30 November 2009
The New Matumaini Child Care Center
Progress is consistently being made on our quest to build a new Matumaini children’s and community center. My parents came to visit in mid-August and during that visit, my dad, Barry, who doubles as a Knock Director, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser, a feat for which he had been preparing for many months prior. After four-and-a-half days of intense climbing, chilling cold, and stomach problems you’d rather not know about, he summitted the highest peak in Africa, standing at 19,345 feet, and thus raised $60,000 for our much-anticipated building project. He said it was the most difficult physical activity he’s ever done and of course the most rewarding. After the knowledge that we were $60,000 closer to our goal of building, we signed the contract with the architects. We hired MK Arch Plans and Associates, a partnership between an architect and quantity surveyor with an impressive record and work ethic. The architectural drawings are complete as well as the bill of quantities. The land survey has also been conducted and we are waiting for the land lease. The next step is to bring the bill of quantities to the Tanzania Revenue Authority to apply for a value added tax exemption for all the building materials, an exemption Matumaini qualifies for as an NGO. We are at $110,000 raised at this point and need a total of about $230,000 to construct phase one (two dormitories, two classrooms, dining hall/kitchen/store).
In our continuing quest for funding, my parents and I broached the idea of conducting a capital fundraising campaign here in Tanzania to raise money locally for the project. My parents are currently extremely involved in a capital campaign at our synagogue in Los Angeles, so they have been coaching me on the process. Over the last month and a half, Mr. Mambo (Director of Matumaini) and I have been working tirelessly on developing the written fundraising materials, drawing up a list of people and companies of both affluence and influence to approach, and opening a Knock bank account to act as our fundraising account. We began distributing letters and fixing appointments two weeks ago, starting with the companies on our list, including some of the breweries, the Coca Cola bottling company, the National Social Security Fund, and others. We then traveled to all the banks in Moshi as the banks have provisions in their budgets for community development projects. We were told by all that the decisions need to come from the head offices in Dar es Salaam, so we forwarded all of our materials ahead to them. At the end of the week, we began to approach individual businessmen and are awaiting responses. This week, Mr. Mambo and I are in Dar es Salaam to follow up with the banks, a few of the companies, and approach some other potential donors and government officials. There are in some cases lengthy processes with the companies and banks so we will be awaiting responses from them during the next several months. I am really looking forward to getting back to Moshi to meet with individual businessmen as I hope that our receiving of money in those cases will be more immediate.
Dericky came to our house one day and started inquiring why this whole construction thing was taking so long when really it could be built in 3 weeks. I looked at him, trying not to burst out laughing and said “Three weeks? You think this can be completed in three weeks?” He had a look of confusion on his face so I brought out the architectural drawings for he and Emma, who came with him, to see. I had to pick their chins up off the floor – they were amazed at what this new center would look like. They were picturing a small house like their current home and were definitely unprepared to see all that the new center would have to offer. After we talked about it, they of course couldn’t leave without putting in their two cents, again – they want a swimming pool and swings :). Sure guys, no problem!
Teen Insight Seminars Visits Tanzania
When I returned to Tanzania in August, I was followed by a lively and committed group of 17 teenagers and 7 adults from Insight Seminars. Insight is an international non-profit educational organization which offers seminars that “guide[s] participants into the awareness of how life can be better – for themselves and others – when they are living compassionately, making choices from the perspective of what [they] call their ‘heart’.” They came to volunteer through Knock for two weeks at Mrupanga Primary School. Before arrival, they fundraised enough money for the school to complete construction on its seventh and final classroom and construction on it was complete when they arrived. All that was left was to paint and the group did just that. They also decided to paint for the first time the outside of one entire wing of classrooms and clean and repaint the other wing. The school is dazzling. In addition, they painted a mural on one wall, the theme of which is the importance of having goals and dreams. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the group conducted Insight-esque educational seminars with all the students and teachers at the school. With the teachers, they spent an entire day discussing their goals and dreams, the importance of education, new and innovative teaching methods, and more. The teachers were so excited about the knowledge and truly soaked up every minute of their seminar day. For the student workshops, the Insight teens divided the students by class and conducted three seminars on three different days. With each student group, the Insight participants again stressed the importance of goals and dreams and conducted several inventive activities and games to encourage active thinking and participation by the students. They played trust games to encourage teamwork and united the classes under their common ideas and aspirations. It was truly inspiring to watch the Insight teens lead the seminars on their own, showing true leadership skills, and to see the Mrupanga students respond so eagerly, excitedly, and with such profound and thoughtful comments. It was perhaps just the beginning of Knock’s relationship with Insight and the first of many students/teen trips to come both from Insight and from other schools and organizations.
The kids at Matumaini are all doing well. Ericki, Dericky, and Roger took their Class 7 national exams several weeks ago. These are the exams that complete their primary school education and help determine where they will be placed for secondary school. The results come out in December. In the meantime, we enrolled them in Pre-Form 1 classes, which help to prepare them for secondary school. The other kids have about a month and a half left of this school year which ends early in December. The maize harvest this year was extremely successful. The kids spent many, many, many days pulling the maize from the stocks, ripping off all the kernels, and loading it into big sacks. Picture the kids literally sitting in piles of corn kernels that were multiplying by the second. They seemed to have fun though and the good news is there is enough maize to feed them for about 6 months! This helps offset that cost in the budget. They were also fairly successful in their harvest of beans.
Elizabeth, the student Ryan Dillon began to sponsor for Form 4 earlier this year, graduated a couple of weeks ago and just finished taking her Form 4 national exams. Sadly, she had no family in attendance at her graduation but I was able to be there. It was a really special feeling to know that not only are we paying her school fees, but we have also become a family to her, people who care about her and are here for her. I really felt that day that I am so lucky to have such a loving a supportive family myself and now I am able to be that for someone who isn’t as lucky. We will await her exam results in the next few months to know what her next steps are. We hope she will continue on to Advanced Level (Forms 5 and 6) and then to university. She’s extremely smart, works very hard and truly deserves these opportunities.
Six Mamas Project
The Six Mamas Project hit an obstacle in early September when the fear of Swine Flu was spreading throughout the world. The number of potential customers looking to buy pigs reduced dramatically and the women were unable to sell any of their pigs, meaning the entire cycle of income generation came to a screeching halt. At the time, it was estimated that the market wouldn’t return until December. We discussed the idea of helping them through loans and they agreed it was a great idea. We had each woman calculate the profit she would have realized between September and December had customers been buying and we loaned half that money with a very minimal interest rate. Before even starting, some of the women were already realizing this loaning thing might be a really cool idea and asked if they could submit other proposals to us for microloaning. I laughed at their enthusiasm and said we could discuss the idea if they were able to successfully return the Six Mamas Project loans within the outlined time frame. They felt that was fair. Mama Inno and Mama Chapu were each able to sell a few pigs already and have begun to pay off their loans. We hope this is a successful venture!