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Meet Roland Musi, founder of Link-Up

picture1 Roland Musi, the founder of Link-Up

My name is Roland Musi. I am from Cameroon a country in Central West Africa, sharing a very long border with Nigeria where 270 girls of recent date were abducted by the Boko Haram terrorist organization. I come from a family of five children four boys and one girl. I am the fourth child.

I was raised in a small town called Mbengwi in the Northwest region of Cameroon. Life was very good for me as a child in the early seventies and eighties. My single mother was a laboratory technician in the only hospital in Mbengwi, then at the time referred to as the Health Centre.

We were not rich, but I never experienced abject poverty. We always had enough to eat, adequate school requirements and were active in our local church community. Because it was a small community, everyone knew almost every person in town. This was especially true if they attended the same school, church or work place. Everyone lived in peace. The parents were allowed to discipline their neighbours children if they were found doing the wrong things. Child upbringing was practiced along the lines of “it takes a village to raise a child”.

The motivation for founding LINK-UP

In 1991 I had my first real shock in life when I lost my mother, my lone parent and breadwinner. This experience exposed me to the many difficulties faced by children without biological parents.

In 1999 while rounding up my studies at the University of Buea some friends and I decided to visit the Buea Central Prison. Buea is the capital of the South West Region of Cameroon, one of the 10 regions that make up our nation and is equally a university town with a population of over one hundred thousand inhabitants.

Visiting the Buea central Prison was my first real exposure to prison life. I met people living under very deplorable conditions. What caught my interest the most were the adolescents and children in prison. Some of these children were with their mothers and were either delivered there or brought in as infants. The scene was really pathetic.
After this visit, I went home and was not the same again. My feelings went especially to the children and I decided to organize a one-week campaign to raise awareness and local support for the prisoners of the Buea central prison.
The exercise was a huge success and on the 1st of January 2000 “Millennium Day” we delivered donated items that ranged from food items, clothes and medication to the prisoners.

This exposure gave me the interest to further research into the root causes of adolescents in prisons. I carried out a survey on street children in Douala, the Economic Capital of Cameroon, speaking directly to many children living on the streets. Abject poverty came out as the root cause of this problem. Most of the children were either orphans or came from very poor and broken homes. The majority of them were unable to read and write. One of them, Caahte told me that he had been living on the streets for 11 years and had never been to school.

Ideas

With the above background information, it became obvious to me that to tackle this problem all children needed equal access to education, especially the very poor. When children are in school, they are focused on learning and are protected from abuses and crime. I thus established LINK-UP in 2000, as an organization with a mission to assist needy children directly, irrespective of their origin.

As we kept working on promoting this cause we realized another great problem – the acute shortage of textbooks in the school system. We started by providing core textbooks to schoolchildren in 2003 and later in 2006 we introduced the Revolving core textbooks programme where textbooks were exchanged between students. This eventually led to the establishment of the Village Libraries Initiative in 2010, initially called ”The Village Library”, designed to enhance access to essential school textbooks and other learning resources to children in Cameroon. It equally serves as an education resource centre for the community.

Action 10 and LINK-UP

Through the programme I was offered a fellowship in 2013 by SE Forum Accelerator Programme Stockholm. This is how I got in touch with Mrs. Cecilia Öman, President of Action10. She believed in our mission, hence we became programme partners. Action10 has already been engaged in the sponsorship of some children in our programme.

In partnership with Action10, we have also established the International Letter Exchange and Friendship programme designed to establish contacts between children in Cameroon and Sweden.

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Left image:
The pre-launching of the second Village Library in Njindom Village Northwest Region of Cameroon.
Middle image:
The Divisional officer, the Mayor and other dignitaries during the launching of the Tole Village Library.
Right image:
Children happily displaying letters and pictures from friends in Stockholm.

After my return from Stockholm, two Village Libraries have been established. These education resource centres are running on a pilot basis so as to have proof of a concept that would lead to the replication of the initiative in other communities.
When I observe how really poor children are transformed through education, I get more motivated to keep working on developing the cause.

What we need help with

On behalf of the beneficiaries, I remain very grateful to all the benefactors who have assisted us over the years, and made this dream become reality. We need your support to develop the “Village libraries Initiative” proof of concept and assist the education of extremely poor children.

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