Experience what it's like living in any part of Africa in just one country: Cameroon. This country situated in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea is often called Little Africa because it hosts all major climates, terrain, and vegetation of the entire continent. Volunteering opportunities abound in this nation of 20 million souls ranging from teaching children to tilling the fields of Cameroon's staple foods, like yam and cassava. Find out what makes Cameroon and its beautiful landscapes, rainforests, beaches, and deserts the perfect getaway for volunteering aficionados.
Geography & Demographics
Cameroon isn't as big as other African nations, but it does have a piece of each country within its 475,000 square kilometers of land. Cameroon is divided into five major geographic zones, each with a different dominant physical and climatic feature, including the coastal plain, which extends inland from the Gulf of Guinea, and the Cameroon plateaus in the west and south. It shares borders with six countries: Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Nigeria.
Life is harsh for the majority of the 20 million people, with over half living in abject poverty, which is even more pronounced in the largest cities of Douala, Yaoundé, and Garoua. Despite practicing both monogamous and polygamous marriage, Cameroon has maintained a moderate population growth rate of under 3 percent. Cameroonians enjoy religious freedom and diversity. About a third of its population are Christians, the rest are Muslim or follow traditional or indigenous faiths.
Climate in Cameroon varies with terrain, from tropical near the coast to semiarid in the northern parts of the country. The coastal plain becomes one of the hottest areas of the country during the dry season with its dense forests. Debundscha, a village at the foot of Mount Cameroon, has a predominantly wet climate. It receives more than 10,000 millimeters (about 405 inches) of rainfall each year, earning a position in the top five rainiest places in the world. Average temperatures in the plateaus range from 22 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius (or 71 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit). If you are planning to volunteer near the coast, bring waterproof clothes and other rainy weather items. For other areas, make sure to pack lightweight cotton clothes, light leather shoes, and maybe a pair of sandals.
Food & Culture
Cameroonians are into root and cereal crops, especially because poultry and meat are too expensive. Cameroon's staple foods include yam, rice, potato, maize, and cassava. They depend on fish to supply their daily need for protein, occasionally supplemented with meat from other sources, such as pangolin and porcupine. Cameroonian specialty cuisine is the brochette, known locally as soya (not to be confused with the source of soy sauce), which is basically a barbecued kebab made from chicken, goat, or beef. While traveling in Cameroon, you might encounter French bread and Italian pasta, which France introduced during its colonization.
In Cameroonian society, the extended family is at the center, their needs and obligations take precedence over everything else. In the household, for example, young family members are expected to care for their elderly and the cycle is repeated with every generation that passes. In business, managers prefer hiring members of their extended families or individuals who come from the same community. Nepotism is quite common.
Cameroon is home to 230 mostly Afro-Asiatic and Niger-Congo languages. Its official languages, however, are English and French, the most poignant sign of its colonization by the United Kingdom and France. People living in the northwest and southwest provinces speak a form of English known as Cameroonian Pidgin. In other areas, the most common language is Camfranglais, a mix of English, French, and Cameroonian Pidgin.
The country's official currency is the Central African Franc, which is used by five other nations in Africa that share borders with Cameroon. The Central African Franc, known colloquially as CFA, was introduced to the region composed of Chad, French Cameroon, French Congo, Gabon, and Ubangi-Shari in the 1940s to replace the aging French Equatorial African Franc.
Volunteering in Cameroon
When it comes to volunteering options, Cameroon is a treat. Take your pick: wildlife conservation, healthcare, education, or community development. Those are just four possibilities, but Cameroon has a lot more in store. Decide what you like or what you want to do, and Cameroon will deliver. Once you have a solid choice, move on to what else a program offers. Most volunteer projects in Cameroon provide participants with full room and board, considering they spend a good amount of time in rural areas, where comforts are often sacrificed in exchange for practicality.
Two important features you should look out for when choosing a program are emergency evacuation services and medical insurance. If these features are not included, do not fret. Program providers often provide their participants with a checklist of what they need to do before going abroad and this list includes vaccinations.
Undecided? Here is a short list of volunteering opportunities in Cameroon: