Shreveport welcomes African chiefs
who assisted hurricane victims
Chiefs will tour New Orleans neighborhoods,
make presentation to Louisiana Legislature
For release March 28, 2006
A simple act of friendship from Shreveport, La., to the distant peoples of Cameroon has led to an extraordinary gift of compassion from the villages - and now an historic visit by the village chiefs to Louisiana.
Members of Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal visited Cameroon in March 2005 after the chiefs expressed a strong desire to implement the Community Renewal model in Africa. As a result of that visit, a bond of friendship was established and then expressed in a mighty way after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.
More than 3,000 villagers in Cameroon, living in isolated villages with no running water, donated a total of $865 to help hurricane victims in Louisiana. Individual gifts from residents in this impoverished land ranged from two cents to $5 - a significant sum in a place where the average income for a man selling his own crops in a community market is 45 cents per day.
Now the chiefs are making their own goodwill mission to Louisiana. They will make a presentation to the Lousiana Legislature in a 4 p.m. session at the state capitol on Wednesday, April 5, in Baton Rouge. Before that meeting, the chiefs will go on a tour of New Orleans to see some of the devastation inflicted upon the city by Hurricane Katrina.
The villages of Cameroon are also winning the attention of the United Nations. SBCR has signed a cooperative agreement with OCCAM, the Observatory for Cultural and Audiovisual Communication, making SBCR the community-building model for the Infopoverty Programme worldwide. Infopoverty is coordinated by OCCAM, a charter office within the UN. The partnership will promote healthy communities throughout the world, starting in Cameroon, which is also the launching pad for Africa Community Renewal.
"This is an historic visit. Youth in Cameroon who didn't know what hope is now have hope," said SBCR Coordinator Mack McCarter, adding that he was humbled by the generosity of the villagers.
"That is the power of friendship. Here are people who walk barefoot to school to sit on broken benches. They collect drinking water that they lose drip by drip in leaky buckets. They don't have anything - and they are still giving," McCarter said.
Nine-year-old Bernard Ngimfack gave 25 cents - a large amount for a child - of the money he was earning for school supplies. "When the chief showed the picture of Louisiana on the television, I gave 25 cents because when the people from Louisiana came to my school, they were very kind. I didn't want them to die," he said.
His Majesty Chief Fo'o Tsingla of the Batsingla village said of the donation: "This is an act of friendship. Many people were not able to give in spite of their willingness, but they joined us in prayer. We could not sleep in peace knowing that our brothers and sisters in Louisiana were in trouble."
One of the chiefs called Valentin Miafo-Donfack, SBCR's director of international relations, after the hurricane hit last year.
"They thought all of Louisiana was gone and they were scared," Miafo-Donfack said. "They are our friends now. They wanted to share their compassion and they wanted to have an impact. The Community Renewal strategy is a powerful way of approaching international relations through interpersonal relationships."
Highlights of the visit of the five chiefs:
Friday, March 31
4:27 p.m. Arrival at Shreveport Regional Airport, with a large greeting from SBCR and many area residents, including a traditional African song of welcome that will be sung to the chiefs at the airport.
5:30-6:30 p.m. Welcome reception at the SBCR Queensborough Friendship House, 2800 Darien St.
Saturday, April 1
6-8p.m. Reception at the Multicultural Center of the South, 410 Texas St. Invitation-only event.
Sunday, April 2
11 a.m. Mass with Bishop William B. Friend at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, 939 Jordan St.
4:30-7 p.m. Neighborhood barbecue and block party at the SBCR Friendship House, 1500 block of Clay Street. The entire community is invited.
Wednesday, April 5
9:30 a.m. Tour of New Orleans.
4 p.m. Greeting from Gov. Kathleen Blanco and presentation to the Legislature.
Thursday, April 6
6-8 p.m. Farewell celebration at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, 1666 Alston St.
Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal is a nonprofit effort to restore safe and healthy communities through caring relationships. Founded in 1994, SBCR reaches at-risk youth through Friendship Houses built in impoverished neighborhoods, strengthens education through the Adult Renewal Academy, partners with The Fuller Center for Housing and connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support.
Contact: David Westerfield, director of communications