, Cameroon for children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. For example, there are 240,000 orphans in Cameroon whose parents have died of AIDS yet there is not one government program to assist them. So not only does the Cameroonian government not help those who are the most marginalized, it apparently does not support those at the top either.
Is it common for the average citizen of Cameroon to want to leave?
Very. When I was there, nearly every Cameroonian I met expressed the desire to leave Cameroon to come to America. I was told that going to Europe is less desirable due to the discrimination faced by Africans in European countries. I was surprised to hear this, as there is still obvious discrimination in our country as well.
Will the athletes’ decision to disappear affect the average Cameroonian?
I believe it will. The children of Cameroon look up to the athletes like the stars they are. And what are they learning? To get out of Cameroon as soon as they can. This is very negative and can only hurt their country in the long run. Sr. Jane Mankaa, who established the Good Shepherd Home, has a completely different strategy. Her children are not available for adoption. She is raising them to be the leaders of Cameroon tomorrow, to be educated, to be proud of their country, and she is succeeding.
Should Americans be concerned about the athletes?
Absolutely. When a human being’s living conditions are so substandard that they would risk everything to get out of it, we should all be concerned. Most Americans don’t know how to help, as most are aware that large scale government to government aid has not helped Africa and has actually hurt it. (See Dambisa Moyo’s, Dead Aid). What can make a difference is to support indigenous projects run by the people of Cameroon. My book gives readers a glimpse of life in Cameroon and shows one way to do just that.
All profits from the sale of Geitz’s book will be donated to the Good Shepherd Home for Children in Cameroon, West Africa:
I Am That Child: Changing Hearts & Changing the World
978-0-8192-2778-2 176 pgs Paper 5.5 X 8.5 $18.00 Morehouse Publishing 2012
Elizabeth Geitz’s books have been hailed by people as diverse as Desmond Tutu, Phyllis Tickle, and John Berendt. With a focus on justice issues, her writings speak to people with the passion to make a difference in the world.
The Reverend Canon Geitz is an Episcopal priest and author of numerous books, including Fireweed Evangelism: Christian Hospitality in a Multi-faith World; Soul Satisfaction: Reclaiming the Divine Feminine; Gender and the Nicene Creed, and is co-editor of Women's Uncommon Prayers. The former Canon for Ministry Development and Deployment in the Diocese of New Jersey, she is an award-winning writer and popular speaker who still works closely with Sister Jane Mankaa and the Good Shepherd Home Board in Cameroon. Visit Elizabeth's website and blog at www.elizabethgeitz.com.
The new book can be ordered through any Episcopal, religious, or secular bookstore; through any online bookseller, or direct from Cokesbury Christian stores, www.Cokesbury.com, or from Cokesbury customer service at 800-672-1789.
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