2.2 million children need humanitarian aid in Cameroon, according to the Country Office Annual Report 2021 by UNICEF.
“Youth should pick up the mantle and try to march forward, not just sit down and hope for another person to hold our hand and bring us up. We really have to put in the work, the effort and achieve something in our lives,” Njimukara Brian Njimukara, Founder of Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp.
It is amazing how children are able to find wonders in every corner of this world. Their immense ability to learn, create, and achieve is what allows them to begin developing their path in life, even at an early age. Although children are naturally curious and quite imaginative thinkers, they thrive even more when they have a guiding voice that motivates them to keep on learning and setting up their foundations for a bright future. Just like Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist, once said: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”. Nowadays, without a doubt, Njimukara Brian Njimukara is that guiding voice that inspires children to find their path in Cameroon.
Brian is a Computer Engineer and youth leader from Cameroon. He was born and raised in a small village in Bamenda where he witnessed first-hand the struggles of his community. He worked on initiatives to improve access to healthcare, education, and clean water for rural communities and last December, he was voted Secretary General of the communal bureau of the National Youth Council by his peers. He is the oldest of 4 children and from a young age, he was determined to positively impact and create opportunities for those around him. After graduating from high school, Brian engaged in his community development work by volunteering with local non-profit organizations.
“As a young person, I have observed that during school a lot of children are focused, learning, it’s quite nice,” says Brian. “But there is an issue when they go out on holidays. They are just roaming around, doing nothing and I usually ask myself: what can we do to have the children engaged and doing something meaningful? Children often face ongoing violence and psychological harm that has a negative impact on their physical and mental well-being. As a concerned community member and an executive of the Cameroon National Youth Council in my municipality, I am looking to provide children and youth with the tranquility of a safe space where they can engage in different activities.”
Brian talked to some friends and elders in his community and together, they came up with the idea to gather these children and teach them new things with the help of volunteers in the Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp.
Youth and Education in Cameroon
Amidst the 4.4 million Cameroonians grappling with humanitarian needs, half are children who bear the brunt of an education crisis. A staggering 1.9 million children are in need of aid due to violence and displacement. In fact, 20 attacks on educational facilities were confirmed, according to the Country Office Annual Report 2021 by UNICEF.
Furthermore, in Cameroon only 8% of women and 11% of men study beyond secondary school and 20% of women and 10% of men from the ages of 15 to 49 have never received any education while 24% of women have begun childbearing in the country between the ages of 15 to 19, according to Cameroon 2018 Demographic and Health Survey Summary Report by the National Institute of Statistics.
“The idea of the Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp occurred to me last year with the objective of motivating children to continue learning and to engage in community activities,” says Brian.
Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp
One of the people in the community who influenced Brian’s work was his uncle, with whom he grew up with as a child.
“I look up to my uncle Atigi Samuel; we grew up together. He has overcome a lot of difficult challenges in his life and he does it so effortlessly, it is amazing. A couple of years ago, he got an award at a regional level from the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon Peace and Justice Center for Peacebuilding. I was really impressed and I would really like to follow in his footsteps,” says the youth leader.
Brian decided to implement the Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp for the first time in 2022 in Bamunkumbit, a rural village in the North West region of Cameroon where the farming sector employs more than 70% of the total population. This area is mostly made up of middle-aged and aged inhabitants; and has a lack of social amenities and youth-friendly programs.
“Last year I started the Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp on a very small scale, we only had 10 children,” recalls Brian. “I didn’t have the resources nor the space back then and some of the children didn’t want to come because they didn’t know what would be their benefit from the camp. But in the end, the participants really enjoyed it.”
This year, the Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp expects to have from 45 to 50 children who will gather at the Multipurpose Youth Empowerment Center for a one-week program that will last from six to eight hours per day with breaks in between.
“In the short term, we want the children to have fun and in the long term we want these children to be the ambassadors of what we are trying to achieve. They should go and talk to other children with the tools we give them. For example, if we are teaching about volunteerism to 45 children, we expect that in a year they would have taught at least 2 other people per child, so we should have 90 more people who have learned about volunteerism from our project. We want to have a more dynamic youth in the next couple of years,” explains Brian.
A Dream Realized, A Journey Continued
The Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp will have many different activities such as: workshop on volunteerism, sports activities, indigenous games, drama classes, art classes, meditation sessions and conflict resolution training, environmental activities and more.
“The holiday camp will feature fun, excitement, a safe environment, and learning through a wide range of activities that promote a “can do” attitude that can help enhance the confidence of both children and youth,” says Brian. “The summer camps will be an opportunity for participants to express their feelings, hopes and frustrations and a chance to develop the life skills they need such as critical thinking, problem-solving, voluntary work and listening.”
To make this project possible, Brian has invited several volunteers to teach their skills to the children, as well as the Reverend Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Balicumbat who will help to guide and motivate the children.
In order to buy the tools and materials needed for the Twinkle-Stars Holiday Camp, Brian reached out to The Pollination Project.
“I was speaking with an acquaintance about the summer camp project. He is an agriculturalist and mentioned that he is a beneficiary of TPP. I was really excited to know about the organization and I decided to apply,” remembers Brian. “When I received the news that I was going to get the grant, I started shouting and jumping. It was really amazing. I saw a dream come true. It was really great, thank you guys so much.”
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