Reaching out to Guinea

H.D. Stafford phys ed and French teacher Djiba Camara will travel to his home country of Guinea in November, where he will be met  by local police to help ensure his safety as he tries to get school supplies to students who desperately need them.

The popular Langley teacher and international soccer coach is hoping Langley residents will help him  get these materials to students so they can have some of the chances that so many have here in Langley.

“They have nothing,” said Camara who returned to his home country of Guinea-Conakry in West Africa — one of the poorest, most corrupt countries in the world — for the first time in 30 years last year.

He went home for the first time in three decades to say goodbye to his 98-year-old mother.

She has severe Alzheimer’s — a disease his country doesn’t have a name for, or really even understand. His mother is still alive but his visit opened his eyes to the overwhelming need there and gave him a desire to gelp.

“Chalk is 5,000 francs so they use the chalk right down to the dust,” he explained. “Paper is very difficult to find and so expensive. They have nothing, so I said I have to do something.”

Schoolboys use plastic bags and rags they find at the local garbage dump to make soccer balls.

A video that Camara made of his visit to the local schools can be found on YouTube. It shows the boys playing in a dust bowl they call a playground.

Camara, who once coached the women’s Whitecaps team and is a certified FIFA coach, has soccer to thank for helping him escape poverty.

“I played professional soccer in Europe and became a Hungarian citizen,” he said. That country is also helping him ensure equipment like soccer balls get back to his home country.

Sports equipment and school supplies could give these children the help they need to change there situation. Because so many are desperate they have turned to crime and violence, making it a very dangerous country to go to.

“Even though I am from there I had to walk around with military and I could never sleep in the same place twice or I would be robbed and killed,” he said.

“I bought a bag of rice and the village ate their first hot meal in days.”

When he was there, Camara met with the director of police to organize the arrival of the container he will fill and have shipped there.

“NGOs can’t work in Guinea because it is so dangerous,” he said. To ensure his safety and the safety of the container, he is having a film crew and local media come document the container’s arrival. It won’t be without its risks of being robbed and Camara’s risk to personal safety.

“But we have to try,” he said.

The container will be full of pens, binders, books, shoes, Tshirts, shorts, paper, chalk and more.

While he was there he made a movie which he has posted on YouTube, showing the plight of these young people.

Guinea-Conakry has a plethora of natural resources like gold and petroleum but the people of Guinea don’t benefit because of rampant corruption. No one will invest in this country.

Guinea’s reputation for corruption has chocked economic growth, leaving people to live in the depths of poverty, turning to drug trafficking and crime as their only existence, he said.

Guinea ranks 173 out of 180 countries, tied near the bottom with Chad and Sudan.

Camara has asked and met with the Langley Board of Education to take on the challenge of assisting these children to be successful academically and athletically.

Camara is looking to raise $5,000 which is the cost to ship a container of materials to the port of Conakry. He is also looking for donated items like chalk, tents, rain jackets, shampoo, soap, binders, paper, soccer equipment, etc.

He is working with help from the Langley Teachers Association. If you would like to help Camara you can send cheques to the Langley Teachers Assocation office at 5786 Glover Rd., V3A 4H9, c/o Drop Off For Africa. You can also bring donated items to the office.

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