Saturday, September 24, 2011

Meetings, Special Acknowledgements, and Closure

Several meetings with the District were held on a variety of topics. Headmaster Sanka, a member of the School Committee and the Project made a day of meetings. We were met with some excellent news: Kisangaji Primary School will receive 3 new teachers by the end of September to move in to the new house! The District Education Director personally promised fulfillment of this and the District Executive Officer confirmed he will follow-up to ensure satisfaction of the promise. Email addresses were exchanged, which is also a sign of commitment from the District.

In addition to securing 3 new teachers, a variety of other topics were discussed concerning development of the Village: the desperate need for water pumps, the need for a technician who lives in the village to maintain the pumps (this requires training), a new bridge connecting "new" and "old" Kisangaji, and more financial assistance for the Village itself. The District has a Water Department so a meeting with the District Water Engineer was also held. We discussed at length the problems with the water in the village, the government's application to World Vision that was just submitted for 3 new pumps in Kisangaji over the next year, and planning for the process of installing new water pumps moving forward. It was clear that while the installation of new pumps is very costly, it is the ongoing maintenance that is most problematic: when a pump breaks down, it essentially doesn't get fixed. The need for an in-village technician is vital and how to train and pay the technician will require some brainstorming on the Village's part.

A meeting was held with World Vision and a collaborative relationship with the Project was estabilshed. The Project spoke as an ambassador of the village and requested special consideration for the Government's application. There is heavy competition for the available money for pumps that World Vision installs among approximately 50 villages in the District. I was told that Kisangaji would likely get at least 1 as a result of the request. Additionally, World Vision came to Kisangaji to inspect the 2 non-working pumps, a repair estimate was obtained, the engineer was called in, and repairs began this past week to 1 of the pumps.

A meeting was also held with the School Committee and Village Council to do an in-depth needs assessment. An itemization and prioritization of needs obtained and the Kisangaji Project's Board will consider the next task for the village based on this meeting.

A big celebration was held in the new boma to commemorate the new house. There were about 40 people there, with singing, dancing, and a feast of two roasted goats and rice. Gifts were exchanged and mutual "asante sana's" were flowing. This was a very emotional day for everyone. One of the oldest village leaders was invited to the celebration and she was asked to address the Project on behalf of the village. She is likely around 70 years old and is a very traditional Mbugwe woman. She spoke for about 10 minutes, her talk was then translated, and there was a hearty round of applause when she sat down. During the singing and dancing, she beat the drum for the dancers and it was clear her native rituals were well-ingrained into her movements.

Below are the men who labored intensely over the 5 weeks. They were the most faithful, committed, and enduring. They put in many 11 hours days,carried boulders, heavy buckets of sand, stone, water, and cement, made mud for mortar, used a hammer to break stones into small stones for cement mix, balanced on beams and small pieces of wood to reach tall spots, moved bricks in large quantities one-by-one, and tended to the details of the fine construction. We had worked together as a core team to reach the Project's goal, directing and instructing the hundreds of others who helped out over the construction. They received special recognition by the Project. In addition to that recognition, the Project promised that their pictures would be shown in Amerika. Headmaster Sanka's picture is also included: he truly was wearing many hats during the project and also had National Exams during the time period. He spent many of his hours ensuring materials were delivered (sometimes at 2am) so there would be no slow down in the work. He is enormously happy about the Boma and deserves a tremendous round of applause! In addition to those below, Village Council members Waziri and Jafary and School Committee Chairperson Humsa deserve acknowledgment. Without their daily oversight, help, and volunteer coordination efforts, the Boma would not have been completed in the 5 weeks.

FUNDI Paulo Dismiss. The main masonary and one of the head contractors. A quiet, gentle, steadfast man with four children and no wife. He would arrive on the site many days at sunrise and stay until sunset. He is a perfectionist, ensuring corners were aligned and square. It was an emotional farewell to him especially.

WORKER Michaeli Eliya. Did what was asked of him with a smile on his face every time. He was the main porter of heavy items and always smiled or chuckled when he finished carrying a load. He was the jokester of the group: early on, when a poisonous snake was at the site and had been killed, he picked it up and pretended to throw it on me before he tossed it about 10 yards away. We joked about that for a long time.

WORKER and NIGHT GUARD: Msafiri Agustine. A quiet man who also carried heavy loads and performed tedious tasks such as breaking up stones into smaller ones. He has numerous children, a wife, and also served as the night guard for the site and materials.

WORKER: Florens Zmanuel. The ever-optimist of the group. Also always having a smile on his face, he was one the main brick-layers and cement floor finishers. A hard worker from a nearby village who had an infectious laugh...he is very excited about his picture being shown in Amerika. He would love to have an American girlfriend!

HEADMASTER: Dominic Sanka. The Project's Co-Director and Project Manager who worked 3 jobs simultaneously (headmaster, construction oversight, father) to make this Boma happen without any major difficulties or delays.

If you would like to contribute to the Project, your contribution to our 501(c)3 is tax-deductible and 90% of donations go into the fund raising drive for the next task in the village. For further information about the Kisangaji Project, it's future plans and goals, or to sponsor a student, please refer to our website: Thank you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Asante Sana

The picture below is of the School Committee and the Village Council. Without their approval, hard work, oversights and collaboration, the boma would not have been built. On behalf of the Kisangaji Project Board of Directors, we say to you: Asante Sana!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Boma Pictures and National Exams

In the photos above, you see the installation of the windows, the completed smooth flooring and wall plastering, and a picture of the completed boma (front and back of boma). The last picture is the collection of Standard VII's National Exams. The District collects the exam books and takes them to headquarters for scoring. This exam is very serious and important: a student must pass the 2-day exam in order to move on to Secondary School. During the 2 days, the rooms, students, and premises are heavily guarded and as you can see in the photo, the collection of the exams is also seriously guarded.

Small construction details of the boma continue into this week but it is ready for move-in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Declared Complete

The boma has been officially declared complete by the Project. We worked both days over the weekend. The final layer of flooring and the window and door glass were installed yesterday and today. The boma is now ready for new teachers to move in, which was the Projects objective. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Small details will be worked on at the site over the next few weeks, but the hard part is now complete. There will be a celebration ceremony soon and the village is very excited. Headmaster Sanka is beaming and enormously happy. Onlookers from neighboring villages are still stopping by to see the boma.

The Project will now turn its attention to other matters. There will be meetings at District offices, both with the Education and Executive offices. The District Executive Director reports directly to the President so this will be a very important meeting. A needs assessment will be completed to prepare for 2012's goals. There will be significant pre-planning done to prepare for 2012's objectives, mostly likely water pumps for the village and school, based on a preliminary Council meeting, and subsequent Board of Directors decisions later.

It has been a tremendous privilege to engage in this project in Kisangaji. Everyone has worked very hard. Donors to the Project, and for the boma specifically, deserve high praise. Without the donors, this endeavor could not have become a reality. This will be something that everyone can remember with pride and joy. It is a house truly built and nurtured by an "entire village" comprising of the volunteers, donors, and workers, united across continents, and built with love.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What A Sunset!

As the sun set this fine Tuesday in the Great Rift Valley here in Kisangaji, the final nail went into the roof. The windows and doors are installed, the glass was delivered today and we are getting very close. Despite two 11-hour days in a row, it was a peaceful late afternoon, filled with excitement, fun banter in Kiswahili, and anticipation. It almost doesn't get any better than this moment in time...what a gift to be able to share it with such an incredible group of folks, the Mbugwe tribe of Kisangaji.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Slight Delay

The construction deadline was pushed to September 9th. There was a delay in making the windows and doors: the town they were being made in went 3 days without electricity so that slowed things down. We also had 2 holidays this week that slowed things down (end of Ramadan). Electricity shortages are prevalent in Tanzania and are a hot-button issue for Parliament.
We are getting very close to completion of the boma. The final roof sheeting is going up today and tomorrow; they need to cap and seal the roofing; they are plastering the inside of the house; the final step is to then finish the floor with a smooth coat of cement. Of course, the windows and doors must be installed, complete with glass, and cemented into the frames. Some air vents remain to be installed.
The temporary choo (toilet) is said to take 2 days to construct. The hole was completed today and is about 20-30 feet deep. It was hand-dug by groups of men taking turns over the last 2 weeks, using hoes and shovels. They had a contest to see who could throw the dirt up and out of the hole the furthest.
District officials will make an (un)announced visit to the site in the near future; they find it hard to believe it is almost done. They questioned Headmaster Dominic Sanka at length on Monday regarding the design, materials, process, and status. He was able to inform them that all plans have been followed that were approved by the District in late July. The site still has a steady stream of onlookers as well.
While the excitement is certainly still notable, everyone involved is quite tired in their own way. It has been hard work for everyone, from the brick-makers, water porters, supervisors, stone-makers, to the Village Council members who are responsible for the volunteer effort and kids at the school who have helped out. It has been a long haul, but an amazing experience for everyone involved.
"There is no other boma like this" is what is being said. What is important, and the sole purpose of this task, is to bring in more school teachers to Kisangaji. I have no doubt that we will add at least 2 more teachers to the school by the end of September.