UTM’s Generation of New Leaders Club held a general meet-and-greet session last Tuesday in the Student Centre.
“In the army they train you to psychologically break you down, in order to build you back up as part of a unit,” said Mazin Hassan, the founder of UTM’s Generation of New Leaders Club. “If you come back alive, you’ll adapt really quickly. It’s designed to make you lead.”
Inspired to volunteer for a worthy cause, Hassan had come across a magazine ad one day last autumn featuring RUDEC (Cameroon’s Rural Development Centre) and was immediately awestruck by the natural beauty of the African countryside. Up for the challenges and rewards of participating in such a meeting of cultures, Mazin contacted RUDEC and from there UTM’s branch of the organization was born.
RUDEC is based out of the hamlet of Belo, situated in the Bamenda Highlands, not far from Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé in central Africa. Belo’s Chiamba (Joshua) Anyeah founded the not-for-profit organization in 2005 to help address the social ills of rural poverty, unemployment, child orphanhood due to AIDS/TB, and a lack of opportunities facing Cameroon’s interior regions.
The main project’s volunteers can assist in include making bricks at the local masonry factory, lending a hand at the tea plantation, or teaching math, English, French, or physical education to local children.
Soccer is the national pastime and the kids of Belo enjoy playing it, many with aspirations of one day being on the national team.
RUDEC thrives on an ongoing exchange of new ideas and fresh perspectives as to how to make their operations more efficient. Impressed by Mazin’s initiative, for instance, Staples Canada has pledged to donate arts supplies in time for the next excursion (summer 2011) so that kids can express themselves.
“You look at the world differently,” Mazin continued. “It’ll teach you to reevaluate who you are and what you stand for. You’ll see it in kids. That will be enough to propel you to keep doing the same thing.
You’ll form bonds. You will form friendships and relationships that will last a long time. It fosters a sense of global community.”
In order to be a good leader, one must first have certain attributes. Learning how to compromise is one of them. Though not exactly “roughing it”, volunteers will be without many comforts throughout their stay, whether for two weeks or a month-long tenure.
Electricity comes and goes, and local water must be boiled before consumption as a precaution against digestive tract illnesses. Walking barefoot is not advised. A week in advance of the departure date to Cameroon (via a layover in Paris or Zurich), volunteers will be vaccinated and given malaria pills. There will be a doctor on-call throughout the entire stay as well Generation of New Leader’s CFO Dovile, who will provide emotional support.
U of T professor Michael Khan will also be around to address any concerns the volunteers may have during their first week in Belo. It’s not recommended that volunteers bring valuables such as laptops or cell phones. There will be periodic opportunities to have full telephone and Internet access. A cooking and cleaning staff will be hired for the duration of the trip, which will also help out the local economy.
Right now, CAD $5 is enough to feed a group of four people at any Cameroonian restaurant.
Budgeting for just 10 to 15 people, there might not be adequate accommodations for everyone on the site (lodging is either in a private house cabin or with a family). One project the Generation of New Leaders is interested in doing is building temporary dorms so that it’s easier to house the growing volume of new recruits to RUDEC from around the world.
One benefit for the students is learning how to deal with things and creating your own way to cope, as employers are increasingly looking to hire individuals who can be challenged often.
“[RUDEC] takes you out of your comfort zone. Makes you not afraid of challenges, problems. If you see something wrong, you fix it. You can’t just walk away. In university you can drop a course; it’s so easy for us to eliminate our problems. But this you cannot drop, delete it from your hard drive,” Mazin said.
Mazin spoke highly of the numerous waterfalls surrounding Belo, of the indigenous tribesmen with their lively ceremonies, and of the opportunity to incorporating fun time for sightseeing, trekking, and off-road dirt biking.
UTM/TV will be documenting the whole experience.
The cost to participate in RUDEC is around $3,500 which is all-inclusive round-trip for airfare aboard Air France or Swiss Air, VISA, vaccines, food, and accommodations (including two nights at the Hilton Yaoundé), entertainment and field trips, as well your contribution to funding the projects of the club.
Fundraising or getting a business to sponsor you is what’s recommended. RUDEC appreciates donations of any size.
If you have the time, money and parental consent to participate in the RUDEC experience, the deadline to apply for next summer’s trip is by November 29, 2010. For more information, students are asked to check the Generation of New Leaders on Facebook, or contact Mazin Hassin at [email protected] and/or [email protected] Students may also apply to RUDEC directly by visiting rudec.org.