15 juni 2017

Looking back: 3 months with Tony, human rights defender in Cameroon

Shelter City

Three months ago, a 59 year old Cameroonian man who had never travelled outside the borders of his home country before arrived at the train station in The Hague with only one small piece of luggage. He could not believe what was happening to him, and felt like he was living some kind of dream.

Being the traditional king of a small community in Cameroon, he told us that back home no one could really believe he was actually going to live in The Hague for three months. Half his village even followed him to the airport, to see him depart with their own eyes. And there he suddenly was, in The Hague, welcomed by Justice and Peace Netherlands. As a grassroots human rights defender working on access to justice for his people, he was going to participate in the Shelter City programme.

Today we said goodbye to this very same, yet completely transformed man. This time with lots of extra kilos of luggage, many new experiences, new expertise and energy. And his age, he ensured us, was the age of a young man again.

This is what Shelter City is about. During his three months stay in The Netherlands Tony got the chance to re-energize, to learn, to grow and to network intensively. And today he felt ready to return to his home country, to serve the people of his community with his newly acquired knowledge and energy.

As an intern for Shelter City and Tony’s first contact person, it has been wonderful to see him transform, to guide him through life in The Netherlands – so unimaginably different from the life he was used to – and to watch him learn and grow. It was refreshing to look at our world through his eyes, it offered a different and important perspective. These months at Justice and Peace have been a very special experience that I – just like Tony, I am sure – will not ever forget.

We thank Tony very much for sharing and exchanging with us these past months, and wish him the best of luck with the continuation of his human rights work in Cameroon!

Read more about Tony and his human rights work in Cameroon here