At Christmastime in Cameroon, human rights organizations and others give gifts to poor young children. This year, a group of women artists is remembering another segment of society that is often ignored during the holidays -- the elderly. From Douala, reporter Divine Ntaryike has the story.
Christmas in Cameroon generally is a time for sharing. Among those remembered by humanitarian organizations are orphans, street kids and other deprived children.
But the Douala-based Dynamic Association of Female Artistes of Cameroon is lavishing elderly persons with an impressive Christmas gift load of energy foods and beauty products.
70-year-old Dingom Joseph Casalance is President of the Mutual Association of Elderly Persons of Cameroon, MUPAC. He says their action is rare, but much appreciated.
Dingom says elderly persons are pleasantly surprised. He says it is the first time he’s ever seen such a thing, since it’s mostly the young who are ever remembered at Christmas time.
He says it’s a commendable stride that should be copied by others and repeated yearly since the old depend on charity like everyone else.
His association, which was created five years ago, includes 5,000 members nationwide. It is open to anyone over 50 years old, which is the retirement age for civil servants here. Members complain that their savings, pensions and other retirement benefits from the government and private companies are not enough to let them live comfortably after retirement.
Dingom’s group has been undergoing reforms since May. Its president says he wants the group to act more as a lobby for better government retirement funds, since many members are jobless and needy. It is also planning to partner with the state and goodwill organizations to build homes for old people across the country, and centers where members still capable of working would be taught job skills.
Well known radio journalist Evelyne Ngo Lambidjeck is the executive president of the association of female artists. She says the group will support the initiative. It is also planning to reach a deal with doctors for free medical consultations for the eldery. She says for a long time, elderly persons have been sidelined by the society here.
"We chose to give to aged people," she says, "because we have to show them that if they’re alone in their family, they’re not alone with us, with our association. It’s to show them that we love them. We need them and they need us, and we’ll not forget them. We want them to be strong and to be well, and it’s now."
Among the member of the women’s group are musicians, journalists, painters, photographers, and writers. In May, it offered an important consignment of gifts to some 70 minors incarcerated at the Central Prison here in Douala. Its president says the association needs financial support if it’s to continue such support to the old and the young, since she says membership contributions are not enough.