Cameroon Support Group Helps People Who Stutter The Speak Clear Association of Cameroon (SCAC) is a national support group for people who stutter in Cameroon, a country situated in the central African sub-region. SCAC is a nonprofit charity recognized by the government services in Cameroon in conformity with the laws governing formation of associations. Since October 2001, ... World Beat
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World Beat  |   October 01, 2005
Cameroon Support Group Helps People Who Stutter
Author Notes
  • Joseph Lukong Tardzenyuy, is coordinator general of SCAC, a member of the International Fluency Association, and a board member of the International Stuttering Association. He has presented workshops on stuttering worldwide and is convenor of the first-ever African Stuttering Conference to be held in Cameroon this month. Contact him at lujotar@yahoo.com.
    Joseph Lukong Tardzenyuy, is coordinator general of SCAC, a member of the International Fluency Association, and a board member of the International Stuttering Association. He has presented workshops on stuttering worldwide and is convenor of the first-ever African Stuttering Conference to be held in Cameroon this month. Contact him at lujotar@yahoo.com.×
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Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / International & Global / World Beat
World Beat   |   October 01, 2005
Cameroon Support Group Helps People Who Stutter
The ASHA Leader, October 2005, Vol. 10, 14-21. doi:10.1044/leader.WB11.10142005.14
The ASHA Leader, October 2005, Vol. 10, 14-21. doi:10.1044/leader.WB11.10142005.14
The Speak Clear Association of Cameroon (SCAC) is a national support group for people who stutter in Cameroon, a country situated in the central African sub-region. SCAC is a nonprofit charity recognized by the government services in Cameroon in conformity with the laws governing formation of associations. Since October 2001, the SCAC has been admitted as a full member of the International Stuttering Association (ISA), an umbrella group that brings together self-help movements from many countries.
The SCAC maintains very cordial relations with sister stuttering associations and other institutions concerned with stuttering in many parts of the world. Within Cameroon, SCAC also has cordial links too with many social, cultural, economic, and community-based organizations that aim to promote stuttering awareness and to defend the interests of and empower people who stutter.
Membership in the SCAC is open to people who stutter, those who have recovered and are recovering from stuttering, parents and teachers of children who stutter, spouses or partners of people who stutter, traditional healers involved in treating stuttering, medical practitioners, and other persons interested in stuttering. As of now SCAC has chapters in several localities of Cameroon with a total individual membership of about 500. It is our wish to have chapters in all the localities of Cameroon in order to fulfill our main vision, which is that of a nation that understands stuttering. Interested potential members can create an SCAC chapter with assistance from officials of already existing chapters.
History of SCAC
Stuttering support groups are a new development in Cameroon. The way the SCAC is organized takes into account the sociocultural and economic context of the environment and that may explain why SCAC support groups are run and operated differently from other stuttering support groups from other parts of the world. I might note here too that it is exactly these sociocultural and economic activities carried out by SCAC support groups that help to attract more members and to keep the groups firmly in line with the spirit of solidarity that is part of our custom and tradition. In the spirit of solidarity, for example, we come together to help members in sad times when they lose a dear one or in happy times to rejoice over a baby’s birth.
The SCAC started eight years ago as a meeting principally of members of an extended family in northwest Cameroon, two-thirds of whom stuttered. The family started a support group for themselves because of the teasing and social stigma that its members faced because they stuttered. A strong spirit of commitment and solidarity developed among the group as they explored the traditional help available to them.
Because of the progress members made, others who stuttered joined. As membership increased, organizers gave a name to the group and then decided that it also should obtain legal recognition from the government. To this end members drew up a constitution and bylaws and submitted an application to the Ministry of the Interior in Cameroon. It took a long time for official recognition to be granted as government officials saw no reason why an association for people who stutter should be created. But finally the Ministry of the Interior accorded SCAC the authorization to exist as a nonprofit, nonreligious, nontribal, and apolitical association.
SCAC support group meetings are held bimonthly on Sundays, a rest day in Cameroon during which many people do not go to their offices or farms. Meetings start at 2 p.m. and last for two to three hours depending on matters scheduled for that session.
Meetings are conducted in local dialects or Pidgin English, a kind of lingua franca spoken by many people in Cameroon. However, French and English can be used during sessions depending on the educational level of participants.
SCAC meetings require active participation from members and all are given the chance to express themselves. Even newcomers who are reluctant to speak during their first meetings are encouraged to introduce themselves briefly. SCAC believes that support group meetings are milieus where all members should feel secure and be sure that no one will laugh, tease, or interrupt when they are given the chance to talk. During meetings we encourage members to share anything they have done or are doing to improve their speech. We have books and videotapes on stuttering in our library that we hope members will borrow and then share what they have learned with SCAC members.
Group Activities
We always invite guest specialists in various areas-not necessarily stuttering-to address us. We have had specialists from our Ministry of Public Health who have spoken about HIV and AIDS, malaria and typhoid fever, tuberculosis, family planning, meningitis, community health care, and other public health issues. Experts from other local non-government organizations (NGOs) and community-based groups have spoken on economic issues such as income-generating activities, the fight against poverty, and lending and borrowing schemes. (We have a small lending and borrowing scheme that is operated as a cooperative and is supported by Strategic Humanitarian Services, a local development NGO. Members are encouraged to save regularly on the schemes and to borrow wisely. In December each year, the total of all the savings is shared out to members according to how much they saved plus some interest. This helps them in preparation for Christmas, which is a big feast here in Cameroon.)
In the social domain, we join together to mark the events-births, marriages, deaths-that affect our members. When any of these events occurs, members contribute as is stipulated in our constitution and bylaws and a date is set aside for a visit to the home of the member concerned.
Within our group, we carry out surveys aimed at sampling members’ views on certain subjects. One dealt with reasons that people join our group and why others do not find it necessary. We received diverse responses about why people join, including that support groups offer the chance to learn about new issues concerning stuttering as well as the chance to meet with people who have the same problem. It also provides the chance to sensitize people about stuttering.
Members suggested that some people who could join lack adequate information on the group’s existence. They suggested outreach to the many people who stutter in Cameroon. Others said some people who stutter do not accept that they have a problem, and others are ashamed to admit that they stutter.
We also encourage members to take part in research projects on stuttering because doing so contributes to our vision of helping the world to understand stuttering. That is why our members have participated in a genetic research project on stuttering with the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders of the American National Institutes of Health since 2002. So far about 230 members of our support group have voluntarily taken part in this research that is aimed at finding out what role genes plays in transmitting stuttering. Also, many members of our support group have taken part in the International Project on Attitudes Toward Stuttering (IPATS).
Although stuttering support groups are a relatively new development in Cameroon, there seems to be much hope for continuing development of our SCAC support group as many people from within and out of our country are very interested in and supportive of our work.
How to Start a Self-Help Group

by Jaan Pill

I have been involved in the founding of several self-help groups for people who stutter. Here are some suggestions on how to form a group:

  • Spend plenty of time planning for and publicizing the first meeting. At that meeting, choose the date for the next meeting, and dates for meetings for an entire year.

  • Ensure that all members have a sense of ownership of the group. Each person should know that she or he has a meaningful say in decision-making. Such a group is likely to continue long after the founding members have left the scene.

  • Have one person act as leader of the meetings. We have found it useful to have each member lead two or three meetings in a row, if they wish.

Other general tips for a successful support group:

  • Structured meetings have better outcomes than ones lacking a clearly defined purpose.

  • Ensure that every person who wishes to speak will speak roughly the same amount of time at each meeting.

  • Offer an open forum for sharing a wide range of viewpoints, rather than seeking to establish a consensus about how to deal with stuttering.

  • In some groups, members seek to practice their fluency skills after they have completed treatment programs. Elsewhere the focus is on helping each other in whichever way is possible.

  • Don’t expect all members to turn up for each meeting. On average about one-third of total membership will attend a typical meeting.

  • People don’t necessarily attend meetings year after year. After they get what they want from a group, some members will move on to other interests. Others, however, will become involved with volunteer work in this area for the rest of their lives.

Jaan Pill is founder of the Stuttering Association of Toronto, and co-founder of the Canadian Association for People Who Stutter, the Estonian Association for People Who Stutter, and the International Stuttering Association. Contact him at jpill@ca.inter.net

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October 2005
Volume 10, Issue 14