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Our Dream Turns Into Reality: Library For the Blind

pretty womanBibliotheque Le Pavillion Blanc - Library for the Blind - in Cameroon won the US$ 25,000 FIRE Africa Grant in 2016 in the Education category to further boost its work with the visually impaired throughout Cameroon. In this blogpost, Communications Officer, Lisette Emmanuelle WAFFO, tells us about her organisation, how the FIRE Africa Grant will contribute to its valuable work and talks about her trip to the AFRINIC-25 Meeting in 2016. 

Our project manager, Mr Ebongue. called me one day to tell that we had to prepare to apply for a US$ 25,000 grant from AFRINIC's FIRE Africa programme. He told me that a friend from Benin gave him the information about the programme and had advised him to apply. We started working tirelessly on the project and prepared our application.

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Certificates awarded to disabled participants on the workshop organized by the Bibliothèque Le Pavillon Blanc on how to write a business plan

The grant came at a very strategic moment because we were already planning on how to start our Yaoundé Office. Yaoundé, to us, is a very strategic point, being the political capital of Cameroon, where not only the government is based, but also many local and international institutions. At the end of the day, our project was selected and that of our friend from Benin was unfortunately rejected. We felt bad for him, but of course we were so happy that we had received a grant for our own project.


Our Project

The Bibliothèque Le Pavillon Blanc, is a library dedicated to the blind and visually impaired people. The main objective of the library is to enable the socio-professional integration of people with visual impairment. It is the story of a dream that became reality. The Bibliotheque supports many people who have Albinism, a condition that is characterised by lack of pigment in the skin and is often accompanied by a wide range of visual impairments.


blog cameroon2People making use of the Library's equipment to read books with print that is too small for them to see properly.


Our project manager, Mr Ebongue, is himself an albino and went through a lot of difficulties due to his visual issues during his studies. The prints were always too small, the blackboard was always too far away and the daylight was always too bright for him to read or to see properly. All these difficulties, added to the social marginalisation which people with albinism experience every day, made his life uneasy.


Making Life Better

According to reliable figures, up to 80% of visual impaired people are unemployed, due to their low education and low training standard. So, Mr Ebongue swore to himself that he would do something about this in order to help change the situation of visually impaired people by giving them the means and opportunities to improve their lives. The first real opportunity he had to do this was on his arrival in Italy, where the organizational part of the project began, with the help of friends and well-wishers.


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Braille lesson in the Bibliotheque Le Pavillon Blanc for blinds and visual impaired people

When I joined the team one year ago, I found the project very interesting. Its objectives corresponded to the contribution I too wanted to bring to the well being of people with albinism and to visually impaired people in general. The Bibliotheque officially started its activities on 28 January 2014, and now, at the beginning of 2017, we are preparing to open the Yaoundé branch.


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Mr. Ebongue speaking during the inauguration of the Bibliothèque Le Pavillon Blanc 28 January 2014


The Mauritius Experience

Apart from a conference on Family Welfare that I attended in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, some years back, I have never attended such an important meeting as the AFRINIC-25 meeting, which was held in November 2016 in Mauritius. Terms like capacity building, management, leadership, coaching, efficient communication, business plan and project management, were not really unknown to me, but the AFRINIC-25 meeting  gave me clearer knowledge of the inner essence of those concepts.

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Lisette Emmanuelle WAFFO takes part in the FIRE Africa Training sessions during AFRINIC-25 in Mauritius.


It is there, during the FIRE Africa Training Sessions, that I learned the difference between leadership and management, or better still, the difference between a leader and a manager. Working in groups together with other African entrepreneurs gave me the opportunity to discover my own personality as leader and particularly as a woman leader.


Our Grant

The money we received will help us to start our second library in Yaoundé, the political capital of our country. It will be offering the same services as our library in Douala, with the difference that the Yaoundé branch will be specialised in producing audio books while Douala will remain focused on providing large print material.

About Pavillon Blanc

The Pavillon Blanc library is specially dedicated to the blind and partially sighted. Its main aim is to spread knowledge and to positively influence the academic and socio-professional inclusion of the blind and partially sighted in general, as well as those with Albinism in particular. The Yaoundé branch of the library will train youths with visual impairments in the following professions: Computer maintenance, Computer graphics and Secretarial skills. 


About FIRE Africa

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FIRE Africa provides funds for projects, initiatives, tools and platforms that harness the power of the Internet to empower the local and regional community to solve the region’s unique online communications problems. Since we ran our pilot project in 2007 to identify innovative ICT solutions to the challenges faced by local communities, FIRE Africa has grown into a fully-fledged programme that has helped over 30 initiatives in 16 countries over the last eight years.

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