Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
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!
Thank you so much for joining us on this journey! We are seriously rounding the bend in a big way!!
There are two great updates to share:
Co-founder Rai Farrelly will be joining Lucas in July to observe the progress, get updates to share with you and keep the momentum going with the local government. In addition, we are excited to announce that we have a fabulous intern joining us for 6 weeks this summer. Brian Fredrichs, newly elected student body president of Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT will be living in Mgaraganza village with our friends Ashahadu and Jane. We look forward to his work and contributions to the project.
We also wish to thank our friend, Krista Arthur who visited the village and stayed with Ashadahu and Jane for two weeks. The photos in this project update were provided by Krista and we love having them to get excited about the progress!
Thank you so much for all your support! Please continue to share our work and encourage friends to contribute as we round the bend on the school! Our efforts won't stop there, of course. As you may know, we have a great scholarship program and we are excited to be able to add 30 girls through Girls Education International this summer, bringing our scholarship impact to almost 60 children in the region! You can support our children's scholarship fund by visiting this link and contributing.
Asante Sana!!Rai Farrelly and Lucas LameckCo-founders, Project Wezesha
We here at Project Wezesha hope that 2013 has started off with good fortune and love for all of you!
We are happy to share the news that the 3rd quad at Amahoro Secondary School is getting its roof this month! Thanks to your generous contributions, we were able to make sure that Isaya and his competent crew of builders had the funds necessary to pay for the wood, nails, iron, aluminum, and transportation to make this 3rd 'roof raising' possible! Of all the pieces of the big school building puzzle, the roof is the most expensive. There are truckloads of materials that go into these roofs and a good deal of labor. Once complete, this will give us 12 mostly completed classrooms and 2 administrative spaces. The details that remain are being taken care of by the Government of Kigoma and include doors, windows, floors and furniture.
In addition to rounding the bend on our 3rd quad, the foundation for the 4th set of 4 classrooms has been complete for months now and is finally meeting its brick counterparts! The walls of our final 4 classrooms will be complete in no time and then that quad, too, will be ready for a roof raising! If you live in Salt Lake, keep your eyes and ears open for news of our 3rd Annual Raise the Roof Music fest and fundraiser.
In other good news, we have a new intern going to Tanzania this summer. Brian Fredrich, a student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, will be traveling to Kigoma to live with our friends Jane and Ashahadu in Mgaraganza Village. We are very excited to have Brian join the project team this summer. He demonstrates a strong knowledge about sustainable development work and is eager to help out with the needs of the villagers. He has excellent cross-cultural competence and has previous experience working on a conservation project in Namibia. We anticiapte that Brian will teach in the primary and secondary schools, help us develop our mentorship program with our 5 Amani Hope Scholarship students and become best friends with Lucas!
And finally, on a personal note for Project Wezesha - our co-founder and in-country project director, Lucas Lameck is a father! Join us in raising a glass to Lucas, his partner Asha and their new baby girl - Catherine Zilabela. There is talk of a big wedding for Lucas and Asha this summer so keep a look out for those images!
Great big thank you for all of your support! It takes a while to complete a school this big in a village and we are so grateful for all your dedication and patience as we make this school a reality!
Asante sana,Rai Farrelly & Lucas LameckCo-Founders and BestiesProject Wezesha
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Co-Founder, Project Wezesha; Treasurer, Girls Education International