Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
Greetings and gratitude from Lucas and me! I'm happy to share some updates with you about the progress toward opening Amahoro Secondary School in Mgaraganza Village, Tanzania.
This past August, I traveled to the Kigoma region to visit with Lucas and check the progress of our project. I was a little surprised to see that very little actual work had been done since his April update. In other words, construction was at a standstill - halted due to lack of funding. As usual, the wheels were set into motion when I arrived.
Meeting Local and Regional Leaders
The first line of business was to visit the regional leaders from various Ministries in the government. I was invited to a meeting in Kigoma town to address the leaders and share my gratitude, concerns, and hopes moving forward. We expressed our gratitude about their recent commitment to contributing to the construction of teachers' houses and laboratories* for the school. We noted our concerns about the pressure of fundraising and challenge of meeting the opening day deadline. We stressed the need for the government to continue their support until the end. We also shared our enthusiasm for the possibility of teacher education and teacher exchange in the future (my 'pet' plan for ensuring quality education at this school). They applauded our efforts and echoed our hopes and excitement.
*Note: Recent legislation in Tanzania mandates that no school open without laboratories in place. While this places a huge obstacle in the road for opening schools in villages, it aims to address the current plight of village schools, which is the prevalence of unmet promises by school administrators and leaders to follow-up on the construction of laboratories. Most village schools never see spaces for students to explore physics, chemistry, and biology to the extent necessary for measurable success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
We also met with the Kigoma District Commissioner, Mr. Maneno who guaranteed his support for this project. Mr. Maneno is new to his position as of this year. He made a trip to the village to visit the school and meet with the local village leaders. He was very impressed by the work that had been completed thus far. He gave speeches of praise to the local leaders, community members, and workers. He also promised to do everything in his power to make sure the school opens in January 2014.
Of course, we had our own meetings with the village leaders. We discussed my concern over the delay in work in recent months. We identified a breakdown in communication between political leaders in town who disperse the money, and the village leaders who sign for and collect the money. Our faithful Chief Maganga stepped in and made some phone calls to make sure the funds would be released. This money would allow our builders to complete the entrances to each classroom.
Meeting with the Children
Our most important stakeholders are the children. There are a handful of them who are present at the school for every gathering of the leaders (mostly because they live next to the school). The kids showed us their twist on using the classroom space in the months leading up to the school opening (see photo).
In the month after my visit, Lucas rallied the students of Mgaraganza Primary School to come and do a clean up at the secondary school. They came with brooms and tools to prepare the assembly area in front of the classrooms. Of course, they didn't harm any of the lovely trees that will shade them as they have their daily morning assembly!
Meeting with GlobalGiving Volunteer, Janet Chapman
In September, Janet Chapman - a UK-based volunteer with GlobalGiving and the communications manager with the Tanzania Development Trust - visited Lucas and took time to learn about our project. She met the village leaders and Lucas, and made a video allowing us to introduce our new Headmaster, Mr. Kumenya. We hope that her response to the visit is positive and that she can help us garner more international support to complete the school.
At present, my plan is to be in Tanzania again this coming December/January for the opening of the first phase of the school!
But, we're not there yet. The missing pieces at the moment include the latrines that are required before a school can be open (for obvious reasons). If you can chip in today, you can help us channel money to the project so that we can get them into place on the school site. Every little bit counts, as you know! (Why didn't I think of the Ice Bucket Challenge!?) As always, we can do NOTHING without you! Thank you so much for your support thus far. Please spread the word wide and far.
With much gratitude,
Rai Farrelly and Lucas LameckProject Wezesha, co-founders
Again, I send out heartfelt gratitude on behalf of Lucas, me, and the residents and leaders who will benefit from the opening of Amahoro Secondary School! I'm excited to share pictures from Lucas of the progress made through April (see above and below - windows and doors and floors, oh my!). By the time I arrive in Kigoma in August, I'm sure the updates and photos will truly astonish. I, for one, can't wait to see the completed classrooms - ready for their first cohort of eager learners!
But ... we're still rounding the bend with construction - which means that there is still material to be purchased, builders to be paid, and of course our night watchman, Kalekwa, to be compensated for watching over the materials and keeping the local kids out of harm's way. (We love Kalekwa!)
Speaking of Kalekwa, during our first year of construction on Amahoro Secondary School, Kalekwa's wife died suddendly during the birth of their third child - a lovely daughter. We were all very sad for his loss. Kalekwa chose to stay with us at the school site, leaving his two sons and newborn daughter in the loving care of the women in his family. His salary as a night watchman was indespensible and with this income, he supports his small young family. We are happy to share the news that this Spring, Kalekwa married once again. Lucas shared these pictures you see (below) of our friend on his happy day!
As for Amahoro Secondary School, we hope you'll continue to support us in the home stretch (yes, home stretches are longer in Tanzania)! Here are some ways you can help:
PS - As the sole fundraiser for Project Wezesha in the United States ... actually, in the world ... I do realize that being asked time and again for money can be annoying (imagine being the one who has to ask 4 times per year, at least). So please, do know that I appreciate it more than words can really express. I wish I could carry you all in my case when I go so that you could see the hope and happiness on the faces of everyone that I come in contact with as I make my way around the villages, visiting old friends, meeting new ones, and sharing stories from near and far. One day the sounds from these classrooms will be those of songs, sciences, histories, maths, and laughter - rather than those of hammers and saws. And then together we can say - we did this!
Thank you so much!!
Rai Farrelly & Lucas LameckCo-Founders, Project Wezesha
We are so thrilled to have you on this journey with us! I just got off the phone with Lucas. He's in Tanzania and I'm in Armenia and together, we do our very best to keep this project up and running ... racing to the finish line! I love hearing his voice because his smile comes right through with words. I'm (we're) the luckiest to have such a loyal, capable local partner.
In my conversation with Lucas, I learned that four of our classrooms and two offices are completely finished!! That means that not only do they have walls and roofs, they have windows, doors, completed floors (the expensive part), and plaster on the interior and exterior! The final touch - blue paint for the exterior - is coming soon. But structurally - they are complete - ready for desks, chairs and students.
In addition, as promised, the Tanzanian government is installing latrines for the school - obviously required amenities before a school can open.
I told Lucas that our supporters (and I) would love to see pictures, so those are coming soon and I'll send another update with them when they reach me.
Also, I'm starting the planning for my next trip to Tanzania - in late June/early July. It always helps me feel connected to the project, the community and you when I can be there in person. It allows me to keep the relationships strong and give you the honest, transparent updates that you absolutely deserve for all of your support thus far.
US-based members of the Board of Directors for another nonprofit in the area paid a visit to our school recently. They were in disbelief when Lucas told them that since 2010 we had raised 16 classrooms, plus 4 offices. They were in disbelief because their project has only completed 4 classrooms since 2007. They insisted that Lucas take them to our site so they could see for themselves. They really couldn't believe their eyes. It gave them the confidence they needed to make some organizational changes within their own nonprofit - including replacing their director and installing more 'checks and balances' for the allocation of funds and labor on their project. This made Lucas and I very proud - because we knew what was happening in the other project. Now, that organization can continue with integrity and serve its community better. You know what that makes us ... a successful model and 'Agents of Change' - we couldn't be more happy about that!
In terms of completing our entire project, we are still in need of financial support. We're not there yet. The exact budget to completion is not precise because the government is helping us with some components (raw materials), while we're covering the rest - including the most important parts: skilled labor, a watchman, and Lucas' salary ($100/month). The Government is moving rather slowly on their contribution of materials, but they are making it happen.
The part that is in our control, is that which we raise - so if you want to help us cross the line even sooner, then please consider giving us a little boost. As you know, every dollar counts and they all go straight to to project and the people needed to complete the project.
Thank you for all your fabulous support and continued interest in what we're accomplishing in Tanzania!
Cheers and Asante Sana,
Rai Farrelly & Lucas Lamek
Happy start to the holiday season! We hope you are enjoying time with family and planning for the upcoming December festivities to celebrate all of our respective traditions!
It is with great pleasure that I share with you some updates from Tanzania about Amahoro Secondary School. The biggest news of all is that the roofs are officially in place on all 16 classrooms and completed offices! This is so exciting and such a relief! The rainy season may be upon the village, but the work inside the classrooms can continue now that all the roofs are there to keep the workers dry!
The remaining work on the school entails completing the plastering of walls - inside and out, finishing all floors (that's a lot of concrete!), building and setting the remaining doors and windows, and finally - painting the exterior walls.
When I was there in July, I saw the chosen colors for the shool - a nice sky blue and cream combination. It's going to be lovely amid the many trees that were spared by this eco-conscious community during the construction of the school. (Just look at all those trees! They are all native to the area and will shade the students during breaks before and after classes.)
The anticipated timing to officially launch classes depends upon the completion of a sufficient number of classrooms by the end of December. Last year, we made an agreement with the village government that requires their participation on this school project. They have done well to acquire $16,000 from the Tanzania government last year - which funded the purchase of cement, lyme, wood, and paint. However, they have to rally again this year and continue to do so until all classrooms are finished.
In the meantime, Project Wezesha has committed to keep the skilled laborors paid and additionally support the village leaders by supplying as much as we can in funding toward the materials needed to finish these classrooms.
In short, we're not there yet! We would love your continued support in making this amazing dream a reality. Here are some ways you can help:
Thank you very much - Asante Sana!
With love and gratitude,Rai Farrelly and Lucas LameckCo-founders, Project Wezesha
Wow! What a ride it's been! Thank you for being part of the adventure to this point and we hope you will continue to support our work and share with your friends and family as we round the bend. (We are so close!!)
This summer, I traveled to Kigoma again to continue forging relationships and keep the momentum going on the school building endeavor. As with every year before, we faced challenges and experienced triumphs! Highlights from this year include the following:
Working with the village to complete this school has never been without its challenges. This year, we had one set back when the villagers failed to contribute the necessary water to the worksite so the builders could make the concrete and plaster for the classroom walls. This has been the number one challenge we faced over the years. There are a few reasons they cite. Among them: villagers in areas close to the school feel they do more than others; some leaders don't work alongside their citizens; villagers think they should be paid for this work.
These are all great reasons, but not easily remedied. It's true that villagers who live far away don't come often to carry sand, stones and water - yet their children will benefit from this school one day. It's also true that some leaders 'beat the bushes' to get folks to help and then don't turn up themselves. And yes, the work does merit pay. The decision not to do so was based on our initial agreement that stated: if Project Wezesha generates funds to build this school, we will pay for skilled labor and all materials. In exchange, villagers will contribute sand, stone, water, and the labor to get those materials to the worksite. Typically, in Tanzania, a secondary school is built by the villagers only - with no external (NGO or government) support.
One day, I arranged to stay in the village with our friend Jane. The reason being that I wanted to wake early and carry water with Jane, Lucas and Maiko in the morning so that the workers had some water to make plaster. The evening before, Lucas and I walked around and spoke with 50 or so men. I practiced my speech in kiswahili so I could be the one to ask a favor, rather than Lucas. I told them that work had come to a halt due to lack of water. I told them that we would be carrying water in the morning and that with more men, we could fill the tank in less than an hour. I said, please - just one hour. Will you join us? Each of them smiled, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, 'Of course, no problem, tomorrow, see you then.' The next morning - Jane, Lucas, Maiko and I, along with two women I hadn't talked with and one man who already worked for us carried 800 liters of water. Not one single man from the village showed up.
After working for 2.5 hours, we returned to the village, tired, hot, hungry - and yes, angry. I went to the village leaders' office and spoke with the executive officer. She saw how upset I was and was very disappointed in these men. Alas, what's to be done. In the weeks following, the village diwani (chief) and other leaders used money from the village budget and found 8 individuals to carry water for pay. They filled the tank. They were all women.
I don't want this to seem like a sad story becuase it's not. For me, it reinforces what we are doing. In this particular village, the adults have limited formal education experience. They have uneducated views about medicine, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, how to conserve the local environment, and how to generate an economy for their small community. The men spend a lot of time playing a popular game, Bao, drinking chai or coffee, and chatting. The women do the work of the village - from having and raising children to cleaning, cooking and collecting water and firewood, to delivering babies and caring for the elderly.
So why is this reinforcing what we're doing? Because with education, so much will change! I can already see the shifting of perspectives about life and education among the children we support with secondary school scholarships. I know that this will have an impact. I doubt sometimes - like all good believers, I doubt. But I find strength in the support we get from all of you and the progress I see each year when I visit. It has taken longer than I anticipated to complete this school, but - Rome wasn't built in a day either. :) Most secondary schools are built over many years, one classroom at a time with students attending unfinsihed schools and enduring continued construction as the villages can muster funds. Our 4-year plan was ambitious, and we're almost there! If the floors are finished this fall, we will be bringing in the first group for the beginning of their school year in January 2014. And if they don't, we will still finish and this school will be populated with eager, uniformed, bright young students soon enough!
Sincere thanks for all of your support! It has been extremely appreciated and very well managed, I assure you! Project Wezesha has virtually no overhead, so the great majority of donations we receive goes straight to the project. In addition to materials and skilled labor, your funds contribute to Lucas' salary for his tireless work on the ground - working to ensure the funds are spent appropriately, materials arrive safely, the village leaders remain honest, and that you get updates and photos like those you see here. Please take a moment to enjoy the pictures - the fruits of your support!
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Co-Founder, Project Wezesha; Treasurer, Girls Education International