Ambassador Peter Barlerin’s Remarks at the 2018 Ambassador’s Special Self-Help and Julia Taft Refugee Fund Small Grant Presentation Ceremony

Good morning!

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Welcome to the U.S. Embassy.  I would like to thank Ms. Laura Miller, Ms. Rachel Ngum, and Ms. Jenny Bah, the chief of our political and economic section, for their hard work and dedication on this project.

And to you, our guests, thank you for joining me and my team to honor these Cameroonians who are committed to serving the needs of their communities and building a better future for their country.  The United States is a committed partner to all Cameroonians who are striving to improve the governance, prosperity, peace, and health of their fellow citizens.

Far too often, we tend to depend too heavily on our governments, sitting back, doing nothing more than waiting for manna to fall from the heavens.  We know that it is Cameroonians who will bring sustainable solutions to the critical problems of their country.  This is why the Embassy has a special fund called “Self Help” to accompany those who are showing leadership in working for the changes needed in their communities.  This is decentralization at its core.  It is a “bottom up” approach.

Today, it is an honor for me to present awards to seven Cameroonian recipients of the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund and another fund specifically for refugees and their host communities, the Julia Taft Refugee Fund.

The Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund provides assistance for microprojects designed by Cameroonian communities as part of the U.S. government’s commitment to support development activities in Cameroon.  Since 1983, we have funded small community projects under this program in all ten regions of Cameroon.

It is a competition.  The funds available are limited and the demand is high.  For this reason, I congratulate Exode Djoussi and the five other recipients, and thank you for your remarks.

This year, the Special Self-Help Fund will disburse nearly 28 million CFA francs to support six organizations in the South, East, Southwest, and Adamawa Regions.  These projects will improve access to clean water, provide places for children to learn, and increase economic opportunities for women.  And, we hope, these projects offer an example of how the United States is striving to make a difference in the everyday lives of Cameroonians.

Today, we are also celebrating the recipient of another U.S. government fund, this one in support of refugees and their host communities.  This fund is named after a former Assistant Secretary of State responsible for issues related to immigration and refugees, Ms. Julia Taft.

It is an initiative designed to respond to critical but unmet needs of refugees.  Created in 2000, the fund supports projects that fill gaps in refugee services offered by other organizations.

As you heard from Ms. Aissatou Alim, this year, the Julia Taft Refugee Fund grant of more than 14 million CFA francs will give Central African Republic refugee women in the Adamaoua Region ways to generate income for themselves.

While the United States provides assistance to refugees and displaced people in Cameroon, and to their host communities, through large international organizations like the UN and World Food Program, we know that local communities must be involved to help meet the needs of these vulnerable groups.  That is why we are giving this small grant today on top of the humanitarian assistance we are providing as the largest humanitarian donor in Cameroon.

To our seven recipients today, Ms. Laura Miller, Ms. Rachel Ngum, Ms. Jenny Bah, and I together congratulate you for being leaders in your communities.  Your work has created positive change around you.  Over three centuries ago, the latin poet Ovid said that it is dripping water that hollows a stone, not through force but through persistence.

Let’s put our hands together to thank these people for what they do for their communities.