Educating, building, ornaments and more!
It has been a long time since I have written.
I have been in Tanzania for over two months and so much has been going on. I got off the plane in mid January with a mission to accomplish many agendas. With only a few weeks left here, we have completed many of the tasks and have a few left.
When I first got here, Joyce and I were on working hard to fill up our classroom. We had five openings…We were growing to 14 students. We were down to 9 students due to some not being able to keep up with our curriculum. We had nine very bright and active six-year-old children; all speaking English and all doing very well in mathematics too.
We put together an entrance exam for new students. An exam of which all of our students could complete with 100% accuracy. The first day we offered the exam, nine children came to take it. I am not sure what they were expecting, but needless to say, none of those nine children passed. Not only did they not pass, many of them could not write their name or add 2+2. Feeling a bit discouraged, we put the word out in neighboring villages and churches and scheduled a second exam. The second time we offered the entrance exam 12 children arrived. They ranged in ages from five to seven…the results did not change, none of the children came close to passing it. We were scratching our heads in disbelief…we were a bit disappointed, but we decided that we would stick with our nine bright children. It affirmed that the education our students are receiving is outstanding!
We distributed all of the backpacks, sneakers and new uniforms to all of our students that were so generously donated by our supporters. It was an exciting day! Below is a photo taken on their first day at school with their new uniforms.
Having the privilege of spending 6 months a year in two countries provides me with the opportunity to witness our students academic and physical growth. I am startled every time I arrive with their English skills, their missing teeth and height differences.
As of today, three of our nine students are sponsored. We have six students looking for sponsorship. The cost for sponsoring a child is $600.00 per year. Sponsor today and it will cover their education through December. For $50.00 a month you could provide a world-class education to some of Tanzania’s poorest children. Visit http://bvthuduc.tk/wp1/sponsor-a-child for more information.
In February we were greeted with volunteers from the USA and Canada. It is always nice to have visitors. Our students and staff love them. We have a lot going on and they are a huge help around here. They do a great job and fill in where needed. It also frees me up to do some other things during the school day. It is also nice to have good company and conversation. The children still talk about them and hope they come back again. It is always sad to see them go.
In February we also continued our building project. We were a bit nervous about the cost of the roof, as things always cost more than projected on paper. Somehow we managed to complete it with only spending an additional $1,000. It was fascinating to see the fundi’s at work with no scaffolding or safety harnesses! They did a great job in the hot African sun too. A few weeks of unexpected rain slowed it down a little, but that gave us time to wait for our roof to arrive from China. Doesn’t it look great? We celebrated the 1 year anniversary that we began building on March 17th.
We still need a concrete floor, plumbing, septic, windows and window bars, doors, plaster etc…and then we have to build a wall around our compound.
I also met with the village chairman who has been wanting to meet with me for some time. Thanks to Pastor Shadwick of the Pentecostal Church nearby who arranged our meeting. We discussed tapping into the village water line that runs under our plot. What we originally thought would cost us over 1 million T-shillings will be given to us for free, since our school will help the children in the village. I was brought to tears at the meeting. We had to write a letter for the water committee and we are awaiting next steps.
Our Christmas ornaments have been flying out of our inventory since I arrived. Even after Christmas they continue to sell well. We have received some interest from one of our vendors that would like to give them as gifts to all their clients who stay with them on Christmas! What a fabulous idea! One so good, it prompted me to visit safari lodges throughout Arusha and inquire as to whether they would like to do the same. How nice would that be? My efforts have some eager interest and many more lodges want them in their gift shops. Well worth the effort and I met some really nice folks along the way. I will follow-up with everyone in the upcoming days.
We have had a lot of interest in our ornaments around the world and have some wonderful supporters selling them in many countries for us. We are very grateful for your support! I realize it is only March now, but if you would like a large quantity to sell in your neighborhood, town or city this fall, please let me know by June. Last year, we had an inventory problem and don’t want to have the same dilemma again this year.
So while we are on the subject of ornaments…we ran out of unpainted balls! However, do not fear, we ordered them in January from India and they are sitting at KIA in customs.
This past week I finally traveled to Dar Es Salaam. A trip that I have been wanting to take since I arrived. The timing was impeccable. Everything was happening at the same time. Ornaments arrived in the new name, but I had not gone to Dar to change the name yet, exemption was in the old name – it confused everything . After a lot of fancy foot work, we got everything resolved with the delivery in our old name. We got an exemption from paying Duty on our shipment, but still have to pay VAT. (18%). Once all that was in place, I changed the name at the NGO office and went to the ministry of education.
Our shipment is still pending clearance. It appears that TRA re-valued the worth of our delivery to 3x what it is worth. Thus asking us to pay 18% VAT on 3x the value. Our customs agent is working on it. I am learning slowly why many Tanzanians do things under the table, there is corruption at all levels. We are waiting for them to re-value to their actual price and hopefully pick them up on Monday. We are paying for storage for everyday it delays.
The Ministry of Education in Dar would not approve our building permit/proposal stating there is a new rule that was enacted in 2011 stating that all schools must have 3 acres of land…we have 1. She told me we could resubmit with a letter from the village chairperson or owner of the adjacent land, stating they would sell their plot to us. I will meet with the District commission and the Regional Education Commissioner on Monday to see our options. We don’t have the resources to purchase 2 additional acres at this time but they seemed willing to work with us.
There is still a lot to do with less than three weeks left here. Our painters are patiently waiting for our ornaments and we will have to get them to them to paint while I am back in the USA.
I will be actively fundraising while there…so if you get a letter from us or a member of our team please be generous!
On behalf of all of our students and staff in Tanzania…Thank you so much for reading our blog and helping us fight poverty in Tanzania.