Parchibell Nadum Feka was the most striking person in the room. The tall, dark-skinned woman from Cameroon, her hair in long braids, wore the traditional, formal clothing of Central and West Africa–an elegant lapis lazuli blue top and long skirt made of cotton damask with a machine-embroidered design in bright gold thread. The matching blue scarf wrapped around her head added to her stature. Her smile invited friendship.
Feka had traveled from Cameroon to speak to the supporters of St. Mary di Rosa Academies (SMRA), a Santa Clara-based nonprofit benefitting women and girls, including the deaf, in impoverished Sub-Saharan African communities. Feka spoke at a fundraiser held September 25 at the Santa Clara Senior Center, 1303 Fremont St.
Feka is the founder of Hope for Vulnerables & Orphans in Bafia, Cameroon (www.hovocam.com), and she told the story of Alamandum, a rural community in Cameroon so small that it doesn’t appear on maps or turn up in Internet searches. Alamandum has a population of about five thousand, living in extreme poverty. The community has no electricity or water. It has one school in “horrible condition.”
In affiliation with SMRA, Feka ‘s dream is to raise $15,000 to dig a well in Alamandum and to teach the community how to maintain it. Locating the well at the government primary school would mean that girls won’t have to miss classes to carry contaminated water from distant streams to their homes. Families would have clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing.
“I want the women and girls back home in Cameroon to have a similar opportunity that girls have here in Santa Clara,” says Feka. “Back home we have traditions and stereotypes. Women stay in a shell and don’t fully express themselves. They stay home. They have no say in decisions. The law doesn’t protect women and children.”
A well-educated woman such as Feka, a mother of three who has a B.A. in English and teaches English in middle school and high school, stands out in a country with a literacy rate estimated at just 65% for women and 78% for men.
“My father knew the value of education,” says Feka, whose parents are now deceased. “As a girl, my mom didn’t go to school. But she did one brave thing. She went back to school after her kids were born and then joined the Red Cross.”
“St. Mary de Rosa is a small organization that donates 100 percent of every donation to the people involved in Cameroon,” says SMRA Board Member Carol Buchser, a Santa Clara resident. “Our focus is nourishing on-the-ground, established NGOs in Cameroon. We are a bridge from Santa Clara to Cameroon.” With a population of about 24 million, Cameroon is slightly larger in area than California.
Santa Clara resident Susan Stasi founded SMRA as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2014.
“Thank you for coming and honoring all of us. Susan and I are working together to give hope to the girls back home. The best way to keep girls in school is to drill a well on campus,” says Feka.
Santa Clara residents Vijay Poojari and his wife, Kajal Kanuga, volunteer both with Sunnyvale Community Services and SMRA, believing that although charity may begin at home, it doesn’t end there.
“I didn’t think globally at first,” says Poojari, who was born in India. “With SMRA, I met people with the same mentality I have.”
“I believe a lot in education. I believe it makes a difference. If people get education, they can stand up for themselves. Back in India, I know how it is. Without an education, you are nothing.”
Contributions of $4,000 toward the well were received September 25. To add to the fund and learn about the programs supported by SMRA, visit www.stmarydirosa.com or contact Stasi: firstname.lastname@example.org or (408)504-6965.
“Every little help or contribution has impact,” says Buchser.
“You may not know how many lives you are reaching and touching, but it is a lot,” says Feka. “It is a new dawn for the women and girls of Cameroon. They are really hopeful.”