Puente Zerca y Lejos

 

We invite you to learn more about our history, and how, year by year, step by step, we have grown and we are going further every time.

 

OUR BEGININGS

 
  • After a period of gestation, on 24 April 2001 at 8:00 pm the association Zerca y Lejos is born. The parents of the creature: María Rebollo and Francis Guzmán.
  • On 24 June 2001, Maria and Francis make the first trip to Cameroon without imagining the many volunteers who would repeat it later.
  • Mamá Lilliane and Père Gerard welcome us and welcome the Bengbis with an open heart and many projects in mind.
  • The "monkey of Bengbis" is the only monument of the town and is, without a doubt, the most photographed animal among all the volunteers.
  • The first logo includes the idea of the association acting as a bridge linking societies and people beyond distances and differences.
  • The number of volunteers is constantly growing until it reachs the average of 100 volunteers going every year to the land.
  • In 2004 we receive sad news, Père Gerard dies.
  • We make the first trips to the Far North province of the country. The situation is critical, so we decide to intervene building two wells in 2008.
  • The Bengbis dispensary is a reference center in the area for the childbirth management of Mama Lilliane, and because it is the only center in which the Bakas are treated with dignity.
  • March 8 is a day that is widely celebrated in Cameroon: women take public space and become the protagonists (only one day a year).

A FEW YEARS AGO

 
  • Through the project "water for all", we build wells, condition springs, fix fountains... with the aim of making the human right to water become a reality in many villages in the forest.
  • The oral health program is gaining strength. We open clinics in our dispensaries, we train Baka pygmies and refugees from the far north, we work in collaboration with the university and the first dental students promotion, and we receive national recognition awards in Spain.
  • In 2009 a group of volunteers makes the move ... to Cameroon. They are going to live there for several years. Volunteering of Long Stay begins, for which more than 15 people have already passed.
  • More and more baka pygmies are joining our local team.
  • In 2010 ... We released our new logo! From that moment, our lives are coloured with orange and green.
  • In 2011 we are recognized as Public Utility Entity.
  • Every year we performed surgery on more than 200 people who couldn't dream of doing it in a local hospital, since surgeries use to cost the salary of a whole year.
  • We are working to ensure that communities generate their own resources with agricultural projects. The most common crops: corn, peanut, cassava, and plantain.
  • We hold at least two general assemblies a year in which more than 50 people of different origins participate, currently: Spain, Cameroon, Chile and Senegal.
  • Every year, a ship loaded with dreams heads for the Cameroonian jungle, bringing pencils, computers, books, cars, solar panels, surgical material and a long etcetera of grateful donations.
  • Expanding horizons! We extend towards the east of Cameroon, the Sub-departments of Djoum, Mintom, Oveng and Meyomessi. We assume the management of 3 new dispensaries, 3 primary schools and 25 community preschools to go much further.

OUR RECENT HISTORY

 
  • 2013 leaves a deep hole in our hearts. Mama Lilliane leaves us after decades of energy, struggle and tireless work for the poorest. Lilliane, you still live in us.
  • Antoine Bouba, a professor at the University of Maroua, Cameroon, has been one of the most active volunteers for many years. In 2016 he comes to Spain to hold a conference on Boko Haram, the terrorist group that terrorizes the country.
  • In some of the Baka communities where we work, infant mortality is over 47%. The Baka Maternal and Child Health project struggles to reduce this injustice.
  • Extractive companies are one of the greatest threats to the forest and its first settlers: the Baka. The carcasses of ancestral trees end up as nightstands in Europe.
  • Except for some exceptions, the Baka are still considered inferior beings by their Bantu neighbors. Even in the 21st century, the relationship of semi-slavery is maintained.
  • The Bagyeli pygmy communities live on the coast of Cameroon and suffer an even greater abandonment than their Baka brothers: disrespectful tourism, oil, large palm and rubber plantations... are suffocating them to the point of ending with their lives.
  • Zerca y Lejos team is multidisciplinary and multicultural: more than 100 workers in the field, 4 expatriates, 3 workers in headquarters, more than 150 volunteers ... all fighting for the same cause: making the world a fairer and better place for everyone.
  • Boko Haram terrorists kill dozens of people every day, burn schools and recruit illiterate youth in the Far North of Cameroon. We rise up against injustice by offering pencils for bullets and keeping operative the only primary school in the Tourou Region.
  • The greatest handyman in ZyL proposes a challenge: transforming a dilapidated office-storage room into the most beautiful and cozy headquarters that we could imagine. The result... is worth seeing!
  • Luck is on our side and Chema Caballero says "yes, yes I want to write a book with Zerca y Lejos". The incredible result: "Edjengui se ha dormido”, a sincere and close vision of the Baka pygmies situation through their own testimonies.
  • We keep growing and improving. Proof of this is that for the first time we have a humble headquarters in Yaoundé where we can centralize our work and serve as a meeting and awareness point for volunteers from "Zerca" and "Lejos".
  • The impressive Mekin dam is being built. It will leave part of the Dja Reserve flooded, as well as hundreds of people there.
  • A group of volunteers makes a trip to identify needs in the Department of Loreto, Peru with the aim of supporting our sister NGO, Suyay.
  • Zerca y Lejos reaches 1,000 partners who believe in our project.
  • A coordination committee is formed in Cameroon, made up entirely of Cameroonian volunteers and workers. They are responsible for taking the reins of the project management, strategic alliances, communication and representation.