The founder and promoter of RECEWAPEC, Prince Bengha Ngonchia Martin, developed interest in older persons issues, while he served as a Navigator at the Marine Merchant, through the numerous visits he made to older persons and older person’s homes in Germany and other European countries.
The relationships he developed with the older persons in Europe enabled him to be collecting gifts from them, which he shared with the poor and needy elderly whenever he visited his home community in Belo, in North West Region, Cameroon. When Prince left the navigation profession and returned fully to Cameroon in 1995, he created the Regional Center for Human Welfare and Agro Development (RECEHWEDEV), through which he set out to engage the older persons themselves in self-promotion and livelihood sustainable activities, such as gardens for tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, etc. These items, including locally-produced palm oil, were also offered to the older persons in the community, who were too poor to fend for themselves.
When the African Coordinator for HelpAge International visited Cameroon in 2000, the center was identified and engaged as a HelpAge affiliate. With the assistance of a staff sent from the HelpAge International office, the center moved office from Belo and was re-established at the present site in Bamenda, in the North West region of Cameroon, where it was easier to communicate abroad. From a HelpAge International recommendation in 2001, the center was restructured and the name was changed to the Regional Center for the Welfare of Ageing Persons in Cameroon (RECEWAPEC).In Cameroon the elderly represent recently an increasingly important proportion of the general population. In Cameroon, people aged over 60 years account for 5% of the total population, which implies 4.8% of the male population and 5.2% of the female population. In the North West Region of Cameroon, the number of elderly is estimated at 102,012 people (51.4% of them are female).
The elderly (60 and older) are more particularly represented in rural areas (6.5%) than in urban areas (3.4%). The total population of Cameroon is 20,436,808 while that of the North West Region is 1,900,547 (51% female), from 2013 estimates. Over 90% of the elderly are household heads who, despite their age, bear the burden of the household which is greatly impoverishing. Rural exodus of the younger generation, leaving behind the elderly, who, already handicapped by age has a heavy toll on the elderly, as they are compelled to work to fill the gap caused by the labour deficiency. This greatly affects the physical health of the elderly, as well as their mental state, especially when the children of the elderly grow up and leave home to settle in their new homes because of marriage or loneliness caused by the loss of the spouse of an elderly person.
In Cameroon, 90% of older people live alone. Among those who do not live alone, most host small children. Out of 10 members of a household headed by an old person, about 6 are children or young people, who are either offspring of the children of the elderly who have gone in search of greener pastures of orphans of family members who died from HIV/AIDS.
The Regional Center for RECEWAPEC is a non-governmental organization with headquarters at Bambui – Fonta road, in the North West region of Cameroon that works with and for the elderly persons, in partnership with the government and other stakeholders at home and abroad. Created with the opportunity of creating and expanding IGAs (bee farming, pig farming, poultry, gardening, fish farming, mushroom cultivation etc.) to improve the livelihood of the elderly persons and the community, lobby and advocate for the formulation and implementation of policies and rights for the elderly; advocates for appropriate health care schemes and adequate services to cater for elderly persons; as well as offering training programs for community personnel and volunteers.
RECEWAPEC has set up an Eye Care Center in Bambui and hopes to extend these services to the other regions of Cameroon, in a bid to improve the standard of living of the disadvantaged vulnerable elderly persons. More than 20,000 older persons have been served in Cameroon through this initiative.