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Cross interview for the association Melting Pot Development!

le 12/09/2020

We promote equity and diversity, because in the face of feelings of exclusion and withdrawal, social cohesion is everyone's business!

Purpose of our collaboration with Melting Pot Development 

To donate 1 euro on each product sold to the organisation, in order to help finance a Christmas tree and participate in the joy of this celebration with orphans in Cameroon. 

This project will last throughout the whole of December 2020.

This week, Nubiance met Line Christelle Toto, Linda-Grâce Kouvouama and Pechens Owona, members of the Melting Pot non-profit organisation. 

They tell us their stories, reveal their aspirations and explain their backgrounds, how their approaches, initiatives and issues were born. 

Cross Interview with Line Christelle TOTO, Linda-Grâce Kouvouama and Pechens Owona; members of the non-profit organisation ‘Melting Pot Development’.

Line Christelle Toto

Could you present yourself?

I am Line Christelle Toto. I am 32 years old and currently employed as a customer manager in a company in the Paris area. I am passionate about eco-friendly cosmetics and make-up, but also about personal development.

We are currently made up of about twenty members and volunteers from various backgrounds. 

How many members are there in your non-profit organisation?

 We are currently made up of about twenty members and volunteers from various backgrounds. 

What was the genesis of Melting Pot Development? Can you tell us what made you decide to embark on this human adventure? 

What are your key mission statements?

It was in October 2007 in Lille that a group of friends affected by the living conditions of many orphans in Africa, decided to make a positive change in the daily lives of orphans.

It is from this desire that the association Melting Pot Development was born. My husband has been a member of the association almost since its creation. Seeing his commitment and dedication, I quickly caught the MPD virus and managed to bring a few friends to participate in various actions of the association and visit the orphanages with us. 

As a member in charge of a project, my main missions are mostly linked to the implementation of a project from its creation to its completion in order to raise funds. These projects are generally carried out in teams. 

Otherwise our usual missions are linked to visits to orphanages in general. These moments of exchange allow us to get a first-hand impression of the problems encountered by these orphans and their managers, and above all to spend wonderful and emotional moments with the children.

After more than 10 years in social action, what have been your achievements? 

  • Teamwork
  • Creation 
  • Monitoring and implementation of an event project 
  • Contact, which is easier

What challenges have you faced while implementing your initiatives? 

Mobilise volunteers. The most difficult resource to have in a charity is the human resource. Challenges related to fundraising and finding partners (sponsors) via private companies. These are permanent challenges as the sponsor of 2020 may not be the same as the one of 2021.

What are your values and objectives? 

Solidarity / Respect / Mutual aid / Friendship. 

How do you go about raising funds? 

Through various events (crowdfunding, solidarity evenings and drinks...), membership fees, sponsorships from companies willing to make donations... 

Do you have a particular anecdote to tell us? 

Every year we organise socio-cultural events, including road trips, with the aim of making successive visits to the different orphanages that we subsidise. Some of us have, once or twice, fallen asleep while speaking!

What are the missions of volunteers? 

Giving your time and energy to the cause / Participating in the different events, visits to the orphanages / Participating and carrying out the purchases of food, toys and donations / Bing e a source of proposals to help the association vary its activities in order to help find more partners and funds to help the orphanages we visit. 

How does one sponsor an orphan? 

At the time, 2 orphanages had set up a system to put the orphan in contact with the future sponsors. Those who come through our bi-annual visits(Christmas tree and the beginning of the school year) generally have the opportunity to meet the children and, through the person in charge of the orphanage and through bonding, to get closer to sponsor.

We have also set up correspondence between the children and the association which we publish on the site. Those who were touched by the writings of the orphans could get in touch with us from the site, and then we served as a relay with the child via the orphanage concerned (exchanges of letters, donations, contribution to his schooling...).

There are public schemes as well as associations that do a great job in the field, without necessarily enjoying a great deal of notoriety. 

What actions can be taken in this respect? 

How many young people have you helped since the birth of Melting Pot Development?

The action can be to group together to form a collective of associations. 

And then to act together in a sustainable way. Synergies have already been made with other associations concerning Melting Pot Development but too often on an ad hoc basis. Without saying that we have rescued, which would be too strong a word in relation to our actions, since our creation we have followed a hundred young people (170) spread over 4 orphanages in Cameroon, a nursery in Senegal, and punctual actions with street children in Congo Brazzaville.

Linda-Grâce KOUVOUAMA

Can you present yourself?

Linda KOUVOUAMA, I joined MPD during 2010 as Deputy Communications Officer before becoming its Secretary General, from 2012 to date. MPD is a nice way to give extra meaning to what I consider to be a second life today following the civil wars I was blessed to survive.

To which age group do the association's orphans belong?

They are on average 5 years old. We were able to meet children under 2 years old and others over 16 years old (but they are in a minority). The most representative age group is about 5 to 7 years old.

Are there public policies and/or associative actions in favour of orphans in countries where Melting Pot Development is already active? 

What difficulties do they face?

I would tend to focus on associative actions than on projects carried out by public institutions in the countries where we operate. For the simple reason that, to date, we have collaborated more with numerous associations than with public structures. 

Having said that, whether in France or in the African countries where we carry out projects, the main difficulty faced by partner associations is obviously financial. 

Finding the means to finance their projects is a permanent challenge for us as well as for these associations; membership fees, crowdfunding campaigns or calls for donations are among the sources of funding set up within these associations. On the other hand, the associations we met with also have to face the need to sustain membership as long as possible. Conducting associative projects in addition to personal and professional projects is also a real challenge.

How has this experience benefited you personally?

A permanent reminder that mutual aid is the most enriching thing for both the giver and the receiver.

How do you help these young people to rebuild their lives?

By devoting time to them, by listening to them confide in you. We don't pretend to do everything we can to help them "heal" from their trauma; on the other hand, the time we spend with them, checking up on them, simply taking an interest in them, really helps a lot to remind them that they matter to us.

What made you committed to fighting for the most disadvantaged? 

A personal story: having survived two civil wars and knowing what it's like not to eat a balanced diet, losing everything you own and starting all over again. 

What have been the most striking actions since the creation of the association?

There are so many of them... Road trips come first for me. And all the fundraising actions: The charity opera, collaborations with other associative structures....

What is your most memorable memory since the creation of the association? 

The welcome of the children in the orphanages and especially the one in Dorcas in Tiko; the children always receive us with great tenderness and joy. 

How would you sum up your various initiatives? 

Over the years we have developed and improved an efficient way of carrying out projects to the end. A real methodology that benefits the orphans. 

This has also led us to collaborate on many occasions with companies such as Total and Vox Africa.

Pechens OWONA

If you had a message to pass on to the black diaspora?

 There is no "little help", it is with a grain of sand that you can make a beach. Street children and orphanages need - even more so this year 2020 - a mobilisation (toothbrushes, shoes, books...). 

As soon as you have the opportunity to send something to Cameroon, don't hesitate! 

What is your action calendar for the year 2021? 

Your future projects? For 2021, in addition to our usual activities (Christmas tree, New Year's Day, Women's Day, the start of the school year) and if the health context allows it, we want to organise the ROAD Trip (social tourism which consists of visiting several towns in Cameroon and making donations to orphanages in each of these towns).

What dimension would you like to give to Melting Pot Development in the short, medium and long term?

In the long term we would like to boost our actions in other African countries, particularly Senegal, Congo and Gabon.

How can you become a member of Melting Pot Development?

The most "practical" way is to contact us through the online form on our website. It goes without saying that we collect as much information as possible on the good faith of the person making the request. Working with children implies a certain commitment and common values shared with the rest of the members of the association.

This may seem demanding, and for good reason, we owe it to the children; but it is mainly due to experience because in the past, many people have wanted to join the association, following projects carried out in collaboration with personalities. 

The interest of some of these people at that time was more "people" oriented than projects for children.

What is the situation of orphans in Africa?

The situation of orphans in Africa for some of them is rather precarious due to the lack of means.

In your opinion, is it necessary to adapt existing public systems or create new ones?

It would be necessary to adapt the existing public systems but also to create new ones.

A final word to describe your association? What do you aspire to?

Melting Pot Development, as its name suggests, is a melting pot of cultures, ideas, people, opinions, religions for one and the same goal: Development!

What can we wish you as we approach the new year 2021?

Peace and above all that the pandemic that hit us so hard in 2020 will be no more than a bad memory.

We warmly thank Line Christelle, Linda and Pechens for this cross-examination of the conditions of orphans in Africa, and in Cameroon in particular.

Link to website: https://www.melting-pot-development.com/