A Day of Health and Myths with Foundation Fact Orphanage

This post has been prepared by Heliana Onomo, an American Fulbright Scholar. Heliana was researching oral literature, traditions, and women experience at École Normale Supérieure in Cameroon as part of the 2020–2021 Fulbright Scholar Program. She worked under the tutorship of our team member Prof. Daniel A. Nkemleke. May her uplifting text be a source of hope and inspiration to us all!

On July 11, 2021, I partnered with the organizations Come Over II[1] and Proximity Doctors[2] to organize a day of health and fun at the Foundation Fact Orphanage[3]. The purpose of this event was to teach children about proper hygiene and entertain them with Cameroonian oral stories.

A day of health and myths at the Foundation Fact Orphanage in Essos, Yaoundé. Photo by Heliana Onomo.
Ms Suzane Liheb the Head of the Foundation Fact Orphanage. Photo by Heliana Onomo.

At the start of the event, each child was given a coloring book. This coloring book was divided into three sections. Come Over II designed the first section with drawings about hygiene. The third section, titled “Career Paths”, featured drawings of different careers from Like a Girl! A Girl-Powered Coloring Book[4] by Ayelet Keshet and Black Boys, Big Dreams Coloring Book[5] by Abby Baldeh. I designed the second section of the book, titled “Popular Characters in Cameroonian Oral Stories and Their Meanings”. John Onomo, a student at the University of Dallas, prepared original drawings and photoshopped designs based on existing myths and folktales to create the coloring pages.

The coloring book prepared for the workshop. Photo by Heliana Onomo.
Coloring pages. Photo by Heliana Onomo.
Illustration of the folktale “The Birds Are Going to the Sky”.
Photo by Heliana Onomo.

I referenced certain three myths from the Our Mythical Childhood Survey. The Bamoun myth “Myth of Ntiteuh”[6] was used to describe the power of love within the African Mother. The Mboum myth, “Autan and the Monster”[7], was used to describe the Baby Hero character. The Bafut folktale, “The Orphan Child and Her Uncle’s Wife”[8] was used to describe the Powerful Old Woman character. Other myths and folktales were referenced to describe other characters such as the Beba folktale “The Birds Are Going to the Sky”[9] for the trickster turtle and the Tikar folktale “Hare and Lion: Lion Is My Horse!”[10] for the strong but easily fooled lion.

Illustration of the myth of Ntiteuh. Photo by Heliana Onomo.
Illustration of the myth “The Orphan Child and Her Uncle’s Wife”. Photo by Heliana Onomo.

The first part of the event was dedicated to health and hygiene. Members of Come Over II used drawings from the coloring book to give a presentation on healthy hygiene habits. They focused on important aspects such as how to brush teeth, hand-washing, and COVID and malaria prevention. To make sure that the children understood the lessons, the presenters asked questions and gave treats for every correct answer. As a result, the children were engaged and excitedly blurt out the answers to questions such as how to wash your hair. After the presentation, we gave the children crayons, markers, and stickers to use on their new coloring book.

Part of the event dedicated to health and hygiene, prepared by the Come Over II organization and the Proximity Doctors group. Photo by Heliana Onomo.

The next events were the dentist and doctor consultations. The Proximity Doctors group graciously donated their time and supplies to provide the children health care. While waiting to be consulted, the children worked on their books and had lunch.

The workshop continues. Photo by Heliana Onomo.

Afterwards, it was storytelling time! Professor Emmanuel Matateyou, author of many children’s books and professor of oral literature at École Normale Supérieure, performed the folktale, “La dette de Kimanga” (“The Debt of Kimanga”) from his book, Les Mervilleux récits de Tita Ki (The Wonderful Stories of Tita Ki).

Professor Emmanuel Matateyou. Photo by Heliana Onomo.

With grand gestures and comical voice-acting, he captured the children’s attention and recited how the tortoise tricked the pig into giving his food. He also incorporated a participation tactic from Caribbean storytelling. When he said “Crick”, the children were to respond “Crack!”. This made the children part of the story. They even danced and sing along with Professor Matateyou. This oral performance was entertaining to watch. After storytelling, the last activity was hand-painting, where the children decorated a wall with blue, orange, and green handprints.

Children decorating the wall with hand-painting. Photo by Heliana Onomo.

Overall, the children responded well to the lessons and had a great time. This event taught me that coloring pages are a fun and effective activity to teach children about cultural stories. They were enthusiastic to read the descriptions of the myths. At the end of the event, we donated necessary items to the orphanage, such as medical supplies, hygiene products like toothpaste and toothbrushes, food like fish and rice, and a TV. Working on this event was an inspiring and heartwarming experience.

Post by Heliana Onomo, placed by Olga Strycharczyk

References

[1] Come Over II is a local non-profit organization based in Yaoundé whose mission is to visit local villages and orphanages to teach proper hygiene and provide healthcare. To learn more about them, visit: https://m.facebook.com/ComeOver2Cameroon/.

[2] Proximity Doctors is a local non-profit organization in Cameroon whose mission is to provide medical care to places in need. To learn more, visit: https://www.facebook.com/proximitydoctors/

[3] Foundation Fact orphanage is a private Christian-based orphanage situated in Essos, Yaoundé. It currently has 55 children in its care. To learn more about them, visit their site: https://www.fondation-fact.cm/ or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Orphelinat-Fondation-Famille-Chretienne-FACT-554699851386639

[4] Keshet, Ayelet, Like a Girl! A Girl-Powered Coloring Book, Raindoe Publishing, 2016. 

[5] Baldeh, Abby, Black Boys, Big Dreams Coloring Book, Independently Published, 2020. 

[6] “Myth of Ntiteuh (the Most Beautiful Woman on Earth) Who Married the Sky King by Emmanuel Matateyou”, collected by Daniel A. Nkemleke for the Our Mythical Childhood Survey: http://omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/myth-survey/item/184.

[7] “Autan and the Monster by Tidjani Yaya”, collected by Daniel A. Nkemleke for the Our Mythical Childhood Survey: http://omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/myth-survey/item/434

[8] “An Orphan Child and Her Uncle’s Wife by Peter Numfor Ambe”, collected by Divine Che Neba for the Our Mythical Childhood Survey: http://omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/myth-survey/item/412

[9] “The Birds that Went to the Sky”, published in The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba by Makuchi, Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008. 

[10] “Hare and Lion: The Lion is my Horse! by Assamahou Ndouyou”, published in Anthology of Myths, Legends, and Folktales from Cameroon by Emmanuel Matateyou, Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997. 

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