Day 4 – Five Go To Town
February 11 is a public holiday is ‘National Youth Day’ and a public holiday in Cameroon!
Schools are closed and the team are afforded a leisurely awakening. At least it would have been, if not for the practicing brass bands beyond the hotel perimeter from 8am!
At 9.30 we decided to soak up the atmosphere of the celebrations and headed off to the main parade. Wow! We managed to find a spot in the blazing sun on the main boulevard, opposite the President of Cameroon in his grandstand, and watched the children of Yaounde parade for the President. Primary schools, secondary schools, universities and colleges, literally hundreds of thousands of children marched past. We reckon there were 200,00 plus children, teenagers and university student on parade, and what a sight!
After a couple of hour of soaking up the sunshine and celebration we made for a small park near our hotel which was being used as a congregation point for post-parade pick-up and in true CWB style began a simple game of catch. Within minutes each of us had a group of kids in semi-circles playing catch. We played for over an hour, making friends, handing out wristbands. We had a few interesting moments too; stopped by 3 young girls of about 8 years old inviting us to accept the love of Jesus, and stopped by three far more menacing gentleman who were determined to relieve us of our money, trainers and sunglasses with sleight of hand tricks!
Later, we made the most of there being no schools to visit by the rapid organisation of two orphanage visits. The first saw us return to last Springs orphanage, with the now famous cricketing nun! This was the first time many of us had visited an orphanage, and the effect is quite profound. You cannot help but admire those who care for the children and Angel, a 24 year old man who has lived in the orphanage since he was an orphaned child himself, oversees the day to day activities and is a true inspiration. However, the second orphanage will probably live longest in our memories.
We met Walters at coach education on Monday where he invited us to visit some of his ‘adopted’ orphanages. Walters is 28, an orphan himself and a primary school teacher who is by no means a wealthy man, yet he devotes his spare time and money to raise awareness and opportunity for orphans. So today we visited the first. 15 pre-school age children.
Words are difficult to describe the impact both on the children and on us. We took tennis balls, pens, lollipops, toothbrushes and toothpaste. I suspect that we will remember them long after they have forgotten us but for an hour we were the centre of their world and they the centre of ours. Smiles, noise, photos, laughter, lollipops, tears, snot and dust. It was emotional. In the best and most unforgettable sense.