John Tanyi is part of the CTF-SOS DRS team on the ground in Haiti responding to the earthquake. He has spent most of his time doing mobile medical work first at Cazeau (Port au Prince) and in an IDP camp not far from our base.
Here is John in his own words –
A BRIEF PERSONAL HISTORY
“My name is Nquah Lebui John Tanyi, and I am a Cameroonian by nationality. I was born on July 3, 1984 to the family of Tanyi Ake Francis and Angela Bikelle Tanyi who are both still alive and based in Cameroun.
I come from a large family of eight, before the unfortunate passing on of two of my siblings, Magdalene Tanyi Nanga and Api Rita Tanyi in the year 1999 and 2005 respectively. My eldest brother Sixtus serves in the Cameroon military and is presently based in Koutaba. Aurelien Tanyi, another elder brother of mine, runs a small business in Douala, Cameroon. Lilian is now my eldest sister after the death of Magdalene, and she lives and works in Oslo, Norway. I am the immediate follower of Loveline, who recently travelled to Lebanon for a field experience. Baiye is our youngest brother , and upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences two years ago, he now teaches in Bishop Rogan Minor Seminary in the South Western Province of Cameroon.
My father is an Anglophone Cameroonian who served as a headmaster in both Catholic and government-run schools for close to forty years before eventually retiring in 2008. He now does part-time teaching in one of the private schools in our small neighborhood (just to keep fit). My mother was a laboratory technician for several years with the government of Cameroon. Upon retiring from active work a couple of years ago, she began to run a small pharmacy.
I now study and lives in Nairobi, Kenya. I did my primary, secondary and high school education in Cameroon. Since my father was a Catholic school teacher, I passed through Catholic schools. I had the privilege of studying in the oldest secondary school in Anglophone Cameroon (St. Joseph’s College, Sasse) founded in 1939 by the early Mill Hill Missionaries, who eventually evangelized the then British Southern Cameroon, upon the expulsion of the Germans from Cameroon in the aftermath of World War I.
After completing my high school education (2002) with my Advanced Levels Certificate, I joined the Mill Hill Formation Program for the Catholic Priesthood. I did a year of basic formation (2002-3) in Bamenda, Cameroon, before proceeding to Uganda for a Bachelors of Arts (Philosophy) as part of the Mill Hill Formation Program. I did spend three successful years in Jinja, Uganda (2003-2006).
During my time in Uganda, I taught English in some primary schools. I did also work with the youth, during which time we organized youth rallies, seminars and workshops among others.
An unforgettable experience was my time with an NGO called St. Francis Health Centre. St. Francis Health Centre looks after the needs of HIV/AIDS victims in Jinja district, Uganda. We ran a mobile clinic where we offered house-to-house visitation of the HIV/AIDS victims. We did offer voluntary testing and counseling (VCT), as well as sensitization and mobilization programs, that is, raising awareness of the dangers of loose living and the ever-lurking presence of the AIDS epidemic. I was on the counseling team and did pre and post counseling for our VCT program.
As part of my pastoral assignment I did some prison apostolate in Mbale Central Prison. During this time, I duly assisted the prison’s chaplain, Fr. Hans Smeets (MHM), in the various activities we carried out in the prison. As part of my apostolate in the prison, I visited the prisoners every week, assisted in the preparations for the celebration of the Eucharist, did offer some counseling to the prisoners, organized sporting activities such as football among others.
In 2006, as part of the formation program, I was posted to the Coastal Province of Kenya (Malindi diocese), for what is commonly referred to as Missionary Experience Program (MEP) or starche. I was in the Malindi Diocese for two remarkable years. MEP is a period aimed at helping future Mill Hillers get a direct feel of the missionary life in a practical parish milieu.
During my years in the very remote village of Witu in Malindi, I took part in a range of activities albeit not becoming a factotum. I did moral instruction in some schools. I was in charge of the youth activities in the life of the parish and together with the youth, we did seminars, youth rallies, fundraising, camping among others. I also did house-to-house visitations in Witu village and subsequently began a small Christian community there and together with the people of the village,. We built a small bamboo church for worship and fellowship.
Because there were many of Christians in Witu who had not received the Sacrament of the Eucharist since they were not married in Church, I engaged myself with the task of preparing some of them for the Sacrament of Matrimony. Subsequently, we had many group weddings in the parish.
I also did some social work with a Catholic linked NGO called Afya II. Afya is a Kiswahili word for health. We worked with the HIV/AIDS victims, offered some counseling, did follow ups to make sure they regularly took their drugs, as well as distributing relief food to them and victims of natural and man-made disasters in Witu.
I did enjoy my time in Witu. The local people are a fine group. I did cherish every moment working with them. The Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph were our good collaborators, but working with my parish priest, a German from South Tyrol, was not very easy. At the end of my two years’ experience in Witu, I began reevaluating my vocation with the Mill Hill Missionaries. I did not feel very comfortable with certain things within the congregation, and in a meeting I had with one of my formators before the end of my MEP I was advised to join the Society of Jesus (JESUITS) – the reason being that I am seemingly gifted in academics: I have always been at the top of my class – from my primary school days, and was the best student in terms of academics during my bachelors of arts (philosophy) in Uganda Martyrs University (Nkozi). During my time in the University I served as the sport captain since I love football and I’m seemingly a gifted footballer. I also served in different capacities in the formation house. Among others, I was a librarian, chairman of the house (beadle), editor of our local magazine and not forgetting serving as the barman.
Well, God knows the future and since He who created me without me cannot save me without me (St. Augustine), I have to play my own part in the drama.
Hopes and Aspirations for Haiti
In August 2008 I enrolled in the Jesuit Institute for Peace Studies and International Relations in Nairobi, Kenya. It is a four semester masters program. Our class boasts of members from all the corners of Africa as well as certain parts of Asia – including China and Indonesia.
During a discussion with one of my classmates from Indonesia (Theresia Sinaga), inter alia, she mentioned to me that she would be going to work in Haiti during the summer break. Haiti stole the headlines of most of the newspapers at the beginning of this year because of the unfortunate earthquake, which hit one of the poorest countries in the world.
For several weeks, thanks to the so called CNN Factor (instantaneous relay of news from one part of the globe to another), I followed pathetically on television, the situation in Haiti. During my discussion with Theresia, she told me that I might go to Haiti with her to have an experience with her organization. She asked me to think and pray about it. I initially took her offer as a joke, I did my home work, though, and went to the website and blog of SOS Doctors to read more about the organization.
Being informed by the charism of the Camillian missionaries as lived out by St. Camillus in responding to the needs of the sick, I felt touched by some of the testimonies of the members and volunteers of this organization. Inspired by them I felt the urgency to do the same.
Just in time I did mention to Theresia my intention of going to Haiti under the guardianship of her organization, SOS Doctors. Thank God, she presented my request to the hierarchy of the organization and fortunately enough, after some deliberations, they accepted that I could travel with Theresia to Haiti and have an experience with the organization.
I am in Haiti at the moment and many things continuously run through my mind. I have not seen a country as badly hit as Haiti. Upon my arrival at Port au Prince Airport two Haitians and a German lady, a member of Lands Aid, were there to receive us. As we drove through the streets of Haiti Serge, one of the Haitians, among others, told me that there is a slogan which runs through the country – ‘Haiti has hit rock bottom’ and the country could not be worse than its present state. Seemingly, I shall be in Haiti for a period of 2-3 months. I do have my hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears for Haiti.
I hope in my own petit way under the guardianship of SOS Doctors, I may be able to touch the lives of at least a few Haitians in line with the activities of the organization. I do hope I will have the chance to participate in the projects of the organization during my time in Haiti, all for the betterment of the life of the Haitians and mankind.
Talking with one of the Haitian doctors, I was asked ‘how long do you think it will take for this country to be rebuilt?’ I responded – maybe 5 years. He was very surprised and said it will probably take about 10years at a minimum. For sure, I am not going to rebuild Haiti myself nor bring back the half a million Haitians who lost their lives in the earthquake. Many families are devastated and people are living with scars of sorrow and pain because of the death of their loved ones. I just hope to accompany some of the Haitians during this hard moment and to listen to their stories if given the chance by the organization. The earthquake for sure was a life changing experience for many Haitians and as usual, many people with broken hearts just want people who can listen to their stories.
Furthermore, I do hope that during my time in Haiti I shall be able to know and learn more about SOS Doctors. I have read about the organization on their various sites and seemingly, this is the time to get a first hand experience with this organization.
I employ the Most Holy Mother of God, St. Camillus and Francis of Assisi to guide and protect me during my time in Haiti. May I always be inspired by the faith of holy men and women. May Christ continue to bless the members and volunteers of SOS Doctors and bless a hundred fold the generosity of the donors and benefactors of this organization.