BUEA, CAMEROON — (NEWSONE) In preparation for my trip to Cameroon to attend the Africa Travel Association’s 38th Annual World Congress, Public Relations expert and writer Claudine Moore of C. Moore Media reached out to me (pictured back row, right) about bringing toys and clothes to children at a local orphanage in Buea.
And while I initially anticipated that I would hear stories that were desperate and hopeless, I would soon find out that the dominant stories at the orphanage are ones of love, determination, and selflessness.
Mary Ebane (pictured center, in blue) began her orphanage, Grace of God Philanthropic, quite haphazardly with three children in 2000, because she received a message from up above, “It was a vision from God. I got the vision in 2000 and then I started the orphanage in 2004, when I stopped working. I started with nothing.”
By 2006, she would have three more kids at her residence, and so her orphanage officially began, “I started in my home. I had three kids that I took care of at their homes then I had three that I was taking care of in my home. And then I thought that I could bring them together. Then I had six. Then I had 28.”
For the children who find themselves at God Philanthropic, according to Ebane, many of them roamed the streets because they are parentless. Others were dropped off by their parents because they could not afford to take care of them.
“Some of them are orphans, some of them, their parents are not normal [they have mental problems]. Some of them are poor, and the parents have no money to send them to school, so the parents bring them. [But in my care] everybody is going to school. I am the one that sponsors them. They go to government schools.”
The orphanage, which is really a house, has a main sitting room, a kitchen, one bathroom, one master that Mary uses, a kitchen, and two bedrooms (divided by gender) that the 28 children share.
And while the bedrooms are small and everyone involved shares a bathroom, the kids are healthy, bright, and engaged.
Still, taking care of all 28 of these children by herself isn’t easy: God Philanthropic doesn’t have running water and there are no lights in the children’s bedrooms.
Yet, it is very difficult to get Ebane to admit to her challenges. “God got me to do it, and I’m doing it and people are giving me support, so I don’t have any problems, and when God gives you a vision, he backs you. That’s how it is.”
With prodding, though, Mary finally admits, “I don’t have any sponsors. My rent is $100. My food is about $250. I don’t have any water because I wasn’t able to pay the water bill so we fetch water from the stream there.”
And God Philanthropic’s water pipes are broken.
Brenda Bitong, a tourism student and President of TEEMA Organization who recommended God Philanthropic to us, explained Ebane’s situation, “She has a passion to help children; that is why she kept them in her own house. She says she gets help from people now and then, but if you go and see the living conditions of her children, then you know she is having a hard time.”