In November 2010, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait led a group of 25 participants on a journey through Cameroon, West Africa to the Himalayan Institute’s community center in Kumbo. From the moment participants hit the road in a bus to travel from Douala to Kumbo, they were immersed in a truly authentic Cameroonian experience: Like so many African countries, Cameroon suffers from poor infrastructure which makes travel, as one participant put it, “a test of will and endurance.” Heavy rains had carved out huge pot holes in the dirt roads and cars frequently got stuck in the slippery clay soil. As participants experienced these challenges firsthand, they began to get a sense for why the Institute’s work is so important in this region.
Upon arriving in Kumbo, guests were warmly greeted with singing, dancing and traditional music from HI Cameroon staff and community members. Guests stayed at the Pastoral Center, which has a beautiful view overlooking the town. Throughout the trip, Panditji spoke regularly with the group about Spirituality in Action—the importance of service for both personal and global transformation. Putting these discussions into practice, the group took part in the community center’s various programs. With the Sacred Link Jewelry program, participants worked with local staff to create handmade jewelry; with the School of Carpentry & Construction, the group helped to build furniture and made use of the new wood drying kiln; at the Total Health Center, participants harvested, crushed, and encapsulated herbs grown locally for use in our dispensaries; they planted trees with the School of Energy Farming; and at the Kumbo Public Library, participants read with local children and played educational games in the Children’s Corner.
Through this hands-on work, the group got to experience the impact that the Himalayan Institute is having in Cameroon. One participant said, “I had previously gone to Africa to provide humanitarian service and I could not imagine how any program could be sustainable there.” After attending, she writes, “I was impressed with the willingness to teach and share knowledge and resources with the people of Cameroon, allowing them to empower themselves…. HI is working with the existing culture to empower people.”
It is one thing to understand what a project is doing, but it is even more meaningful to actually meet the people whose lives are touched by this work. This aspect of the trip had a profound effect on participants who left feeling inspired and energized to continue their service to humanity.