Texas Therapist Transforms Mental Health and Well-Being for Thousands in Cameroon

Daily Point of Light # 7846 Jul 2, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Therese Shalo-Fuh. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

As a young girl, Therese Shalo-Fuh accompanied her mother to hospitals and villages in Cameroon, assisting those in impoverished conditions. Now a clinical therapist in Round Rock, Texas, Therese’s desire to give back to her community led her to found Be The Exception Counseling Foundation (BTECF), officially registered as an NGO in 2021.

Under Therese’s leadership, BTECF offers comprehensive counseling services, including addiction, anger management, mental health, and PTSD support at its treatment center in Limbe, Cameroon. With the help of her 10 staff members, Therese develops treatment plans and counsels individuals and families.

Therese’s commitment extends beyond therapy. She connects clients with essential resources, such as job training, and provides clothing, hygiene and medical supplies, toys, glasses, books, and more to orphanages and internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by conflict, violence, persecution, or disasters.

Through BTECF, Therese has transformed not just the mental health of thousands, but the trajectory of their lives by providing the resources they need for a brighter future.

Therese provides clothing, toys, medical supplies food and educational materials for internally displaced people in Limbe, Cameroon./ Courtesy Therese Shalo-Fuh

What inspired you to start Be the Exception Counseling Foundation?

What inspired me to start it was my mother. She used to take me with her to help serve the less privileged and go to hospitals in Cameroon to take care of the poor. So, when I became a counselor in the United States, I decided I had to give back to my community. Since 2016, I provided clothes, shoes, medications, glasses, educational material, hygiene products to orphanages. And then I registered the foundation as an NGO in both the United States and Cameroon in 2021.

What is the mission of Be the Exception Counseling Foundation?

What we do is take care of internally displaced people in Cameroon. We provide clothing for them, educational products, medical supplies and free medical care. For example, we had a lady last year who was already six or seven months pregnant when we found her. She wasn’t going to the hospital for prenatal care. So, we provided her with prenatal care, and we also paid for her delivery. Now we are providing her with educational training so that she can work in a hotel and working with a donor in the United States that has been sponsoring her to take care of her housing as she transitions. We’ve also had some clients who were HIV positive or had AIDS. They stayed at our treatment center for a few months until they got well.

We also provide counseling for substance use disorder and mental health such as depression, grief and anger management. Inpatient and outpatient care depending on the criteria they meet. We feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner, give them medications, provide group counseling and individual counseling. We also do family counseling sessions.

How have people shown their gratitude to you?

The only way I tell them to show gratitude to me is by being able to fish for themselves. So when I go to Cameroon, I always visit them or they call me and we talk and many of them are doing very well for themselves. They have little businesses or some of them have gone back to school. So that for me, it’s my blessing. I don’t need any money. I don’t need anything from them. I just want them to succeed and take care of their families.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

Seeing the smiles on the faces of people who finally find hope and believe they can overcome substance abuse, mental health crises, trauma or resolve anger issues in their marriage.

Therese sorts through donations shipped from the US to Cameroon./ Courtesy Therese Shalo-Fuh

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about mental health?

Mental health affects everyone at some point, whether mild, moderate, or severe. It’s important to understand where someone is coming from, sit with them, and listen without judgment or preaching. This approach is far more valuable than stereotyping and spreading false rumors.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

We have a free health fair coming up in September. It’s going to be huge. Free medical, mental health and substance use health fair. We’ll be doing direct treatment and immediate counseling. Partnership wise, we have someone in America that we’re working with who just opened a physiology lab in Cameroon so we may be able to have some of our clients get CTs and MRIs for free.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

We’re here to love and be loved. Human beings are not islands. Giving, especially without expecting anything in return, brings a sense of abundance, meaning, identity, and purpose. It allows you to impart change and make an impact, helping you become a better person for yourself and the community at large.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Therese? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Alicia Lee