Cameroon Working Group Newsletter #2


International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation

University of Toronto

March 2005


An Introduction to the Cameroon Working Group


The Working Group began in early 2004, and consists of several people who meet approximately monthly. The group aims to develop projects, seek funding and undertake education, research and/or service (and to have fun) in support of persons with disabilities, their families and communities, and the people who work with them, in the North West province of Cameroon. Between meetings, members undertake the various tasks involved in developing and executing the projects we are involved with.


The Cameroon Working Group supports the goals and principles of the ICDR In addition, the Cameroon group seeks ways to link and support Cameroonians, Canadians and friends of Cameroonians, in Canada and in Cameroon.


Our Members, Parners, and Collaborators:



We have had several new additions in recent months, and so have taken the opportunity to once again introduce them to you.


Kate Suffling, O.T. (C), Co-Chair

Following a desire to work internationally and make a contribution to an underserviced area, Kate spent five months volunteering at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in 2003. She arranged and carried out this work independently. She returned to work within the Cameroon Baptist Convention health board at Mbingo from May to December 2005, this time as part of the ICDR initiative. In Canada, her experience has been as a community based occupational therapist.


Lynn Cockburn, OT (C), M.Ed., Co-Chair

Lynn spent two years living in Bambili, a small village in NorthWest province in Cameroon when she was a child. This experience influenced her desire to engage in transcultural, community development and social justice work. She is a part-time faculty member, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, and enjoys the collaborative work with students and colleagues that this position provides opportunities for. She returned to Cameroon in May 2005 for the first time since 1981, and again in February 2005. On both trips she had opportunity to initiate and develop relationships with individuals and organizations in the North West Province, and to deepen her understanding of issues around disability there.


Goli Hashimi, OT (C)  

Goli is an OT who is currently working at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Oncology. She also has previous experience working/volunteering as an OT with children with special needs in Panama. Her interest is in the area of rehabilitation and health at an international level, focusing on the differences between the developing countries and the more developed countries, especially on how disability is viewed and managed. She has joined this pod to support the projects, further develop her personal insight in the area of international issues related to disability and rehabilitation, and to participate in a research project. She plans to pursue graduate work in this area in the near future.


Emily Kere, Student B. Sc.

Emily is currently completing an undergraduate program in Human Biology at the University of Toronto. She has a special interest in women's health and would like to pursue research tied to a community development program in the Northwest Province. She also has a personal interest in Cameroon as she has several family members who live in the Northwest Province. Emily is helping the Cameroon group collect information, especially for students who would like to participate.


Gladys Tiamuh, B.Comm, M.Ed (in progress)

Gladys was born in Cameroon and raised in Ottawa. She is currently working in the pension administration field.  Her Masterís work includes a specialty in Workplace Learning and Change at OISE/UT. Her academic interest is in the area of Organizational Development and Change, in addition to issues around efforts to improve public service efficiency.  She brings a personal interest to the Cameroon Pod, as she has a desire to make a positive contribution to improvement initiatives in the Cameroon community, and to maintain a link with Cameroonians and friends of Cameroon.


Lynne Dart, BSc. Kinesiology, MSc (OT) (in progress)

Lynne is a first year student in the Masters in Occupational Therapy program at the University of Toronto. She has a strong interest in international health work, which stems from a desire to interact with and learn about other cultures. Lynne participates in several capacities with the group, including with bartending at our events! She hopes to have a fieldwork placement in Cameroon.


Rob Corcoran, B. Human Kinetics (P.E), MSc (OT) (in progress)

Rob grew up in Vancouver, BC and attended the University of British Columbia, where he obtained his.  He lived and studied in Perth, Western Australia during his third year of university, which encouraged his love of traveling, leading him to trips throughout China, Australia, and Southeast Asia.  He soon discovered that he loved interacting with and learning about other cultures, as well as exploring beautiful and unfamiliar landscapes; both of these are what interest him the most about being a member of the Cameroon working group.  Rob is currently completing his Masters in Occupational Therapy at U of T, and is a member of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists student committee for U of T.


Damian Goring, B. Human Kinetics, BSc.OT (in progress)

Damian is currently a 4th year student at the University of British Columbia.  Previous to his current BSc.OT studies, he completed a Bachelors in Human Kinetics in 2002 at UBC.  In past clinical fieldwork placements, he has experienced the acute hospital, pediatric ABI and seating, community home health, and vocational rehabilitation.  In the future, he would like to gain a broad range of skills and eventually work in the community.  Damian was connected to the Cameroon ICDR project through Rob Corcoran who was a classmate during his Human Kinetics studies and a co-worker at special needs summer camps. 


Amy Caldwell, OT (C)

Amy has always been interested in working and volunteering for developing countries.  In 2001 she traveled to Mali, West Africa with Hands Across the Nations, a volunteer organization that continues to support a village outside of Mali.  More recently, in the fall of 2003, while in the Occupational Therapy program at the University of Toronto, she participated in an overseas placement and conducted a research project in Trinidad and Tobago. She has since graduated from Occupational Therapy and is currently helping with the development of the Professional Penpal Program.  


Soledad Silencieux

Soledad (Sole) has been a Speech-Language Pathologist for 4 years and has been working at Bridgepoint Health Hospital in Toronto for the past three years.  After attending the Working Groupís first fundraiser event, Sole learned more about the projects in progress here and in Cameroon, and wanted to get involved. She has always looked for ways to get involved in humanitarian work through her profession and this was the perfect opportunity!  She is eager to begin her participate as one of the partners in the Professional Pen-pal program.


Jennifer Roy

Jennifer is a physiotherapist working with people with stroke, Multiple Sclerosis and acquired brain injuries at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.  She also enjoys working with students and facilitating labs in the neuro unit of the PT program at U of T.  Jennifer wanted to get more involved in international health, to help out any way she could, and to learn more about Physiotherapy and rehabilitation in other countries, and the Cameroon Working Group provided the perfect opportunity for her to get started.


Partners and Collaborators:


Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Board

          Mbingo Baptist Hospital and Banso Baptist Hospital


We are actively developing relationships with other potential partners includng SAJOCAH rehabilitation Centre, and AWOV


Current Projects:


Mbingo and Banso Baptist Hospitals

Lead: Kate


The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Board Health Board runs two hospitals, both situated in the North-West Province of Cameroon. In addition to medical interventions, Mbingo Baptist Hospital and Banso Baptist Hospital both provide in-patient and out-patient Physiotherapy services.  Mbingo also provides prosthetics, and, in partnership with Christian Blind Mission International provides community-based rehabilitation (including vocational rehabilitation).  As well, Mbingo runs an integrated school for the deaf on its campus.


Concerns exist regarding services that are lacking for patients at Mbingo and Banso, resulting in compromises to their long-term function and quality of life.  On Kateís first trip to Cameroon as a volunteer at Mbingo, the Physiotherapy Department staff requested that she consider returning to provide them with further training. In particular, rehabilitation for burn injuries, hand injuries, and stroke were identified as areas where learning was needed.  As well, further support was needed in discharge planning for patients.


Kate returned to Mbingo in May, 2005, with the support of the ICDR, and stayed there until December. Lynn also came on this trip, and stayed in Cameroon for two weeks.  During this time Lynn had opportunity to spend time with the Community-Based Rehabilitation workers and to deepen our understanding of rehabilitation issues in this area, as well as the specific needs of staff and clients in this program.


Kateís role with the CBC included service provision and clinical consultation, but her main work was in providing training to rehabilitation staff.  Members of the PT department at Mbingo each identified an area in which they wished to study, and then proceeded to learn through both classes, case studies, and practical work.  The students were eligible to receive course certificates for their efforts, through the CBC-ICDR partnership.


Over the course of learning, many changes occurred at Mbingo and at Banso, where the PT staff also participated in learning.  In particular, patients with burns appear to be far less disabled by their injuries (burns often result in fused joints in the body as well as severe scarring, without proper rehab care), and patients with hand injuries are also maintaining better use of their hands.  The staff also noted that learning a standardized assessment for stroke patients helped them greatly in being able to communicate to each other and to doctors about the recovery of patients, and assisted them in planning appropriate therapy.  Support was also provided in implementing a program to plan discharge with patients who had a new disability when leaving the hospital.


Kate also had opportunity to supervise two Canadian Occupational Therapy students, Angele Bibeau and Lisa Tong, who completed an international placement at Mbingo in November and December.


Kateís time at Mbingo ended with a wonderful awards ceremony for the PT staff, in which they had opportunity to reflect on and celebrate their accomplishments over the course of her stay there.  It is hoped that other volunteers will also visit Mbingo and Banso through the ICDR, in order to further develop the partnership and continue support to rehabilitation staff.


Lynn returned to Cameroon in February 2005 and once again had opportunity to spend time with the Community-Based Rehabilitation program.  She also spent a few days with the PTs to discuss other ways the ICDR could work with them, to introduce them to the Professional Penpal program, and to facilitate the exploration of alternative, locally-available materials for creating orthoses.


Networking in the North West Province

Lead: Lynn


Lynn has had opportunity to travel to Cameroon twice since the formation of the working group.  On her first trip she was able to re-unite with old friends, and to begin building new relationships with people with rehabilitation interests in Cameroon.


Lynnís second trip was in February. The main purpose of the visit was to continue and further develop the collaborative initiatives that had been begun by the Working Group in the past year. Lynn found that all of the people she met and spoke with in were very interested in working further with the ICDR Cameroon Group.


Some of the groups and organizations with which Lynn had opportunity to begin building relationships were the following:

-         SAJOCAH: this is a rehabilitation centre in Bafut.  Lynn met with the director, Sister Cecelia, and discussed possible clinician and student volunteer opportunities with SAJOCAH

-         Emmaus Outreach: this is a project that provides safe and welcoming housing and daily structure for street people with mental illness (2 houses) in Bamenda.  Lynn met with Father Brian Byrne, who expressed that the outreach would very much appreciate some assistance with programming

-         AI-Chris-WoV: this is a program started by a group of women to provide foster homes to children who are orphaned, and hope and training to women who are widowed and have no income; in response to the lack of social services in the area. Lynn met with the director and discussed several ways in which the ICDR could collaborate with their organization

-         Kaberry Research Centre:  this is as a cultural research centre that is currently being re-established after some years of inactivity. Lynn co-facilitated a meeting there and discussed potential partnerships, particularly in anthropologic, sociologic, historical, and occupational research


Research Projects

Lead: Lynn


Very little has been published about disability and rehabilitation in this area of Cameroon. Peggy So, a Masters OT student is assisting with conducting a literature review related to epidemiology and experiences of disability and rehabilitation in Northwest Province, Cameroon and Africa. In conjunction with other needs assessments, we hope that this report will assist us in further identifying projects.


The Professional Penpal Project

Lead: Goli Hashemi and Amy Caldwell


This program was initiated to respond to the need for health and rehabilitation professionals in Cameroon share information and experiences with others in similar roles. Physiotherapists, social workers, and others in the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board have expressed a lot of excitement for participation in this project. Six Canadian professionals have volunteered so far, in the fields of Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Social Work, and Speech Language Pathology.  Each one will be partnered with a professional in a similar role in Cameroon, with whom they will communicate on a regular basis by email or snail mail.  This will allow the Cameroonian professionals to learn more about their role and clinical skills, and will allow the Canadians to learn about their role in the context of a developing country.


Student Involvement


In addition to having four U of T university students in our Working Group, two OT students have had opportunity to travel to Cameroon for an international placement.  They spent seven weeks at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in November and December, under the supervision of Kate Suffling, and participated in rehabilitation for patients with burn injuries and stroke.


And You?

If you're interested in being part of this group, send a short resume and a cover letter that outlines your skills and motivation to be involved. These submissions can be submitted to Lynn Cockburn, l.cockburn@utoronto, to Kate Suffling,,  or to the Director of ICDR Ė Penny Parnes, by mail (ICDR, 500 University Ave, Suite 160, Toronto, ON, M5G 1V7) or by email (


If you have any questions regarding the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation please contact Penny Parnes at




Fundraising and Community Awareness - What a great evening!


The Working Group has held two fundraisers, both of which were wonderful evenings of Cameroonian music and dancing.


On November 12th, 2004, the Cameroon Working Group of the International Center for Disability and Rehabilitation (ICDR) at the University of Toronto held its 2nd musical gala to fundraise for their projects in Cameroon.  A crowd of nearly 200 revelers packed into the Berkeley Church on Queen Street for an evening of music, food, and dancing. 


Some of the highlights of the evening include a heartfelt speech given by the Cameroonian High Commissioner to Canada, His Excellency, Mr. Philomen Yang; performances by the renowned musicians Njacko Backo and the Toumkak drummers, and Fojeba and Friends; and the wonderfully savoury Cameroonian food supplied by Mr. Isaac Kagi and company. 


Mr. Yang spoke about the need to invest in the people of Cameroon, not only financially, but also in terms of education and time.  His Excellency had traveled to Toronto from Ottawa specifically for the event.


Njacko Backo and the Toumkak Drummers treated the audience to invigorating, heart-pounding African beats on their beautiful drums, and inspired spontaneous dancing from the jubilant crowd.


The evening was capped off by an exciting draw for highly desirable door prizes, which included authentic pieces from Cameroon.  Over 20 volunteers were involved in making the evening a success, helping out at the door, tending the bar and taking on other duties to make the evening run smoothly.


The Cameroon affiliate of ICDR is lead by occupational therapists Lynn Cockburn and Kate Suffling.  Cockburn, who is a lecturer at the Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) at the University of Toronto, spent part of her youth living in Cameroon.  Suffling is an alumnus of the OT program at U of T.  Both women jumped at the chance to work together on a development project when they discovered a mutual interest in Cameroon.  Suffling has since made two trips to the Mbingo and Banso Baptist Hospitals in northwestern Cameroon to establish new rehabilitation programs, and to train local therapists. 


They founded the musical gala in 2003 for the purposes of fundraising, and quickly expanded their objectives to include raising awareness of and educating the public on health and disability issues in Cameroon.


Get ready for our fundraising event in spring, 2005! DATE and Venue TBA





Future Directions


                     We would like to be able to support students and rehab professionals in traveling to Cameroon, and in continuing our work with the CBC.

                     We will present our work at conferences and possibly to publish some writing about our experiences.  Our partners in the Physical Therapy departments of the CBC hope to do some writing and publishing as well.

                     We are exploring other partnerships in the North West Province and in Canada

                     We continue to explore funding opportunities for our working group to assist us with research, travel, and other projects


Our thanks to the many friends and family who have supported the projects and the Cameroon pod, including:


His Excellency, Mr. Philomen Yang, High Commissioner (Past), and Mr. Joseph Ayafor, First Secretary, Cameroon High Commission

ALCA - The Alliance of Cameroonians in the GTA

Mr. Njacko Backo, Musician (

Mr. Jean-Baptiste Foaleng, Translator and Musician

Music Africa                        Nadine McNulty           Long and McQuade

The Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto,

 especially Dr. Helene Polatajko, Chair, and Prof. Pat McKee

Walmer Road Baptist Church

Kyle Lee and Remington Medical                           

Ability HealthCare, Toronto

Pam Goldsilver and COTA Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

The FA Davis Company

Peter M. Larson, President, Larson Products, Inc. Columbus, OH USA

Steamwhistle Breweries

Colio Wines                               

Peller Estates            

Kittling Ridge Winery

East End Garden Centre, Queen Street East Toronto