Monday, January 26, 2009

Level Best

Last week we began leveling the site for the new buildings at Prince Primary. Four months ago I would have pretended to know what that really meant, and thanks to the unexpected generosity of Reynolds Construction Company – an Israeli-owned outfit building new roads from the capital of Kampala to the southwest town of Mbarara – we are conquering this task relatively cheaply. Other than some after-hours fuel and auxiliary motivation for the machine operator working on his Sundays off, we are receiving the service as a donation. Lesson: Be fearless in asking for help from others. This is not my project, or Project Focus’s project, or even a project limited to this community, but rather a project to improve humanity on a small scale, and all people should be expected to give what they can. Even though this is a relatively small stage of the project, I was absurdly excited to watch the first cuts into the red mound of earth where the new school will sit, and I wasn’t alone. Dozens of community members came out and sat with me for hours as we savored in the initial (tangible) signs of change.

Since Christmas I have spent a good portion of my time around Prince doing interviews for a recently completed radio documentary about the school’s history, struggles, strengths and what the all stakeholders see as the path to success. I interviewed the founders, staff, students, parents and guardians, and the headmaster of the nearby government school to get a sense of the community involvement in both public and private school circumstances. I am very happy with the results of the piece, and if I ever find a way to email the 18-minute file, you can make your judgments.

The search for our dream-engineer continues. It’s not easy to find someone who is willing to work with our approach of community involvement, stringent accountability and transparency guidelines, and relatively bizarre methods of fundraising… all at the right price. Especially when the “right price” seams to be a bit of an anomaly. Of all the consultations I’ve gotten the estimates for essentially the same building (a few variables) have ranged from $45,000 to over $600,000. I’m not exaggerating. It’s been a mystifying but advantageous experience in which I’ve learned about things like corruption, corruption and corruption. I’ve got our search narrowed down to a few trustworthy candidates and will be deciding within the weeks end.

Last Wednesday Lyantonde had a visit from Uganda’s hottest music duo called Moses Radio and Weasel. It was damn fun to see everyone that I greet and chat with from around town all in one place, dressed to kill and letting loose at the concert. I had a ridiculously good time and gained a new level of respect once I unleashed my rug-cutting prowess.


gloratious said...

rug cutting indeed! i get butterflies in my belly thinking about this school and the kids and i just want so badly to be there, thank you blanty.

rhea vitalis said...

g unit. we miss your rug cutting expertise back in the chi...
gives me goosebumps to think about you and the community watching the ground breaking. holllller!