KEY NOTE ADDRESS CAMCOH 2015 FUNDRAISING EVENT.
By Dr. Serge Babila Awasum
My fellow Cameroonians, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished guests. Welcome to this Camcoh annual event.
My name is Dr. Serge Babila Awasum.
When I was asked to give this speech by our honorable president, my initial response was to decline. It was too daunting a task to address such a large and distinguished audience. I told him I will need to pray about this and get back with him. After a night of pondering I responded the next morning accepting to do it. Even though this was a task that I had never performed, I felt I was obligated to my community.
I am a medical Doctor by profession. A specialist in Gastrointestinal diseases and Liver diseases. I am speaking to you as a son of the community and not a hopeful politician. I am only responding to my call of duty.
Most importantly however, I am a Dad with 3 children. I am accompanied tonight by my beautiful wife of 16 years and we have a 15 year old daughter, a 12 year old son and a 9 year old son. Family means everything to us and we hope that as a community we can continue to maintain strong family values as the pillar of our Cameroon Community of Houston.
When we moved to Houston 11 years ago from Baltimore, what we loved the most about Houston was its family oriented nature. Everyone was ‘each others Brother’s keeper”, as Mr. Obama will say. We have lived in several communities around this country and this community is exemplary. We are a community that always comes together in good and bad times. We love to have fun in good times, but also know how to meet a need in difficult times.
We are a very diverse community representing almost all the ethnic groups in Cameroon, but what is most unique about us in Houston, is our ability to transcend our ethnic and linguistic differences to come together.
The Cameroon community of Houston represents what we hope Cameroon will some day become.
Where everyone despite their differences can come together for the common good of their country.
I grew up in Yaounde and attended Ecole bilingue. All the students spoke English and French. We all got along and loved our country, Cameroon.
We were passionate about our National soccer team (Lions) growing up and always united behind them. We had favorite Soccer stars Like Thomas Nkono, Theophile Abega, Mbida Douglas, Late Dr. Ekue, Francois Omam Biyick.
As a young boy Canon Sportive-Kpakoum, was bigger than life.
We had movie theaters and big productions at Capitol and ABBia in Yaounde, and in all the provinces. We were a proud people and always believed that there was nowhere better than Cameroon. You see, we had a lot of hope and Patriotism and the belief that we could achieve anything. There was a favorite expression in French that” L’impossibilite’ n’est pas Cameroonais”. Most neighboring African countries referred to us “AfriQue en miniature”.
There were hardly Water shortages or rolling Electric blackouts. Street cleaning was the norm and we had the “ Voiree” that picked up trash on a scheduled basis from neighborhood to neighborhood. We had our airports that worked. We could fly from Yaounde to Maroua, Bamenda-then Bali airport, Tiko or Douala. We had the first Boeing 747- We called Combi airlines that had weekly flights to Paris.
Fast forward 40 years and we all realize how things have changed. We are now immigrants in the diaspora. Our children are born here and when they visit Cameroon they can’t appreciate any of these things that we once had. Folks, we are a proud people and have a lot of work to do to reclaim our position and respect in the continent and in the world, and that starts in communities like Houston. I believe that Houston Cameroon Community should lead the way and everyone else will follow. Despite how long we have been here, we should never forget our roots, our motherland-Cameroon.
John F-Kennedy once said at his Inaugural speech, January 20 1961 and I quote
“And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the World: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the Freedom of Man”.
I believe we as a people in the Diaspora should lead the way in rebuilding, by first starting with ourselves. In Cameroon you are never considered a serious man until you have built a house in your place of residence or your village.
I once had the opportunity to work in a Jewish company in Baltimore some years ago. I was the only non-Jewish amongst a group of 8. I got to understand their community and I believe we can learn a lot from them. They had a Jewish Community Center that was managed by the community as a whole. Volunteers included Teenagers and retirees. High school kids used it for their volunteer hours and retired teachers used it to provide free lessons to kids. Senior citizens came there regularly to play bingo and catch up with their friends.
Russian Jews and Eastern European Jews who had just emigrated to the United states came there to get free legal advice about integration. Job opportunities were listed at the JCC for everyone, especially summer jobs.
Folks, you get my point. I don’t see why we can’t do the same and even better. Let us build a
Community center. A Cameroonian Community center!
This comes with more responsibilities. I believe if we start small but have a big vision we can achieve it. It should not be about the size of the community center, but by its works and what the community center offers to the greater Houston community as a whole.
This community Center should be a place of cultural enrichment for our children. A place that holds and displays the rich and spirited culture of the Cameroonian people. A place where you can visit and draw strength from. When you come there to volunteer, you should leave feeling enriched and encouraged. A lot of good work should be done through this community center, not just for our fellow Cameroonians but also for the local community around us.
We should make our presence felt in this Greater Houston community, not just by our parties, but through service and contributions to our fellow citizens. Such as participating in Food drives, soup kitchens and feeding Homeless shelters.
Hopefully someday, through our works, future candidates running for Mayor or the City council can come to our community center asking for your vote and in return will help us grow even bigger.
Our children may have political aspirations themselves and should know that they have a strong grass root base in Houston. Institutions like this will define who we are and give us the respect we deserve from other Africans and Houstonians as a whole.
Let us challenge ourselves tonight to raise as much money as we can, to make this a reality. No money will be considered small. This room is full of talented people, and I believe if we use all of our talents we can achieve so much more. This is also a period of Thanksgiving and we should thank God for all our blessings. I will end this speech by sharing with you my favorite parable that was spoken by the greatest Rabbi.
“A farmer went out to scatter his seed. As he was scattering it, some fell on the path where it was crushed, and the birds in the sky came and ate it. Other seeds fell on rock. As it grew, it dried up because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorns grew with the plants and choked them. Still other seed landed on fertile soil. When it grew it produced one hundred times more grain than was scattered.” Luke 8: 5-8
Let us be that fertile soil, so as we grow we can help everyone else grow, especially our beloved country Cameroon. I humbly thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight.
God bless CAMCOH, Cameroon and the United Sates of America.