Project of the Week: Helping young Sisters in Cameroon cope with trauma in a conflict zone

For many years, Cameroon in Central-West Africa, with its 24 million inhabitants, has been regarded as a relatively stable country in comparison with its crisis-ridden neighbours. However, in 2016 there were protest marches in the English-speaking region against a perceived marginalization in this predominantly French-speaking country. Since, these protests have escalated into a major and ongoing armed conflict between the central government and the separatists in the Anglophone provinces. Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee as a result. Abduction of individual Church personnel, teachers, and even priests are also a fairly common occurrence.

Founded in Italy in the nineteenth century, the Sisters of Saint Anne are a congregation, who work to educate and support poor and disadvantaged children and young people. Their formation house is close to the city of Bamenda, which is just two km from the area where the conflict rages. “There is a prevailing atmosphere of fear,” says Sister Pamela Bongben, who runs the house.

The three postulants, five novices and 37 young Sisters with temporary vows, who are currently undergoing training, have been traumatized by the violence they have witnessed at first hand and by the constant climate of fear. To help them cope, the congregation has proposed a two-week workshop in which offer skills in dealing with these experiences without coming to any great harm. Its objective is to inspire new confidence within these young women and help them overcome the lingering and pervasive sense of fear.

The Benefits Will Be Multiplied

The hope is that they will not only personally benefit from this support, but will also learn how to help and support other people who have faced similar traumatic experiences. In a conflict zone like this one, where most people have had to confront violence, fear and death, the importance of this area of their pastoral work should not be underestimated as crucial and necessary.

Inevitably, the course will cost money. Course materials will have to be purchased, competent lecturers will need to be paid for their time and travel expenses. The congregation, which helps the poor and is itself poor, cannot afford the cost and has asked for our support.

Without our help, the otherwise unresolved trauma might lead some of the young Sisters to suffer emotional crises and possibly even abandon their beloved vocation.

We would like to support the important initiative of this two-week workshop on dealing with trauma, with a contribution of $14,250.

Will you help us, help them?

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