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Mayor from Cameroon pays a visit to Central Illinois

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

East Peoria’s City Council got a visit from another Mayor last week. Mayor Denis Ndang flew more than 6,000 miles from Fundong, a county in Cameroon with a population around 200,000 people.

Mayor Ndang came to Peoria to visit his relative, Oliver Kah, who’s finishing his Master’s in social work at Illinois State University. Kah immigrated to the U.S. in 2012 and has since graduated from Bradley University and become a U.S. citizen. 

Credit Facebook
Denis Ndang, mayor of the Fundong Commune in Cameroon.

The mayor says during his stay, he paid close attention to Peoria’s social services, infrastructure and school system.

“We are in a system where we are still struggling to put our services in place, and you are quite advanced," Ndang said. "We have a lot to learn from you and to implement back home.”

Ndang says he spent the trip with his eyes wide open, taking in ideas to implement back home. But the Mayor says he wasn’t expecting to see a wealth disparity in Peoria.

“Here, some people have maybe a bit too much, and I see some people who don’t have," Ndang said. "With us, we are organized in a way that those who have help those who don’t have.

The Mayor says his town of Fundong is governed like a family where the wealthy chip in and help the poor if they need assistance, such as paying for school tuition or healthcare. 

"There is a lack of solidarity here in Peoria," Oliver Kah said. "I don't even know my neighbor."

Kah and Oliver agree Peoria would do well to build bonds in the community that are more inclusive of those with lower incomes and the elderly. Kah plans to continue his work with seniors at the Center for Youth and Family Solutions in Peoria after finishing his degree.

"In Cameroon, the elderly people are everything to us because they did a lot to bring us up," Kah said. "I want to make sure they leave this world in respect and in dignity."

Ndang says he hopes to take his travel experience back home to develop economic ties between his mostly agrarian community and Peoria.

Cameroon gained independence in 1960. The country continues to seek foreign investment to diversify its economy, improve its infrastructure, and create jobs.