By Divine Kowa and Emma Lamberton

Kumba, Cameroon — At Open Field, we are committed to developing strong families. Tatabot Divine is incredibly supportive of his daughter’s participation in our programs and supports her involvement any way he can.

“When my youngest child was eight years old, I was forced to go to work full time so we could pay our bills and survive. As a latchkey kid myself, I did not want my children to have the same experience I’d had as a child,” Divine said.

Because of the overwhelming instability in Cameroon, families are often separated due to violence or necessity. Even when present, parents themselves have endured incredible trauma, which often impacts their ability to parent. There are over 500,000 widows in Cameroon, 86% of whom experience moderate to severe PTSD, far exceeding PTSD levels found in general samples of African women.

Divine believes that a parent’s role is to provide for the physical wellbeing of a child, to teach the child morals and personal values, and to provide emotional support, love and protection. However, he understands that, despite their desire to do so, the vast majority of Cameroonian parents are unable to provide fully for their children.

“I resented not being able to be at home with my children while they were still young,” said Divine.

“Several things happened to my children that would not have happened had I been home.”

He is proud to acknowledge the impact of Open Field in the life of his daughter who is his first child. He said he noticed a change in her.

“I asked her where her new positive outlook and direction had come from, and she told me about a new program she was attending,” he said of Open Field.

When parents are absent, Open Field provides youth with a safe environment to be encouraged by mentors, and to participate in a positive structure and community.

However, Open Field wants to strengthen parents, not replace them. Open Field’s curriculum incorporates and includes parents and families into our community building activities, including pre and post program celebrations, as well as encourages positive parent presence at the field.