This year as well as being able to see how the project was progressing, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the new staff and the management committee.
It is clear that everyone involved in the project is enthusiastic about changing the lives of the children. They stressed that just completing the course did not provide a passport out of poverty. The tailor told me that some of his students cannot afford to buy a reel of cotton costing K2,000 (about 25p), so there was no way they could imagine buying a sewing machine without help. One suggestion is for students to raise money from some of the practical agricultural work. They have each been given a small patch of land, where they are currently growing carrots. The idea is for these crops to be sold and part of the proceeds put aside to build a little fund to buy equipment on graduation.
There is a shortage of materials for the carpentry and tailoring courses which is presenting some challenges. Both instructors are highly regarded locally and, when they have time, they make some items for local people. This brings in some income for the centre. This money is used to buy some of the materials needed. There is also a shortage of tools and equipment. I am bringing back details of the specific shortages. These include certain types of plane for carpentry and a buttonhole making machine for tailoring.
Raising sufficient funds to pay the general bills is always a challenge. 300 day old chickens were purchased and by careful fund management they have been grown until now they produce 250 eggs each day. There was a loss of about a dozen chicks when a snake got into the barn and one chicken that looked a little different to the rest turned out to be a cockerel! The electricity bill has been reduced to about a quarter of its previous cost by discovering a special tariff for non-profit making organisations – this has helped considerably.
Additional profit generating activities are needed and if the fish ponds can be brought into use, this will make a big difference to the budget. There is a good water distribution system with a wind pump getting the water from a borehole, however there is a lot of leakage around the pump at the moment which would need to be fixed before the ponds could become operational – though the cost is likely to be small. Often the difficulty with maintenance is finding the appropriate expertise locally.
This visit gives me added hope because of the new initiatives from staff and committee members moving the project forward,despite receiving limited funding over the past year.
I will pay a final visit this week to re-establish the accounts system. The project laptop has developed a fault which seems to me to be terminal – so I will leave them my laptop to help them budget, as well as making it easier to communicate with me in the UK.