The Obakki Foundation

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:41 am

A bit of background information….

Why did I start the Obakki Foundation?
November 15, 2009
I started the Obakki Foundation because of the two-year-old orphan girl I met living on the streets in Romania, because of the baby that died of malaria one night when I was in Cameroon, because of a homeless Vancouver man that bought me a Christmas present.
I started the Obakki Foundation because of the little boy who held my daughter’s hand in Mexico City as he was dying, because of my seven hour walk with six village women to get water for their children, because of George, who died because his disabilities didn’t qualify him for a heart transplant.
I started the Obakki Foundation so that people like you and I can come together and through small actions create big results.
The Obakki Foundation is a place for compassionate people to share thoughts and ideas that can help make a difference—in distant corners of the world or their own backyard.
The Obakki Foundation offers people hope, empowerment and a chance to learn and grow. It’s about giving people the opportunity to be creative—using thoughts, ideas, art and fashion to stand up and participate in improving the lives of those who need it most.
I started the Obakki Foundation because I don’t want to wait a single moment longer before starting to improve the world. I hope you will join me in this adventure. Please check in often and let us know what you are thinking and how you would like to participate.
~ Treana Peake

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:41 am

The Peakes are going to Africa

December 3, 2009
Follow our African journey through my blog , Twitter (ObakkiFdn) and Facebook (Obakki Foundation). You can also track our location through a GPS web-link to be posted when we’re in Africa.
In less than three days, I’ll be in back in Africa. The last time I went, I had to sell my car and hitchhike to work for six months to afford my plane ticket. The circumstances around this visit are different, but the reasons haven’t really changed.
Ryan and I will visit the orphans who inspired our current campaign and I can’t wait to see their reactions when we show them the difference their words have made. We’ll also be helping construct a day care center, survey for future water sites and explore potential projects related to education and health.
We’ll be in Africa December 5 – 15th. I hope you join us on this incredible experience!

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:42 am

How this blog will work

December 4, 2009
I am going to write an honest blog. It’s the easiest for me and the best way for all of you to hear the story. Parts of it may be boring, most of it will be interesting, but I guarantee that at some of it will change you. I’m not a writer, so I’ll just stop worrying about how to best word everything and just get lost in the moment. I think this is why you’re all here – to get lost in it too.
Treana Peake

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:43 am

The Nickelback connection

December 5, 2009
I’m married to Ryan Peake, the guitar player for Nickelback. I know many of you are here viewing my posts because of that and I’m grateful you’ve decided to check out the Foundation.
I went to school with the boys and we have a deep-rooted history. We’ve been involved in each other’s projects over the years, but the one I’m most grateful for is their undying support toward my charity work.
Before they were even Nickelback, I was organizing concerts to raise money for charities. I would bring to the guys one crazy fundraising idea after another and they never hesitated to help out by playing some sets. I’ve never had to sell the ideas to them – they just believed in me and my projects, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Recently Nickelback donated $500,000 to the Obakki Foundation. They are an amazing group of men. They don’t have to give back – there is no obligation to do so – they just do it because they care.
Chad, Mike, Daniel, and my amazing husband Ryan: thank you for being so generous – with your time, your talent and your support. You’ve never lost sight of the world around you and because of that you’ll continue to have a positive impact on so many people. The work we do through the Obakki Foundation will be one example of many.
Treana Peake

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:43 am

Keleung

December 6, 2009
Last week, I made one of the best phone calls of my life. For nearly 20 years, a tiny village (Keleung) in Africa has been trying to raise money to build a preschool for their children. In two decades, they’ve only been able to produce a cement floor and four posts.
Currently children under five-years-old are walking incredible distances to a dangerous city while their parents work the fields. Children as young as two-years-old are getting lost, hurt and violated. Some never return.
When I picked up the phone to notify the chief of this village that by the end of this dry season they will have the preschool and their children will be safe, there were only tears on either end of the line.
The Obakki Foundation is honored to partner with such a committed group of people. We are fortunate enough to be able to provide the funding for this school, but the people of the village who never gave up their dream, no matter how small their progress was, are the real heroes.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:44 am

Africa

December 7, 2009
We arrive in Douala to absolute madness – the city in engulfed in it. People are walking everywhere, all over the street in the middle of the night. Scooters speed along in various directions, with no road rules to adhere to.
We drive quickly out of the dirty port city – and for miles and miles the sides of the roads remain alive. Street vendors barbecuing meat, busses that have turned into discos, huge gatherings of people. Everywhere you look, there is life – but of a different kind.
There is a disturbing and dangerous energy to the city – as we hold our breath to clear the military check points, I can’t help but feel alive. After all, chaos is my friend and I’m happy to be back.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:45 am

Bringing Africa to our kids

December 7, 2009
Ryan and I are very passionate about sharing the world – ALL parts of it – with our children. We spent a month last year in a village north of Mexico City packing and delivering dispensas to the families living in the campos. The kids and I packed a jeep full of supplies and stray dogs and we hit the road looking for families in need. My kids, only 4 and 6, still talk about that experience to this day.
We’re unable to bring our children on this trip, so we’re bringing the trip to them. Their favorite books right now are from the ‘Bad Kitty’ series. I found a stuffed Bad Kitty to bring along. I’ll take pictures of him in various situations that I can share with them when we return. I know they’ll be so surprised to find that ‘Bad Kitty Went to Africa’ and I imagine he’ll have lots of valuable life lessons to explain. Don’t worry, Nick Bruel (the brilliant author), it will only be published inside the Peake house .
Treana Peake

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:47 am

Wildlife in the hotel

December 7, 2009
Ryan and I both lying awake at 2:00 a.m. in our hotel in Buea. It’s costing us $8.00 a night. There is a beetle the size of my iPhone in the middle of the floor. Wild dogs are howling, barking and fighting outside our window. 5:00 a.m. is going to come very early. Sigh. I sink deeper into my sleeping bag and hope the scotch and jet lag introduce themselves to each other soon.
5:30 a.m. …
Good morning? I head to the warm shower. Whoops – still dreaming. I’m quickly shocked back into reality when the first bucket of freezing water hits my body. Lather, lather, lather. The second bucket is easier and I’m starting to feel invigorated. Bring on this ‘roughing it’ stuff – I’m up for the challenge! (Right after I find myself a Caramel Macchiato…)

Seeing the Obakki Foundation at work in Dschang

December 7, 2009
1:00 p.m. …
We drive north to Dschang where we visit one of our Obakki Foundation projects in the village of Keleung. Women dance, men entertain and together we celebrate. This pre-school/community center will be a place for their children to grow and learn. A place where they are supported, encouraged and loved. But most of all, a place safe enough for them to just be children for awhile. That is what every child deserves.
And later…
We leave Dschang to finish off our nine hour trip to Lewoh, the jungle village where it all began for us. This is just a stop-over…a familiar place to visit friends and get some rest before our long hike into the valley.
The valley. The entire reason we came. We have a full day of hiking tomorrow through the jungle to get there.

The Valley

December 8, 2009
We get up at 5:00 a.m. again. The ladies have gathered some fruit for us to eat on our long trek into the valley. We’re told that we’ll be very shocked at what we may see when we get there.
We have a Helix (bush vehicle) to get us as far as it can, but we’ll make most of the long trek on foot. I’m told there will be snakes. Many of them. They cut a viper in half with a machete on the last trip.
The purpose of this trip is to assess health, water and educational needs. Children and adults are very malnourished and diseases are rampant. I know I’ll see my kids’ faces on every single child I meet. I’m worried about how I’m going to handle it. I won’t be able to blog when down there.
No electronic service of any kind. I’ll try to use the satellite phone to pass on messages and keep you connected, but if you don’t hear from me, you’ll know why. I’ll be absorbing it all and will write when I return. Wish us luck!

Journey to the Valley (part one)

December 9, 2009
I feel like Indiana Jane. We careen along the side of a cliff in our Helix vehicle—at one point I’m hanging off the side, literally hanging on for my life, trying to compensate for the one tire not touching the ground. We don’t slow down even as we plow through waist-deep potholes.
We zigzag deeper into the valley, stopping at one point to cross a river on a makeshift plywood bridge. Amusement parks will never be the same for me after this trip. We are truly off-roading, except there’s no road to speak of. I’ve never been more terrified in my life.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:49 am

Journey to the valley (part two)

December 9, 2009
We slowly make our way through the jungle. It’s incredibly grueling because the path has to be cut by machete. The heat is unrelenting and almost unbearable. We walk for almost six hours through the jungle and aren’t even half-way to our destination in the valley. Raw sugar cane is offered to give us energy but I’m not sure it helps—we’re all dehydrated, exhausted and our feet are covered in blisters. But we’re a determined group. We keep walking.
We come across a village that has a small school. Word of our approach precedes us and students run to greet us, some of them so teeny they barely look old enough to walk, all of them looking adorable in their uniforms. These children are beautiful—smiling, welcoming and thrilled to see us. They eagerly reach for our hands and walk with us.
We’ve never met before, but these kids know of the work we’re doing in the valley and there’s an instant kinship. Some are shy while others talk non-stop…in many ways, it reminds me of my six-year-old’s school. At one point, they break into song—O Canada!—and their sweet voices echo through the jungle. It’s the most angelic sound imaginable.
Hiking to the next village completely drains everyone except the children, who simply wave good-bye, turn around and run back to the school. This trek, one that would exhaust a triathlete, is their daily commute.

Putting things in perspective

December 10, 2009
A woman in our group has a jigger, or chigoe flea, in her foot. It burrows in the skin, lays a bunch of eggs and then digs its way back out—it’s pretty disgusting. Currently, it’s on the way out and we’re all tracking the progress with interest, but not much concern (I think they took my suggestion and poured some whiskey on it).
Things that would have us rushing for the Purell, if not the ER, back home are put into a different context out here.
Villages are losing babies daily from illnesses that are easily preventable, mostly through a clean source of drinking water. A woman went missing, leaving only a basket in the field, and when villagers followed a trail leading from her basket into the jungle, they found a python that had swallowed the woman whole. Girls as young as ten-years-old are being sold by their families as wives to fifty-year-old men, because that is the only way the family can survive.
Suddenly, a bug in someone’s foot is not a big deal.

Ouch

December 10, 2009
This Indiana Jane thing is taking its toll on me. On a trek to one village, we’re forced to cross a brittle bamboo bridge. We can only cross one at a time and I’m thankful we never eat breakfast because every step brings the snapping sounds of the bridge beneath my feet. The only instruction we receive is, “Move. Very. Slowly.” It was as exhilarating as it was petrifying.
During our initial trek in to the valley, we stumble across a stunning waterfall and river that are as cold as the glacier water back home. We immediately strip down and jump in, relishing the brief respite from the heat. Every chance to bathe since then has been in a river or, on more than one occasion, a big puddle.
We use the Helix to get to the village of Lewoh and I finally figure out the only spot that keeps me from bouncing right out of the vehicle and down a cliff: hanging off the back. By riding on the bumper and gripping the outside of the back cage, I have more control. But it comes at a price: my hands are covered in blisters, my knees are full of bruises from being banged around and my arms are like wet noodles. Gyms would go out of business if we could ride around like this every day.

Heartbreak

December 10, 2009
We’re in Bechati, one of the main villages on our itinerary. The people here are extremely welcoming and kind, but there is so much suffering.
They have no access to clean water, schools or medical attention. People are forced to drink the muddy water that is used for bathing and other purposes. All of the children have protruding bellies, a sure sign of malnutrition. We’ll soon be implementing a water transportation/purification plan, which will dramatically decrease the mortality and morbidity rates.
We see a baby, less than a year old, strapped to her five-year-old sister’s back. Older siblings taking care of younger ones while parents work the fields is very common here. But this baby is in crisis. A week ago, she put her hands in boiling water, suffering third degree burns (is there a higher degree? If so, she has it). With no medical facilities or counsel nearby, the villagers treated the burns by slathering them in honey, making things infinitely worse.
For a week, this little baby girl has had no pain medication, no treatment and no relief. The blistering is unbelievable. No child anywhere should ever have to feel so much pain. I’ve never seen such suffering firsthand and I feel like my heart is going to disintegrate.
We immediately arrange for a motorcycle to take her and her father to the nearest medical facility—a 10 hour journey. If we weren’t here, she may have died in another week from infection. I feel so grateful that we found her and are able to help. This is why we’ve chosen such remote areas. The Foundation will be working with the villagers, using their guidance, resources and effort, to make long-term, sustainable changes. These people have become our partners and our friends. We’re helping them make things better for themselves and their children’s children.
My head knows all of this. But my heart. My heart only knows that other babies are in pain right now and I can’t help them.

Volunteers

December 11, 2009
We finally figure out a way to embrace the dreaded Helix—it involves beer and an iPod. As we ride through the jungle, hanging onto the back cage, Ryan cranks out some tunes.
We play some Springsteen for Bev and Chris, who were unable to make the trip due to a sudden illness—we love you and wish you were here!—and it does a lot to lift everyone’s spirits.
We’ve grown so close to the other volunteers on this trip; it’s hard not to as you pack such intense experiences into such a short timeframe. I have the utmost respect for these dedicated people—they’ve traveled across the world on their own dime for no other reason than to help. Although it seems like we all just got here, I know that our time together is running out, and I already miss them.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:53 am

African wildlife

December 11, 2009
I’m sure many people think of Africa and envision National Geographic-style wildlife. And that part of Africa does exist here in Cameroon—the Cross River Gorilla is on the other side of the valley (they are the most endangered ape in the world, with less than 300 left in the wild), but we have no time to track them.
The wildlife we’ve encountered is a little less exotic, but much more abundant.
Rats are everywhere. I’ve seen women walking down the road swinging rats like they’re Safeway bags. The villagers’ diet consists mainly of rice, beans and potatoes, so rats are a quick and easy source of protein.
There is also a proliferation of mosquitoes. We’re all covered in bites and trying to evade them has proved futile—our nets are useless at night because we have nowhere to hang them, so we’re loading up on our Malaria medication and hoping for the best.
When we sleep, I always make sure there is someone to my left and someone to my right, reasoning that any creatures that come across us will investigate my neighbours first. This morning my theory was confirmed—Ryan woke up with a live chicken perched in on his stomach and our friend Ed had three goats curled up at his feet. There were no pythons, but I’m not taking any chances.

Summit under the stars

December 12, 2009
We’re camping in the middle of the jungle—there’s a shelter available but the scurrying sounds from rats have made the African sky a much more attractive alternative.
Someone brings a bottle of wine but we have no opener, so Ryan puts the base into a shoe, wraps it in a t-shirt (mine, I think) and firmly presses the base against the wall until the cork shoots out. After that display of manliness, I know for certain that if I was on a deserted island (which I sort of feel like I am), I want him by my side.
With only the stars giving us light, we sit around for hours with a group of locals discussing the issues of Cameroon and possible solutions. We spend hours talking—a collaborative brainstorming session to identify the problems but also devising possible solutions that are sustainable options.
Educational outreach is a priority, especially for girls, who are not considered permanent members of the family and therefore not seen as a good investment for education (going to any level of school costs money in Cameroon). Usually, they’re kept at home to work the fields, houseclean, take care of siblings and cook. We come up with some women’s initiatives that will hopefully increase female enrollment.
This is one small example of the immense issues we have to deal with, but having two worlds sitting side-by-side, equal to each other and working things out collectively, has a significant impact on me and reinforces my resolve that real change can and will be made.
I wish everyone could move beyond thinking we’re all different. We are not. Despite our geography and circumstances, we’re the same.

Cooking 101

December 13, 2009
Gordon Ramsay has nothing on the ladies of Menji Fonjumata . Some female volunteers and I have been invited to help the village women prepare dinner in the smokehouse, and it is reality show material. The woman in charge is on a serious deadline and if our technique or speed don’t meet her expectations, we’ll be kicked out. I’ve always had a competitive streak, and I’m determined to measure up.
The knives are as dull as the potatoes are substantial, and it’s tricky work. A potato peeler is a luxury here and I vow to bring back a suitcase full of them on my next trip after seeing how hard these women work.
Thanks to the Helix rides and this knife, I’m getting blisters on top of blisters, and the smoke is burning my eyes, but I refuse to give up…there’s no way I’m going to be banished from this kitchen.
The food in the village is good, mainly rice, beans, potatoes—basically, whatever is available—and tonight we’re getting chicken as an added treat. They’re killed, gutted an plucked in minutes, then seared over an open fire. It’s all served with a great sauce and although the food is simple, it’s delicious.
We finish off our meal with some palm wine, fermented from the sap of a palm tree. It has hallucinogenic properties, similar to absinthe, and is extremely potent. Step aside whiskey—I’ve found a new friend.

Heartbreak update

December 13, 2009
We stop in a village on our way to Menji to check on a water project we’ve initiated. This is also where the medical center is and we search for the baby with the burned hands that we transported here a few days earlier.
Good news—we find her happily breastfeeding with her mama and she looks so much better! She is receiving antibiotics to control the infection as well as medication to manage the pain. Her hands have been cleaned and sanitized and she looks healthy and content.
Here is proof that people’s lives can be changed, even saved, when proper medical attention is within reach.

The Orphanage

Christian. Edward. Peter. Levis. Sebastian. Ngasse. Etienne. Henry. Isiah. Brandon. Solomon. Paul. Lawrence. Hans.
These are the names of the fourteen orphaned boys at this orphanage. These children have been abandoned at an early age and have since been disregarded by society as dirty, useless orphans. Their names are all that they have and they deserve some respect.
The boys original orphanage was a chicken coop. Fourteen boys and their headmaster slept on the floor of this disgusting room in order to have a shelter over their heads. We have since built them a new shelter—no child should have to live like that, especially these children who have already dealt with so much hardship.
I meet with every single child in private to hear from him personally. They aren’t used to getting undivided attention and start out very shy and reserved. But once they start talking everyone has so much to say. I hear their stories from the past—all too sad and personal to even begin discussing here.
I hear their current struggles, like having to split five cups of rice a day between sixteen people, or not being able to concentrate in school because their past experiences creep into their minds.
These children need more than food. They need counseling. They need ways of coping with what they have seen. They need someone to care about them. They need the promise of a new future. They need a friend.
These boys are part of the ‘What Makes You Happy’ campaign and I’m very eager to let them know that so many people at home are beginning to hear their words, read their letters and see their art. And that people care. I promise them that I’ll bring as much attention to this project as possible so they don’t have to worry about their future anymore.
Their words will be available on Obakki product in January—please come back and help raise money for these beautiful children.

St. Valentine’s Orphanage

December 14, 2009
Night
We travel from Lewoh through Dschang to The Parlimentarian Flats Hotel in Buea. The drive is long, the roads are bad and by the time we arrive, everyone is covered in red dust from the surrounding land. We’re too tired to care and collapse into our sleeping bags (you wouldn’t dare use the bed at this hotel!).
5:30 a.m.
At home, it’s commonly referred to as a nice, warm shower, but here I call my morning routine the daily bucket. I’m looking forward to getting the red dirt off of me, but in addition to the usual share of brown water, I get an added bonus in the form of a thick layer of larvae and bugs. Moth exfoliation, anyone?

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 2:59 am

Love at first sight

December 14, 2009
I fell in love with a little girl today. We visited the Hotpec Orphanage, home to 91 children. I found her sitting on the dirt floor of the ‘barn’ scraping some old rice out of a dirty bowl and into her mouth.
I picked her up and never wanted to let her go.


The Hotpec Orphanage


December 16, 2009
Earlier this week, I did a quick post about a little girl I met at the Hotpec orphanage. I was so emotional at the time, it was all I could manage. On the plane home, I was able to write a more detailed account. Here it is…
Our visit to this second orphanage is almost too much to bear—91 abandoned children living in absolute squalor.
The babies are in one room, crammed into the few cots that are available. Most of them are docile and lethargic, many seem to shrink from human contact. I can’t tell if this is due to malnutrition or a conditioned response (probably a combination of both).
The rest of the children are separated into two small rooms, one for boys and one for girls. They sleep four to a bed, with no sheets, no electricity and, often, no food. I ask our friend, Ed, if he’d let his children sleep in these rooms. He wouldn’t let his dog in here.
In Cameroon, all children must pay to attend school, and this orphanage is continually trying to find ways to raise enough money to send all of their children to school. I find an older boy alone in his bed, trying to study in the twilight, desperate for an education, because he knows that is his only hope for a future. Twenty-seven of these children, some of them as young as five-years-old, walk one hour to and from school every day.
By 6:30 p.m., the area is submerged in complete darkness. The headmaster is hoping that electricity will help protect against two main threats of the orphanage: poisonous animals, mainly snakes, that come into the rooms at night; and the men who lurk in the jungle, waiting for nightfall and their chance to either rape the children or steal them to be sold as sex slaves.
Meals are cooked in a barn that is more of a shack, and this is where I find the girl. She’s scraping old rice and dirt from a bowl and spooning it hungrily into her mouth. Back in Canada, my four-year-old daughter is considered fairly small for her age and this girl is the same size, although she’s likely a few years older because of the malnutrition.
I pick her up as I would my daughter, but this little girl is much more delicate and fragile than any child I’ve held. I can actually feel the lack of density in her bones. She clings to me, craving human interaction and reveling in my touch. Something about this little girl pierces my heart and speaks to my soul. I can’t put her down, even when Ryan comes to get me, telling me it’s time to go. She begs me to keep holding her and I’m in tears as I drag myself into the Helix to leave. I do not want to be that person. The one who abandons her, again.

A message to you from Treana

December 18, 2009
I’ve been reading every Facebook/blog comment, every tweet and every e-mail. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and support – it means the world to me and everyone else on our trip.
A lot of people have been asking how they can help before the merchandise becomes available. I will be returning to Africa in May and we’re sending a sea container in advance that will be full of supplies. There are many things needed for the schools that we support. If you can donate any of these items, I would be grateful and can assure you that they will be put to very good use. Please note that we can only take items in very good condition (i.e. no junk that was meant for the curb!).
You can find the list here
The deadline for sending items is January 8, 2010 (it takes a long time to make it to Africa!).
If you are sending from the United States, please send your donation of supplies to:
Obakki Foundation Inc.
c/o FTN Warehouse
1750 Grant Ave.
Blaine, WA 98230
360.332.1539 (phone)
If you are sending from within Canada or internationally (aside from the U.S.), please send your donation of supplies to:
Obakki Foundation Inc.
201 – 135 West 7th. Ave.
Vancouver, BC
V5Y 1L8
604.669.9790 (phone)
If required, please list “gift” on the package to avoid any issues with customs. I know this is short notice, especially with holiday preparations underway. If you would rather have us purchase items on your behalf, you also have the option to call us directly at 1.866.410.9701 and we can take a credit card number over the phone.
Thank you all again for your support. Please spread the word about our foundation to your friends, families and colleagues – we are all making a huge difference in the lives of so many people.
Best,
Treana

Steps forward

December 23, 2009
I’m still coming to grips with the emotional impact of this trip, but the tangible plans for change are already being put into place.

Education
We held meetings at schools in need, asking them to form committees and present us with their top five priorities. We outlined a plan of action to address most of the needs presented by the locals and in conjunction with local authorities, government and the communities themselves, we are now moving ahead with the educational agenda.
Once at the school, kids will need a healthy daily meal—malnutrition is rampant and trying to learn on an empty stomach is futile. We’ve already started a drip irrigation garden at two schools that will grow rice, beans, huckleberry leaves, tomatoes and carrots (many items currently unavailable in the area). Not only will this food provide for the children, but surplus can be sold to the community and funds raised will go back into the school.
Water
People, particularly children, are dying every day from drinking contaminated water—from puddles, sloughs, dirty rivers and stagnant ponds. A water expert from Calgary analyzed the water and said he had never seen a higher level of bacteria anywhere.
The first step is giving people access to clean water. Many people here believe that human feces will feed the fish, so education regarding the importance of clean water is paramount. Right now it’s up to the women and children to hike for hours across difficult terrain to fetch water for their families. This is why many children don’t attend school—their priority is obtaining water.
The second step will be water purification. Matt Damon—I will be calling you when I get home! His amazing charity, www.water.org, is a leader in this area and we can definitely benefit from their expertise.
Health
We’re already involved in the construction, funding and supplying of health centers.
When I return in May 2010, the focus will be on development planning for health issues, but we already know that training of health personnel is key—doctors here have less training than nurses’ aids back home.
We need to implement a neo-natal and neo-care component, as well as a strong educational outreach on hygiene, illness, HIV/AIDS and nutrition. There is so much to do in terms of health. More on this to come from our next trip.
These are just a few of the areas we’ll be focusing on. Now that we’ve seen first hand what the issues are, we can work with our partners in the community to resolve them together. We hope you will continue to support us and follow our progress.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 3:01 am

Obakki Gift Away

February 8, 2010
By Jen Friesen
The gift away evening was wonderful. It began in our retail store—for every purchase made over a few weeks, we would donate a jacket, warm blanket and socks to a local shelter.
In addition to the many boxes given to the shelter, we decided to personally give clothing, blankets and a hot meal to people living on the streets of Vancouver. Twelve of us headed out on evening in search of those who needed our help the most. Jake thought of the man who slept in his parking spot each night. I wanted to find the two homeless men who watched cars everyday in Gastown.
In Jake’s parking spot we found Ray: he was quiet, humble and very grateful. Jake had seen Ray for months and finally got the opportunity to introduce himself and explain our Obakki initiative. These two men from very different worlds, who met almost every morning and evening in the same spot, now see each other as more than passing strangers. One, a man who works hard to provide for his family, and another, a man who works hard to make it to the next day.
Next we went back into the darkness and found a young woman sleeping on the steps of the big Hasting Church. She was wrapped in a thin, ratty blanket and when I woke her up, she was very disillusioned, visibly cold, foaming at the mouth and had trouble talking, but we could hear her words very clearly: “Thank you.”
Jake suddenly remembers a spot by one of the bridges. We all get out, open the back of the truck and start handing out supplies. Jake walks directly to a man curled up in a filthy box and using the concrete wall of the bridge for warmth. Jake covers the man in a blanket and gives him new socks, jacket and food. In return, Jake receives the most meaningful and heartfelt hand-shake of his life.
The hardest situations for me were the ones involving older people, knowing that this is inevitably how their lives will end. We saw one emaciated man emerge from an alley; he had a beard and resembled a starving Santa. The last man we saw was maybe the saddest: we found him in front of the bus station, sitting on the ground with a beautiful dog, both of them freezing. He had his wheelchair behind him and a very raggedy hat in front of him, collecting spare change. At this point, we were out of blankets and food, but we gave him a warm jacket and numerous socks, which he was happy to accept. I hope we see him the next time we do this. What makes him happy, sad and afraid?
I know I speak for everyone when I say that we went home that evening feeling so sad, but also fulfilled. And very grateful for the lives we have. I reflect on this night on those days when I’m feeling sorry for myself and I need a little perspective. I remember Jake covering a man sleeping in a box beside a bridge with a blanket. I remember the man in front of Blockbuster shivering and telling us not to give him anything else or he’d start crying. I lock these moments in my heart and remember them when my attitude, head or heart need a reality check.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 3:06 am

Obakki Foundation Movie

April 20, 2010
Here is a movie made from Treana’s trip to Cameroon in December 2009. She’s going back next month, so stay tuned for upcoming blog posts, pictures and videos of her trip!

The Hour

April 22, 2010
Here is a great interview with Ryan and Chad discussing the Foundation on “The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos”.
(Please see YouTube for the interview)

Treana is taking your questions

April 23, 2010
As Treana prepares for her upcoming trip to Cameroon, Africa (May 5 – 15), we thought it would be a good time to ask any questions you may have about the trip or foundation. You can ask them here in the comments section or on our Facebook page. We’ll be answering them over the next week.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 3:09 am

April 26, 2010
From Cynthia:
What are you most looking forward to on your upcoming trip in May? Personally I cant wait to see pics of kids wearing the backpacks I sent!!! So glad you have been getting such great press as of late, though I havent had the time watch the clips(tonight maybe:)) Thanks again for all you are doing and to all those who are helping you!!! Together we can all make a difference!

Hi Cynthia,
Thank you so much for all of your support. You’ve been there from the beginning, and I really appreciate that!
What am I looking most forward to on my trip? Good question. There are so many things. I’m very excited to see the progress of our projects – we’ve built seven schools in the last four months! I’m looking forward to sharing the great news about the ‘What Makes You…?’ campaign with the children who were involved in creating it.
I look forward to gathering those little kids up in my arms and telling them that there are many of us (i.e. – ALL OF YOU) from the other side of the world who care about them. I look forward to just smelling the jungle air, walking in the red African dust, eating some foufou, and drinking some palm wine with locals under the stars. I look forward to hearing the children sing, seeing friendly and familiar faces and starting new projects with our partners.
I always get so inspired while I’m there and come home with a head full of ideas – which will hopefully be turned into reality. Africa is an amazing place on many levels and this trip will be a great one. I look forward to sharing it with all of you again!
Treana

April 27, 2010
From Karen:
How do you involve your children in your work with the Foundation? Do you feel it’s important to involve them?

Hi Karen,
Thanks for the great question. This is a HUGE part of my life, and I feel it’s one of the most important things that I can share with my family. We’re very fortunate to be able to provide our children with the necessities (and more!) but we’ve been lucky and it’s not really a true view of the world.
At home we lead a very regular life like everyone else, but our children are certainly exposed to the luxuries of life when we travel on the road. We ride around on a beautiful tour bus and have a chef and driver, we stay in nice hotels, and we have people taking great care of us.
But this isn’t the real world and I don’t want my children to have a skewed version of reality, nor do I want them to have unrealistic expectations. What I do want is for them to be grounded, appreciative and thankful. I want them to know that because of our good fortune we CAN help to make the world a better place.
Our kids are only 4 and 6-years-old, but as soon as they’re old enough to travel to Africa, I plan on taking them (10-12 vaccinations and strong anti-malaria medications are required!).
In the meantime, we talk to them all the time about philanthropy, which is easy since it’s a huge part of our life. As far as direct involvement or exposure: we spent a month outside of Mexico City where we toured the countryside delivering boxes of food and supplies to families in need; we’ve delivered blankets to the homeless in Vancouver; we sponsor and write to 15 children in the Philippines; and we volunteer on a regular basis to a variety of local causes.
We vacation in real places where we can experience the culture and get involved in the community. We avoid the tourist places and luxury spots so that our kids can grasp the vastness, diversity and beauty of the REAL world.
My daughter is already coming up with ideas to raise money for Africa and my son is so compassionate on so many levels. I think as they get older we’ll be able to continue exposing them to more of our charity endeavors and help them explore their own ideas so they can hopefully help to make the world a better place.

April 28, 2010
From Wendy:
How long are you going for this time and will you go to the same places? On a personal note, can I ask what started you on the road of fundraising and looking out for those who can’t for themselves? You seem to have been doing this since your teens and wonder something “kick-started” it or were you raised this way?

Hi Wendy,
We’re going for 10 days again (it’s the longest I can leave my children – and believe me, it is tough!). We’re visiting the same places so that I can check in on the progress of our projects. We’ll also be distributing the school supplies that we’ve collected from all of you (THANK YOU!).
I wish I had a clear answer for why I started doing fundraising. I don’t think there was a moment that ‘kick-started’ it – I think it’s always been a part of me, ever since I was a little girl. I would often watch ads and documentaries on countries in need – I’m not sure why, but I was always drawn to them. I’m not even sure that I can explain why – it’s just something I think about all the time…it’s a part of me that is always there. If I’m not doing it, I feel unfulfilled.
As time passed and we began to see success in our careers, it became even more important. I’m extremely fortunate and appreciative to be able to make a difference; I’m not sure where it came from, but I know it makes up a huge part of who I am.

April 29, 2010
From Sharon:
How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed by the difficult circumstances you see in the third world?

Hi Sharon,
Thanks for your question. There was a time when I really struggled with this.
I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, and early on I didn’t have the extra money for these trips. Since the main charity I worked with also doesn’t take administration fees, all volunteers had to cover every aspect of our trips. At one point, I had to sell my car to buy the plane ticket to Africa.
When I would come home from these trips, I would get very depressed, feeling like there was so much to be done and very little that I could do. Ryan used to get frustrated with me because I’d become so very frustrated and not appreciating what I had. I felt that I was too spoiled and that life was unfair. I wanted to sell everything I had and give it all away.
It was actually Ryan who helped me overcome this: as our careers began to build and we started to experience success, he taught me to use it for good and accept the fact that having money, success and good things in life didn’t make me a bad person. And, more importantly, that because of these things that we’re very fortunate to have, we can make a difference.
I stopped traveling when I had my children and honestly I was very worried to head back to Africa last December. Over the last 6 years, Ryan and I have been very spoiled and I was sure that I would be very upset when I returned home after seeing the imbalance of their world compared to mine.
But to my surprise, it invigorated and inspired me, and when I came home I wasn’t sad. I knew that because of what we have and where we are in our lives, we can make some significant differences in the lives of others. We plan to contribute to the world as long as we are blessed enough to do so, and that is a great feeling.

A quick note from Treana:
Thank you again to EVERYONE for the amazing questions – we will be answering every one of them in the blog, so keep checking in this weekend and next week (basically, until they’re all answered!).


From Juliet:
Are you planning to promote the Obakki Foundation in the UK?

Hi Juliet,
Obakki has recently picked up a showroom in the UK to sell our collections, and they are very interested in helping us promote the Obakki Foundation as well. You may be hearing more of us over there soon and don’t worry – we’ll be all over the blog, Twitter and Facebook talking about it when it happens!
Treana

April 30, 2010
From Cassie:
Hi, I recently joined the site, I think it’s great what you’re doing. I have a small income but would love to help. I’m not sure how I could do that, we (my family) recycle clothing and anything else we can do here. But I would really like to do more, is there something I could do to help?

Hi Cassie,
Thank you so much for your desire and willingness to help. We typically do not send much clothing over, just due to logistics in getting them there. However, the very best way to help on a limited budget is to spread the word! The more people who hear about the cause and the Foundation the better. When we have a large group of committed, passionate, caring individuals amazing things can happen – and just talking about it is a huge part of that! Thanks for following us!
Treana

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri May 07, 2010 3:13 am

From Beverley:
How can people help you the most? What is the one single thing they can do?

Hi Beverley,
The one thing people can do to help is spread the word about the Foundation. Most of us are on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. and have huge social networks. The more people we can drive to the Foundation website, the better. People can contribute in a variety of ways: whether it’s buying product; gathering school supplies; generating ideas; telling others; and fundraising. It all helps and just getting people to check out the Foundation can start that process. The best connections and opportunities have come about this way. So spread the word, tell all your friends and family, and let’s get as many people to the website as possible!
Treana

From Lisa:
Can you share with us how your organization works with local governments to coordinate the projects on the ground, such as building the schools? I am not familiar with the political climate there and as I hear of corrupt governments and radicals I have wondered how safe you feel while traveling there, particularly as a woman.

Hi Lisa,
We know that they key to progress, maintenance and sustainability of our projects is working with the villages and the government. We’ve been able to cultivate trustworthy relationships with some influential government officials that enable us to avoid (or minimize) corruption.
Our local charity on the ground in Cameroon is C.I.C, founded and managed by our great friend Leke Tambo. We’ve known him for years, as he was the one who reached out to us from his village many years ago. Since then, he has been appointed Minister of Education for Cameroon.
Process-wise, with all of our projects we meet first with the government officials to discuss our agenda. We then go into the valley/villages to do a rural assessment with the communities and committees appointed to represent the population. With the locals we identify the needs and develop a plan to present to the government at the end of our trip. We agree to contribute certain things and we request that the government and communities contribute certain things. We find that projects are more successful when both the government and communities are involved and everyone takes ownership in what we’re doing. A key goal is for all projects to be self-sustainable – we can’t achieve this without strong involvement on all levels.
In terms of safety, the cities are crazy and I always feel a bit exposed when traveling through them. But once we get into the villages, we’re always amazed at how warm and inviting everyone is. We have years of history in this region and when we drive through the villages, even the remote ones, children are running out of their houses saying, “CANADA, CANADA!!!” We’re safe amongst friends and everyone knows we’re there to find solutions together to improve their way of life.
Treana

From Kayla:
I agree, this is an amazing organization! I wanted to ask, what’s your favorite aspect of going over to Cameroon and why?

Hi Kayla,
I love so many things about Cameroon. Aside from the projects themselves and the immense satisfaction I receive from our work, Cameroon is simply an amazing place to visit.
We have many great friends there and I love to see them and their families. I love the culture, the traditions, the music, the food. I love being in the middle of a jungle hearing sounds I’ve never heard before. I love traveling with like-minded people – volunteers who’ve traveled far to do their part in making a difference. I love the dresses worn by the ladies, I love the handmade instruments and the sounds that resonate from them. I love the way everyone dances and sings, without any reservation. I love the celebrations, the culture, the magic. There are so many things – but there is an overwhelming sense of feeling like you belong, which is strange when you’re so far from home and surrounded by things you’ve never seen before. Many people who travel there say the same thing and it sits inside you, slowly urging you to come back for more!

From Vanessa:
Hi, I would like to say that you are doing an amazing job with the Obakki Foundation.
When you are building new buildings etc do they have the Cameroon people helping or do you have people that volunteer their time that specialize in specific trades?

Great question, Vanessa.
We employ local engineers for a variety of reasons. First of all, we want to establish jobs and increase local revenue in the region, so employing people and helping to expand personal trade surrounding our projects is a great way to do that. Secondly, the conditions are very different, so the techniques, materials and skills are quite regional/geographical. We wouldn’t dream of doing it our ‘western way’. And thirdly, we always look for ways to empower the locals, the communities, the people. We want them to take ownership of the project and be a part of it as much as they can. This is very effective and significantly influences the success of the projects and the sustainability.

From Theresa:
How did you pick Cameroon?

Hi Theresa,
Cameroon actually picked us. One day we received a letter from a man in Lewoh named Leke Tambo. He asked for us to visit his village and the rest is history.
I think the lesson here is that ONE person can make a difference. I love this quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I see this on my way to work every day, spray painted on the side of a building. It makes me think of people like Leke Tambo, one man in the middle of an isolated jungle village who had the courage to reach out across the world to an unknown group of people. I think about my four-year-old daughter who wants to sell her room for $11.99 (price sticker is on the door!) to raise money for children in Africa. This is how it starts – all you need to know is that anyone can make a difference.
Treana

From Jeanette:
What is the next step the Obakki Foundation want to for the children in Cameroon?

Hi Jeanette,
Specifically, we are looking to address the immediate needs of the children through educational development, health improvements, vocational training, nutrition and developmental support.
What does that mean? A lot of things, but to get to the heart and soul of it all, we want all children to be cared for, loved, acknowledged, accepted, embraced and encouraged. We want them all to understand their importance in the world and in their community. The children we work with are amazing – they’re intelligent, unique and beautiful and we want them to have many opportunities.
The ‘What Makes You Happy’ campaign was put together by 150 children in 3 orphanages. They shared with us their thoughts through words, art and letters and we put them on t-shirts, dresses, bags, scarves and books. I’m so excited to go back and tell them that, because of their willingness to share their personal feelings with us, money has been raised that will to go towards their future. I think it will be very empowering for them to see how their actions have started to create positive change.
Treana

From Elisabetta:
Hi Treana. I think what are you doing it’s amazing. You’re very special!!!
I’ve seen the photos of Mexico. Do you think to start new project in Mexico too?
A big Hug

Hi Elisabetta,
Thanks so much for following the Obakki Foundation! You’ve been a great supporter of ours from the very beginning and I really appreciate it.
At the moment we’re focusing on Africa, but I am sure that as we grow, we’ll be expanding into other regions. We spend a lot of time in Mexico and so it will be very hard for me to not be involved. My family travels there frequently and on a personal level, we do get involved wherever possible – it’s a great opportunity for my children to safely be exposed and introduced to this type of work. I do hope one day to bring the Obakki Foundation there so that we can make some significant impact.
Thanks and take care. Treana

May 6, 2010
From Anita:
My children watched a special on how bad the water is over in other countries and couldn’t believe that children and adults have to drink, bathe, do laundry and dishes, and use the water as a bathroom. They got to see how sick drinking the water made the people. Some died from it. I told them that the Obakki Foundation is in Africa trying to make the water better there. My question is how many water systems are you working on and who long will it take before they are finished?

Hi Anita,
The Obakki Foundation has made a strong commitment to improving the water conditions in the regions we’re working in. This is such an important step in improving the overall conditions and all of our other projects depend on this very important element – healthy children, parents and communities.
Ryan and I, and Nickelback, have funded four water projects to date. The Obakki Foundation has taken on a new one in the region, which has already started development but has now been halted due to the rainy season. We will resume construction when the dry season returns and should be able to complete the project during that time.
Treana

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:08 pm

From Elisabetta
Hi Treana. I think what are you doing it’s amazing. You’re very special!!!
I’ve seen the photos of Mexico. Do you think to start new project in Mexico too?
A big Hug


Hi Elisabetta,

Thanks so much for following the Obakki Foundation! You’ve been a great supporter of ours from the very beginning and I really appreciate it.

At the moment we’re focusing on Africa, but I am sure that as we grow, we’ll be expanding into other regions. We spend a lot of time in Mexico and so it will be very hard for me to not be involved. My family travels there frequently and on a personal level, we do get involved wherever possible – it’s a great opportunity for my children to safely be exposed and introduced to this type of work. I do hope one day to bring the Obakki Foundation there so that we can make some significant impact.

Thanks and take care. Treana

From Colin:
Are you planning to develop any strategic partnerships as you move forward? For example, partnering with an Education faculty at a Canadian university in order to create awareness and potentially recruit aspiring teachers who are looking to learn and contribute?


Hi Colin – great to hear from you!

That’s a good idea and yes, we have thought about it (and have done some exchanges in the past with a university in Ontario supporting ICA, our sister charity). I think these programs are amazing as they not only benefit the African communities, but they teach us something as well.

I would like to pursue a project like this once the immediate needs of these villages have been met. We need the facilities/structures, we need to increase enrollment (especially of the girls), we need supplies, we need to find ways to increase revenue in the villages so families can afford to send their children to school and we need to address the nutritional deficiencies of the children attending. Once these primary needs have been addressed, we can look at curriculum and exchanges to further enhance our programs.

Treana

From Elizabeth:
Are you going to blog about this trip like you did the last one? I have an almost 20 yr old daughter who love to go on one of your trips, she has thought about joining the Peace Corp.


Hi Elizabeth,
I will absolutely be blogging on this trip! I was so surprised when I returned home last time to see so many people following our journey. It was an inspiring discovery and it made me even more committed – not only to my projects, but to all of you. Our readers, volunteers and supporters play such an important part in our projects because without you, we aren’t able to do what we do. The fact that people take time out of their busy day to follow what we’re doing is incredible and I will do my best to bring you our stories, to share our experiences and to connect you to our trip. I hope you follow along!

In regards to your daughter, I started traveling when I was very young – just out of high school – and I learned the most valuable life lessons by doing so. In my travels with the charity, I’ve met so many amazing Peace Corp workers and wish your daughter the best of luck should she choose to go down that road. You must be very proud!

Treana

From Mary:
What types of charitable work does the Obakki Foundation complete? For example: build new buildings; bring school supplies to students; bring health supplies to them. What else? Is the Obakki Foundation only based in Canada? Does the Obakki Foundation have any foundations in the US?


Hello Mary,
Unlike many other charities, the Obakki Foundation tends to take quite a wide global community approach. We believe that all of the fundamental issues need to be addressed before we will see results.

For example, what good is building medical centers if the people will be consistently sick because their water source is contaminated? Or, what good are new schools if parents can’t afford to pay the fees for their children to attend?

While many charities chose to work on very specific issues or projects in many areas around the world, we choose to work on more holistic programs in fewer communities. For education, we develop programs that address the nutritional needs of the children and create strategies to increase the income of families struggling to pay for children’s enrollment fees.

In medicine and health, we develop water projects and health centers but feel that this would be incomplete without a strong educational component. We also work with the traditional healers of the region, recognizing their importance in the community.

We are also quite active in improving the conditions in the orphanages for the children and again, this is quite involved.

We tend to focus a lot on women, and I would love to share a website with you called The Girl Effect (http://www.girleffect.org/). This is an amazing website that shares some incredible statistics on how valuable it is to educate girls. This is really at the heart of what we do.

You get the picture…you can begin to see how each area relates to the other. When a community or area is able to get their immediate needs met, they’re then able to focus on other things that improve not only their own lives, but the lives of people around them and therefore their entire community.

I hope this answers your question – thanks for following the foundation!

Treana

From Kami:
Do you have a lot of people volunteer for the foundation? What sort of things do they help with?


Hi Kami,
We have an amazing group of people who volunteer with the Obakki Foundation. I’ll never be able to say enough about my team – they get paid nothing and have no personal agenda, they’re involved because they want to make a difference. There is a quote, “There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer”, and I believe that without a doubt.

Since we don’t take any administration fees, and 100% of our donations go directly to our projects, our volunteers fill a variety of different roles. Some of them fundraise, some of them work on events, some are in marketing and PR, some travel on the trips with us. It is quite varied due to the nature of our projects and depends on their area of expertise.

Regardless of the role they play, these volunteers are essential to making the foundation work (along with supporters such as yourself!).

Treana

From Lisa:
You are inspiring and enlightening your children and many other people to the fact that we need to take care of one another and appreciate the many gifts we take for granted everyday – our good health, education, warm home. Who inspired you to grow up with such a strong belief in our obligation to care for one another, even a stranger we may never meet.
Safe travels,
Lisa


Hi Lisa,

Wow. Good question. I’m not sure if I was inspired by any particular person – my charity involvement is likely more to do with life experiences than anything. I think that our personalities are defined by what we see, do, feel and experience and even though we sometimes have to go through hardship, it helps to round us out as individuals.

My life in general growing up was difficult. I had a lot of hardship, experienced a lot of pain, had to figure a lot of stuff out at an early age. But from that I became strong and determined, and somewhere along the line I knew that I could help others. I’m not sure that I would have found this passion or desire to create change and opportunity for others unless I had experienced what I did.

I hope this answers your question and thanks for your support!

Treana

From Erica:
First, a silly question: Did you remember to pack the potato peelers? Second, a more serious question: Do you plan on working with other countries within Africa and/or other parts of the world? (Sorry if that was already asked; I tried to read the other questions but it’s late and I retained nothing.)


Hi Erica – thanks for reminding me! I’d actually forgotten about the potato peelers and I’m going to add them to my packing list right now!

We do plan on working in other countries. The Obakki Foundation was launched only recently and needs to focus on one region right now, but we will absolutely expand when we are able to. ICA (our sister charity) has done work in Romania, Jamaica, Haiti and the Philippines. There are so many parts of the world requiring help and I can only hope that one day we’re large enough to be able to expand our reach.

Treana

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:10 pm

Vancouver to Douala
May 8, 2010

The sounds, the smells, the chaos. Douala is an unbelievable place. From my luxury Vancouver home into the trenches of Cameroon. Talk about a contradiction. Not sure what I love about life’s hard contrasts – I guess it makes you feel more. You notice things more. You appreciate things more. You live a little bit more.

We’re riding for two hours in the back of an open military vehicle. The night sky is electric with lightening and the rain beats down on our faces. People are all over the streets, music is playing, the smell of bush meat cooking on open fires permeates the air, cars and motorbikes fight for their place on the street. The city is alive. I close my eyes, breathe it all in. I am happy to be back.

Hello, Old Friend…
May 8, 2010

It’s 2:14 a.m.

I’ve been lying here staring at a monster cockroach for an hour. Isn’t this how my last trip started? Not sure what I’m waiting for, to be honest. I guess I’m hoping to drift off to sleep, although I’d have to shut off the light to do that…and I’m not sure me and my antennal friend have worked out an agreement yet.

Her Name is Docas
May 9, 2010


We left Buea early this morning to start our journey to Lewoh. What I didn’t realize was that we were stopping at Hotpec orphanage. My heart started beating faster as we turned the corner and I instantly became nervous.

This is the orphanage where I first saw her. She was scraping rice from the bottom of a bowl while sitting on the floor in a barn. I picked her up that day and carried her away in my heart for every day since.

As soon as we arrived, all of the kids came running. I was completely distracted searching the group for her beautiful face. Just when I thought she wasn’t there, I found her sitting on the step. She was just taking it all in, watching us from a distance.

I was a bit taken back as I thought she would have run up to me as soon as she saw me. I guess I’d created some sort of relationship in my head. Perhaps I need her more than she needs me…

I walked over and sat down beside her as the other children sang the Cameroonian anthem. Their voices echoed through the air like a choir of angels, but I was too distracted to really hear them. I was trying to create a moment with this girl, similar to the one I thought we’d shared last December.

After repeatedly trying to connect with her, and failing, it suddenly hit me: standing before me were 30 children and if I looked close enough, all of them had her eyes – haunted, damaged, heartbreaking eyes.

Bringing her over to Canada isn’t the right thing. I kissed her on the cheek, made a silent promise to improve her world in other ways, and got up to spend time with the other children who also needed me.

An hour passed and as I was walking back to the van, having learned a valuable lesson of the heart, a little hand slipped into mine.

Her name is Docas.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:11 pm

Return to the Valley
May 10, 2010


We leave in the early morning for our trek down in the valley. Our route differs from the one taken in December because we’re visiting a different village. Aside from it being challenging, I’m not sure what to expect.

I never imagined it would be like this.

The heat is unrelenting with intense humidity. The jungle is a wall of vines that we attack with machetes to clear the barest hint of a trail. Our progress is incredibly slow as we attempt to traverse the hilly terrain, cross rivers and keep an eye out for jungle critters.

Two of our volunteers wreck their knees on what ends up being a grueling 12-hour hike. They are total troopers and don’t complain even though they’re in terrible pain.

This is day one of our journey.

Midnight Madness
May 11, 2010


After trekking through the jungle, we arrive in Menji-Fonjumetaw around 8:00 p.m., but rest is a luxury at this point. We’re expected at the village of Bechati, so we board the dreaded Helix to get us there in time.

We ride for ninety bumpy minutes in pitch-dark conditions, gripping the sides and praying we don’t hit something or go off the road.

At one point, we reach an impromptu road block of logs and realize someone has set up a Cameroonian toll booth. A man demands money to cross the barricade, but luckily our group persuades him to let us through.

A storm breaks out when we arrive in Bechati. Sheet lightning illuminates the sky and crickets are the only jungle sounds I recognize.

Our group is dehydrated, hungry and exhausted, but it’s been an amazing bonding experience. Our trip has just begun and it’s already one we’ll never forget.


A Message for the Lynch Family
May 11, 2010


I need to take a moment away from my trip to give a shout out to a very special boy and his awesome family.

Beckham Lynch turned eight-years-old recently and I just found out that instead of presents, he asked for donations for the Obakki Foundation. After the envelopes were opened, $285.00 had been collected!

Being in Africa right now and knowing what a big difference that kind of money can make, especially for so many children Beckham’s age, makes this generous and thoughtful gesture even more impactful.

Beckham, thank you so much for your gift – it means so much to so many. You are a special young man and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re trekking by my side in Africa one day!

xo

Treana

Ndumbin
May 12, 2010


We’ve finally reached Ndumbin, a village that we’ve worked with in the past but were unable to reach during our December trip. A school was being built there last year and we’re excited to see the results.

We’re disheartened to find that the project has been abandoned (especially after trekking so far, so early in our trip).Our projects rely on villager involvement in the areas where we work, and these people are completely disillusioned, but I can’t blame them.

The hike we’ve just completed, the one that pushed us to the limit physically and mentally, is one they have to endure regularly to continue with construction – only they’re expected to do it while hauling construction supplies (think heavy tools and bags of sand).

Nkong is extremely isolated and people are ending up in the hospital trying to finish the job. During this time, crops have also stopped yielding and people have been dying at a higher rate, so their spirits are understandably low.

Three things happen that turn the tide.

First, Ed Smith, from our sister charity gives the villagers a motivational talk. He’s been working with this village for years and the people trust him. Ed reinforces what a difference this school will make to the village and reiterates our commitment to them. He also promises to get medicine here so they can deal with the increased number of sick and dying villagers (many of them children).

Second, we present the village chief with…a trumpet. This is the trumpet that I was scrambling to get right before I left for Africa. It’s customary to bring a gift for the chief but this was a special request. He’s so ecstatic with our gift that he jumps up starts dancing! Then he puts on a performance for the group (video of both will be coming soon).

Finally, and most exciting for us, the villagers perform a traditional Juju ceremony to rid the village of bad luck, and this is where things get really interesting. We all sit in a circle and in the center is a man. I’m not sure if he’s considered a healer or holy man of some sort, but he’s put into a heavy trance, then stripped naked and put into an elaborate costume with mirrors all over it and a mask with a bird’s head.

Now he begins to dance while brandishing a stick. Drums beat in the background. Two men stand nearby with guns pointed at him. I begin to seriously sweat. The man has a jar and uses it to store the bad spirits that he pulls out of people in the crowd. He puts his ear to the jar, listening to the spirits, then dumps them in the middle of the circle and lights fire to them.

I’m watching, fascinated, as he makes his way around the circle. Some people are skipped over and others get more of his attention. He’s coming closer to me and with the costume and vocalizing, he’s very intimidating (not to mention his friends with the guns), and I’m happy to be in the back row.

Then he stops. In front of me. He’s directing his Juju incantations at me. I barely breathe, hoping that he’ll get what he needs and move on, but he doesn’t budge. He stays in front of me for almost TEN minutes. Is he planning to sacrifice the skinny foreign chick to get the crops going? We’ll never know, because thankfully he’s finally satisfied and goes to someone else.

I let out a shaky exhale. I wrote earlier about feeling like I live a little bit more when I’m in Africa. This is a perfect example of that.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:15 pm

The Power of Music: Boom Boom Pow!
May 13, 2010


The village of Nkong has been plagued with failing crops and higher than average mortality rates, especially among children. A somber cloud of sadness hangs over the community, casting a pall over everyone there. And yet, even in the midst of such hardship, moments of joy can be found.

We’re standing around in the relentless heat, waiting to do a focus group with the villagers. Everyone is feeling listless, especially the malnourished children.

Inspiration strikes and I dig in my bag, pulling out my iPod and mini speakers. Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas rings out and the children come alive. An informal circle dance breaks out and suddenly, the kids are taking turns dancing in the middle with total abandon…as you can see from the video, these kids can MOVE!

Watching these children momentarily forget their troubles, their pain and their hunger reinvigorates the entire village. The power of music is undeniable: it brings delight and happiness regardless of the circumstances. It’s nothing short of magical to see how the bliss of dancing for an hour can bring life to a village that’s been decimated by death.

Moments like this, and there are many, make our trip unforgettable. Although we see a lot of desperation and anguish, the human spirit (and a good beat!) always wins out in the end. This is why we keep coming back.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:17 pm

Why We Are Here
May 14, 2010


The focus of our December visit was educational requirements. This time it’s medical assessments. Although we still check on our other projects, such as the orphanages and schools, our main purpose is to meet with the villagers to determine how we can best meet their needs in a collaborative way.

One of our first meetings is held in the village of Filipe. I’m in a cramped room with my team and the village leaders discussing the medical situation when something out the window catches my eye: a group of children are playing soccer in the rain. It’s too much for me to resist. We’ve brought a nurse and doctor on this trip and I’m confident they’ll capture the information we require. Quietly excusing myself, I quickly make my way outside and join in the fun. It’s the most fun meeting I’ve ever had!

The villagers often attribute illnesses they can’t explain to curses. Many of these conditions can be treated, but they have no idea why they happen or how to deal with them. Many misconceptions exist about their main health threats: for example, epilepsy is the result of a curse when you’re envious or jealous of another person; distended bellies (caused by parasites and worms along with malnutrition) are caused by frogs or chickens in the stomach or are the result of eating too much food.

Other serious health threats include Malaria (they’re better informed about this disease and its prevention), gastric issues (pain traveling throughout the body as a result of extreme hunger) and joint pain (the result of walking up to four hours each way while carrying huge loads).

Education is key. When the villagers understand what causes certain ailments and how to treat them, hopefully we can go a long way towards reducing their impact on the communities.


Last edited by Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:19 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:18 pm

Critters
May 15, 2010

We’re sleeping on the veranda at night because inside is unbearably hot. The trade off is dealing with critters. We hang our mosquito nets, but they’re the least of my worries.

Every morning I wake up with spiders on the ground beside me, just outside the net and inches from my face. I’m not normally squeamish about creepy crawlies, but these things are pretty substantial – at least as big as half of my palm.

One day I’m late to the river for my bath and the group has already finished washing up. It’s now dark and I briefly pause to consider if bathing in a river in the jungle in the dark is the smartest move…and decide that, in this heat, yes it is.

I find three naked Cameroonian women washing in the river with candles nearby, giving a soft glow over the water…almost like a spa. The next day I’m at the Fon’s house (regional chief) and see three Anaconda skins on display. At the time it was worth it. In hindsight, not so much.

Rainy season is fast approaching and we encounter some amazing storms. The night sky is lit up by sheets of lightning, while lightning bugs illuminate the ground. I recognize the cricket sounds in the darkness, but there are other rustlings – exotic scratches and screeches – that turn a simple jungle snooze into a Discovery Channel adventure.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Sun May 16, 2010 2:20 pm

Accident
May 16, 2010


You know that saying, “My heart was in my throat”? I know exactly how that feels.

Our good friend David, a local we’ve worked with for years, and Jeff, a longtime volunteer (and military medic) were crossing a bridge by motorcycle when the driver accidentally went off over the edge, plummeting 15-feet into the gully below.

Jeff hits the ground and instinctively rolls out of the way, so the bike doesn’t land on top of him. He and the driver walk away quite shaken, but are thankfully unhurt.

David lands and breaks his arm on impact. His first instinct is to see the traditional healer, who snaps it back in to place, rather than a doctor in a medical center, which would take hours to reach. He’ll eventually need to get medication to deal with the pain and possible infection that may result, but he’ll be okay.

Never again will I complain about the solid, sturdy Helix.

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Wed May 19, 2010 6:46 am

Who Are You?
May 17, 2010

I’ve been mulling an idea for our next campaign for a few weeks and now is the time to put it in motion. I’m nervous, because its success depends on a group of women I’ve never met. I sense it will either be a phenomenal success or a colossal failure, but that’s how a lot of things have played out in my life, and I’m determined to go for it.

I start in Filipe, a tiny valley village. I hand out disposable cameras and ask the women one question: “Who are you?” I explain that, through 25 pictures, they can tell me their stories: what they love; what makes them happy; and, what defines them.

They’ve never held a camera before and look both intrigued and skeptical (kind of how I’m feeling). We give them a quick Photography 101 tutorial and those gathered around erupt in cheers whenever a woman pushes the button for the first time.

I say, “I want you to show me, in the 25 pictures you take in one day, what makes you, well, you.” I tell them this is their chance to tell people their stories – the pleasure, the heartbreak, the mundane and the unusual…all of it.

I let them know that we’ll take their photos and words, and put them into a book or clothing for people around the world to purchase. The money raised (all of it) will come back to their community to help them start businesses. The ladies can’t believe that people would spend money on their stories and I reassure them that the world is listening.

I explain that investing in women and girls is one of the fastest and best means of advancing human development for all. In the past, we’ve had tremendous success empowering women by organizing them into committees while providing business models, training and start up materials for machines such as cassava grinders. (Women currently spend hours collecting and hand-grinding cassava, a potato-like tuber that is a diet staple. The initial grinder reduces two hours of work into less than five minutes, allowing the women to not only grind their own cassava, but also enough to sell at the market.)

The ladies leave the meeting with their cameras, excited and optimistic. I ask them to return the cameras to me at my hut by seven o’clock the next morning because we’re leaving for another village.

The next day, the helix is loaded and time is running out. With fifteen minutes to spare, not one camera has been returned to me. As the group prepares to leave, I sit in the clearing, despondent and demoralized.

I had such high hopes for this project. I suspect the rigors of their day impeded the women, and it’s like a vicious circle that can’t be broken. This trip has been harder on my body and heart than any other – I miss my family so much and I begin to wonder what kind of difference we’re really making.

And then, it happens. All of the women emerge from the jungle at once: cameras in hand; faces beaming; and eyes aglow. I collect the cameras of these strong, brave women. They’ve taken a chance with me and I will not let them down. They’re all now very excited to be a part of this hopeful, creative and inspiring project. I thank them, saying, “You will no longer be silent. You can finally tell the story of you.”

The world is listening.


Goodbye, Friends
May 17, 2010


Ziad, Mike and Mashiah have returned home with some of the other volunteers. Their trip was shorter, but they did a tremendous amount of great work. Some of it included filming footage for their upcoming reality television show, but they also help out our group in more ways than I recount here.

I’ll soon be leaving, too, and meeting up with them in Vancouver. And now that we’ve shared this remarkable adventure, I know we have a bond that will join us forever.

See you soon!

Thank You
May 17, 2010


A big shout out today to ALL of you who have supported the Obakki Foundation by sending or purchasing supplies earlier this year. Our trip has been so successful because of wonderful people back home, like Lani Osing – who sent us 30 soccer balls, skipping ropes, Frisbees and other goodies.

In addition to the educational and medical supplies, we’ve been delivering the toys to schools and orphanages wherever we go, and reaction from the children has been incredible. Instead of kicking balls around, kids here normally play with plastic cups or rolled up tape, so it’s been a thrill for us to give these items out.

More often than not, you make a donation to a charity and never know where that money really goes, let alone see the faces of (or get hugs from) the recipients. I’m blessed to have this opportunity and I want you all to know that you’ve brought happiness and relief to those who need it most.

Thank you. From the bottom of their hearts.

Rats, Rain and Roosters
May 18, 2010


We trek out of the deep end of the valley to our resting place in Menji Fonjumetaw. After our long days in the valley, we’re left exhilarated and wanting more, but also exhausted and craving rest.

As soon as the sun sets, we pack it in. Some choose to sleep inside the ’shelter’ – a dark and damp space with the strong scent of what I’m quite sure is urine. I see people wipe chicken poop off the floor before laying down their sleeping bag and my decision is made: I elect to go outside and risk the elements (I was, after all, ‘cleansed’ of bad luck by the Juju).

Others join me in hanging mosquito nets and we crawl into our cozy sleeping bags for the night. Moments after we all settle down and stop talking, the cane rats come out to play. They sound like 40-pound dogs scurrying back and forth in the ceiling of the shelter.

Moments later the chickens start to wander around, traipsing across everything. Then the dogs start to chase the chickens and it hits us – we’re sleeping in the middle of a jungle farmyard.

I’ve seen this before and laugh at the reaction of the first-timers, knowing they’ll likely be up all night trying to decipher the night sounds of Menji, which sound very close.

I close my eyes, happy and quite pleased with myself for being one of the veteran Africa travelers who will rest well despite what’s happening around us. At that moment, the sky opens up and the rain of a thousand skies falls from above, soaking us all in an instant. Sigh.

Phone Call Home
May 18, 2010


It’s a busy afternoon with lots going on around us, but I can’t stop thinking of my family back home. I’ve been strong and unwavering all trip, focusing on the projects and team we’ve brought to help us, and not letting myself get overly emotional. I’ve made a couple of phone calls on the satellite phone, but haven’t been able to hear my kids’ voices. I miss them so much that it almost knocks me over.

I sneak away to call and my son, Dax, answers the phone. Nothing cuts a mother’s heart like hearing her child’s voice and my heart sinks into my stomach. As soon as he speaks, the tears come as if they’ve been pooling under my eyelids, waiting to fall.

Dax wants to hear all about my trip – especially the bugs, snakes and chickens. He asks if I’m around any children and if he can talk to one and hear what kids in Africa sound like. A little boy is near me, so I ask him if he’d like to talk to a little boy from Canada. The boy quickly grabs the phone from my hand. “Hello?” he says. “My name is Alexandre. What is your name? How old are you? I’m nine. Where do you live? What is in Canada?”

The conversation goes on and each boy is engaged and curious. The simplicity of this interaction is powerful. Here are two very young, very different boys from opposite sides of the world, learning about each other – with open minds and hearts, smiling from ear to ear. I stand back and watch…if only connecting up our world was this easy! I promise Dax I’ll take a picture of the boy he spoke with. (This is him, Dax. He’s just like you.)

Acadia gets on the phone next, but she’s not going to let me off easy. “Mommy, why are you not here!? Why are you away from me?! Why do you have to be in Africa?!” I sit down on a rock and now my tears are really falling. It’s times like this that I want to scoop them up in my arms and shower them with kisses.

I explain that mommy is here to help other kids like her and their families, and that it’s a very hard sacrifice our family chooses to make. I tell her I love her a thousand times for being a part of this and promise that one day she’ll understand. Right now they’re with their Nana and Papa while Ryan is on tour, but he’s flying home for a day, so I know that he’ll wrap his arms around her in my absence and try to make it right.

I hang up the phone and sit for another five minutes before I can rejoin the group. I hope I’m doing the right thing.

Kate Hudson supports the Obakki Foundation
May 18, 2010


Kate Hudson was recently spotted in New York City with her son Ryder, 6, who was sporting and supporting the Obakki Foundation Collection.
The Obakki Foundation asked 150 African orphans what made them sad, happy and afraid. Their words and drawings have been incorporated into a clothing collection and hardcover book that can be purchased at www.obakkifoundation.org. 100% of ALL proceeds go back to the orphans, because it started with their answers. Follow Treana Peake, owner of Obakki, through her foundation blog as she explores the remotest regions of Cameroon, Africa to help improve the lives of others


Uh Oh
May 19, 2010

After a wet (and sleepless!) night in Menji, I wake up convinced I received a swift and rainy karmic kick in the butt that will hold me over for a couple of days, at least.

Until I see my foot. My ankle is swollen on both sides and extends into my foot and up my calf. I definitely have an infection. Hold on…I have an infection in Africa. With an impending hike out in rough terrain.

I immediately start Cipro medication and keep a watch on it. Thankfully, I’m in great hands – one of my friends on the trip, Rod French, is a highly trained surgeon who specializes in hands and feet.

I don’t need to be that worried. Right?

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Re: The Obakki Foundation

Post  Nbgal on Fri Jul 02, 2010 4:00 am

Please check out the recent happenings from the Obakki Foundation at the following link

http://obakkifoundation.org/

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