Behind the scenes of our Cameroon appeal – hear from the people in the pictures

Take a look behind the scenes of a recent ethical storytelling workshop at Minawao, Refugee Camp in Cameroon.

15 May 2023

Three women looking at paperwork in Cameroon

At ShelterBox we are passionate about leading the way in ethical storytelling. We challenge ourselves to always put people, and the issues they face, at the heart of what we do.

So when the opportunity arose to visit Minawao Refugee Camp, and share our Cameroon appeal back with the women who are featured, we grabbed it with both hands.

Throughout 2022, we took a more long-term approach to our storytelling. Over a 6-month period we regularly visited Kaltoumi W, Kaltoumi B and Dogidem, three women who have all received ShelterBox support in Minawao camp. But we wanted to talk to them about so much more than this. Covering themes such as climate change, livelihoods, agriculture, community, and so much more, we really got to know the group on a much more personal level, allowing us to create impactful, meaningful and engaging content which you can read today in our Cameroon emergency appeal.

So as a matter of first introductions, Kaltoumi B produces a local wine called ‘bilibili,’ which we learnt about the production of, Kaltoumi W owns a piece of land which she cultivates to help feed her family and enjoys relaxing in Minawao’s green and shady spaces and Dogidem owns and runs a small shop in the camp where she enjoys meeting with her customers every market day.

After getting to know Kaltoumi W, Kaltoumi B and Dogidem through several interviews, it was an amazing experience to finally meet face-to-face to share exactly how we had used their stories and to listen to their thoughts and feedback.


Three women in Cameroon sitting and looking at paperwork featuring their stories as part of ethical storytelling work

We wanted to understand first-hand if our fundraising messaging felt like an accurate representation of their lives in Minawao camp. We wanted to see and test if the content we had curated, and the images we had chosen, felt like a true portrayal of their life experiences. We also wanted to ask questions to understand if we are getting our consent process right, and to see if we could change anything that could be missing from the campaign.


Three women talking to a man and a lady inside in Cameroon as part of an ethical storytelling workshop

We organised a focus group discussion held in a community centre within Minawao Camp. With the help of an excellent translator, we firstly had the appeal translated into two local languages, Haussa and Mafa, so that the women could understand what had been written about them. We then wrote the questions which we used as a guide for the session. Being careful to keep the questions open ended, we worked with our local partner (Public Concern), and with a local translator, to guarantee that the questions would be understood by Kaltoumi W, Kaltoumi B and Dogidem.

How did it go?

Three women standing outside in Cameroon holding documents that tell their stories to be used in a Cameroon appeal

As soon as we shared the physical campaign documents, the women were clapping, laughing and talking excitedly between each-other. As we worked through the focus group questions, it quickly became clear that everyone was happy with how their words and photos had been used, and they had a good understanding as to how and why it was important for their stories to be shared in this way.

There are so many incredible bits of feedback, but to share just a few:

Kaltoumi B: our cry has gone far to other people we don’t know.

Dodigem: What you have written is what we have said. None of our words are being replaced with others. We have seen from the beginning the assistance that is being given to us by ShelterBox. I think our words that we have shared have gone far, and through this, maybe people can assist.

Kaltoumi W: Seeing our pictures here is a sign of elevating people from the problems they have faced before. Also our pictures will go far and wide and know that we are here at Minawao.

What did we learn?

We have learnt a great deal from running this session. As the Cameroon fundraising campaign is being launched in May 2023, we have been able to review our appeal and make changes based on the feedback. For example, Dogidem told us her favourite images were those with her children, so we were able to swap out the imagery we originally had used of her in the appeal for pictures with her children.

Not only have we been able to make specific tweaks, but more broadly we have learnt a great deal about the process, planning and running of content focus group discussions to help us push forward to be able to replicate this piece of work in our other country responses around the world.

To see behind the scenes, watch this video: