Ruth & the entire Bamela Engo Family

Subject: Re: Honorable Gwendoline Burnley

Dear Dr. Martin,
I just returned to Yaounde from the villages where we work and got the sad news: the passing of a great Human being, Honorable G. Burnley!  This is devastating news, not only for your important family but also for many others like myself who were coached by her.

I first met her in the early 70s, when I was in the process of joining the Cameroon civil service.  She had just moved from the West Cameroon House of Assembly to the National Parliament in Yaounde. Based on our families long time friendly relationships, I was honored to meet her after the Military Service that was an important step before integration.  She wanted to know what happened during military training.  As I finished telling the story, mostly insisting on difficult aspects, she said with a serious face: THAT’s REAL LIFE SCHOOL!  Then she continued: lessons learned from this training will be the best guide of your career because they are based on concrete/real problems to be solved daily when managing a large group of people. That is also a real strategy to make new civil servants physically and mentally strong.

The second major meeting with Honorable Burnley was after resolving my first major labour strike in a company of 200 employees with a foreign employer near the then  "Victoria town",  today Limbe!  I ended up being locked the whole night in the company because the employer wasn’t happy with my logic.  After listening once again, she said 2 things: a) That I should be prepared to learn that the name Victoria will soon change, to adopt a name linked with local history; b)That I should keep in mind that the business world still expects Cameroon women professionals to act NICE, not Professional. But she concluded that acting Professional is a heavy-duty that should be rooted ONLY on COMPETENCE!

I will miss this “ February Girl “ as she called me, whenever we met.  It’s therefore with great heaviness of heart that I say: RESPECT and GOODBYE!  I regret her departure at this time of the World Transition when humanity needs a Positive Behavior Contamination...

Ruth and the entire Bamela Engo family.

Soroptimists International, Cameroon

Members of Soroptimist in Cameroon referred to her as “Best Sister Gwen Burnley”. The word Soroptimist is Latin – Soror means “Sister” and Optimist means” Best”. “Best Sister Gwen’ pioneered most things in Cameroon especially Soroptimist in Cameroon. This International organization was introduced to by a relation from Nigeria. The International Organization for women serving underprivileged women, girls, and children. There are four Federations worldwide and the fifth will be in Africa.  As a Philanthropist and Soroptimist member, she organized and created the first Soroptimist Club in Limbe and in the nation. Their first project was a school built in Middle Farm for the children of plantation workers. The school is still functional, she continued with a leisure center for children in the Botanic gardens and an Eco center in the same garden. She taught the new members how to be selfless and hardworking.  The club of Limbe with “Best Sister Gwen’ as President, extended Soroptimism to the North West. The Bamenda Club established a home for physically challenged children. The club she established was the Buea club. Their project focused on capacity building and creating a network of training centers.  The Buea prison also became a hub. The Bonaberi, Douala club came next, its focus was on a Street Children’s project and was widely appraised.  A school was later built for an Adult Education center for women and earned them an International award. There is also the Kumba Club which provides Legal Aides to women in prison and last but not least the Yaoundé Club in Yaoundé’s Hilton hotel. Its Charity is assisting Tuberculosis patients at The Jamot hospital and taking care of orphans.  The club in Yaoundé pioneered the education of girls in Sciences, Technology, Women’s Rights and Feminism. The club in Yaoundé that she chartered has two international awards. These national projects were realized through the encouragement of our “Best Sister Gwen”. She was the General supervisor of our projects. We are left with her memories of hard work, a passion for projects, a passion for love and humanity, always striving to elevate the status of women and community. Being the first to recognize the plight of the poor and needy. Indeed her work is done! She has realized her goals. We are left to follow her footprints. May she rest on Christ’s bosom until we meet again, our dear friend and sister.  

Bisi Anjorin on behalf of 
Soroptimist International - Cameroon

Until We Meet Again

Dear Mummy,

I knew that day would come, and sooner than later after my last visit to Cameroon. I believed at the time when I held you and whispered "good-bye" that I was at peace come what may. Oh, how wrong I was!  As the weeks dragged by after I reluctantly left you in the care of the "village", it occurred to me as your health failed and food became inconsequential to your being that I could never say goodbye. I hurriedly bought a ticket with a departure date of 21 March from Maryland. I just had to see you again and squeeze you even tighter and hold you a bit longer.  Alas, it was not to be.  It was early Saturday morning on 07 March, when Eva delivered the news. All I could scream in my anguish was that you did not wait for me. How were you to know I was on my way when I did not tell you? It is because of your vision, determination and drive that I am who I am today. While other girls looked to movie stars and singers for their heroes, I had my hero right in front of me, day in and day out. My hero shaped me with a firm hand because Lord knows I was a handful.  Daddy reminded me of your moral character and virtue when he married you, especially when I was "acting up".  As a mother myself, I sometimes wonder how you did it with six of your own children and many others you helped raise. I thank you for bringing cousins and aunties into our home who are very consequential in my life even today.  I hope I made you proud.

Requiescat in pace.

Your daughter,