A life lesson.
Marius Makebwagah, a member of the Cameroonian tribe-community Bamenda, located in the English speaking region in north-east Republic of Cameroon, a country wedged in West and Central Africa, was born in 1985. He is 33-years old and has a remarkable story, a lesson of life to tell humanity.
Marius was my driver during my recent invitation to Cameroon to be an international election observer during the recent Cameroon presidential election that took place on October 7, 2018.
I noticed him for his shy demeanor, his dedication to the job he was assigned to perform, his protective comportment and his so out of place view on life when we got to make acquaintance over dinner one evening.
I saw a very special man, beyond his outstanding driving skill. And in Cameroon one has to have an outstanding driving skill because there are no street lights to direct traffic so the traffic directs itself in a chaotic rhythm; the roads’ surface is mostly mud, or asphalt full of potholes; the pedestrians get under one’s moving car and there is no right or left traffic rule, rather, watch your road for traffic coming at you from all directions. A true commuting mess. There are no street addresses nor Waze or Google Map Smart Phone system to guide you for a location’s direction.
And so, I decided to introduce Marius to the world, a world that does not know such life, as in Cameroon, even exists.
When anyone who lives in a privileged society, complains about anything, I suggest taking a moment to think about Marius Makebwagah. His reality is so much different and he does not complain. Rather, be like Marius Makebwagah and think forward, day by day, how to make life – yours and the people around you – better.
When Marius’ father decided to abandon his commitment to pay for his 7 children’s education, his mother had to decide who will go to school and who will not. Marius, then 15-years-old, and attending junior high, dropped out of school because he wanted his younger siblings to at least know how to read and write.
Then Marius’ work journey began, starting with pushing a wheel barrel in his village, in it a heave machine that grinds cassava for which he earned $14.00 that month performing the job. With $14.00 in his pocket, equal to 7,000 Central African CFA Francs, Marius headed to Buea town where his sister lived. His brother-in-law invested in him 150,000 Francs to buy and sell dresses, which saw profit of over 100% from which Marius saw very little compensation.
Emotionally exhausted, Marius returned to his village where is spent the next six months working for his uncle making building blocks and earning equal to $30.00 a month. Out of that $30.00 he gave $4.00, more than 10% of his income, to his mother to buy oil, which they use in Cameroon for cooking, so his siblings could have hot meals.
Marius’ uncle then set him up with an independent contractor’s job in Yaoundé city. His employer had a bar where Marius worked from 8:00PM-till-02:00AM and earned equivalent to between $6.00-to-$8.00; upon arriving at what he called home, he would wash his employer’s car, then catch a nap and at 6:00AM he would go back to work as a technical assistant, walking 10 kilometers each way and earning equivalent to $20.00 a week.
From the little money Marius earned he managed to save some, even if he had to deprive himself of food, in order to be able to send as much money as possible back home to his mother so she could take care of the family.
One day, through a friend, Marius has the opportunity to be interviewed by the Israel Embassy Chief of Security and was hired first as a personal driver to the Chief, based on commission and irregularities of assignments. Being as good as he is, today Marius is a full-time employee with a stable income.
With that mindset stability, Marius who does not want to see any child out of school at an early age as he was, sends money to his village for ten kids to attend school, at the cost of $30.00 per child, annually. Unfortunately, with the separatism unrest in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, caused by the Anglophobe separatists in the north-west and south-west where Marius’s village is located, schools have been closed for two years. That breaks his heart.
For six years Marius was in love and then his long-term girlfriend left him and his heart was shattered. His mother found him a lady to marry and on a rebound he did.
Now married with two children of his own, 4 and 2-year old and two adopted children, 9 and 7-year old from his wife’s previous marriage, Marius has taken upon himself larger than life responsibilities, a remarkable nature of caring about the other person first, his own community. He wants to help change his community. He does not want to see anyone going through the lack of education, fighting for survival experience, as he did.
Marius also wants his community to change their life perspective; teach the goodness of life and that life is an ongoing development and much room for change and improvement.
Marius keeps on seeking for the right road, the path on which his community can walk towards a better future and his dream is to at least obtain his high school matriculation certificate.
It is worthwhile mentioning here that while I traveled the country as an election observer, I also had military personnel, First Sergeant Eric O, who secured my travel. Eric too could not afford to go on with higher education after he graduated high school and he chose a military career to at least have a stable income which provides for his family. Eric’s dream is to obtain a BA degree, for which he can study while serving in the military, but his funds to achieve this goal are scarce and so are universities which he could attend.
Strong and street smart, with a heart of gold, Marius Makebwagah’s dream is to start his own construction company in order for his kids to have a guaranteed starting job and have a better future.
As of today, following our talks and guided by my encouraging words, Marius is taking night classes to obtain his secondary school certification.
In the Jewish culture there is a word, mensch, meaning a person of integrity and honour. This word is now commonly used and is totally applicable to Marius Makebwagah.
Cameroon is a poor country and living conditions are unimaginable for a person who lives in a Western civilization society. Amidst that poverty, there are exceptionally charitable people like Marius.
Remember that when you complain about nothing.