Cameroon is nothing like you can imagine. If you have ever asked the question “Why Cameroon?” when you hear about the Himalayan Institute Community Center (HICC), the answer lies just as you step off the plane. Vegetation is lush and green in all directions. Off in the distance on the hillsides you can see farmers working in their fertile fields. Breathtaking.

By plane we traveled nearly 18 hours to reach Cameroon from the US. Add another 10-hour drive by van to cover the distance between the Doula Airport and HICC in Kumbo—a long but rewarding journey.

The next day we traveled to a great handicrafts market. We discovered masks and many other wooden carved items made by local craftsmen. The most exciting discovery was finding artisans making metal sculpture. On the side of a dirt road, they had just pulled metal from the fire and were using a hammer and chisel to reveal the treasure deep inside.

We continued on to Kumbo and as we arrived at HICC we were greeted with open arms. As someone who has been with the Institute for more than a decade I knew that the center would be great. I’d seen pictures and heard stories, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw that day.

Everything was amazing. You can see the Himalayan Institute logo everywhere—on the entryway to the center, the gate, the sign, all the way down to the painted trash cans that read “Helping Keep Kumbo Clean.” We were greeted by the locals with “You are welcome” before we even had a chance to say anything. On our morning walk we met students on their way to HICC’s Total Health classes dressed much like they were going to church.

The land behind the community center holds a nursery that is used for experimenting with different ways to grow plants and trees. You can find the herb artemisia (used to cure malaria), castor, and Pongamia pinnata trees growing nicely in the fertile soil.