Muraho my people,
What's good in your hoods?
Things around my way are good, real good. I've finished my first year of teaching, and I've gotta say it was successful. It was hard, but not that hard. I'm pretty excited about next school year, and I'm pretty glad about all I've gotten done so far.
There's new things happening here in Rugabano, our little land that time forgot. We've salaried a librarian (and kitchen stock manager), there are four new classrooms that are almost completely built, I'm teaching English instead of science next year, and we finally got electricity. Alright, we still don't have real electricity. But the motor at the school still kicks on daily and I get to charge all my gear, which is nice.
My roommates and colleagues Jack and Frodouard, the school manager and headmaster respectively, told me they were going to get some new classrooms made before the new school year started. This was maybe 6 months ago when they were doing some rough grading (countryfolk with hoes and shovels) at the site below the office, and I figured they were being optimistic. Lo and behold, these classrooms are almost all the way built. Once they get the roofs up here in the next week or two, they'll do the finish work like windows, plastering the inside walls, and fixing up the lighting. As it turns out, the government wants us to add another year of school here, meaning we'll now provide grades Senior 1 through Senior 4. The sector (a government subdivision) kicked us some money and materials, and Jack basically made everything all happen. He's a real stud.
I'm impressed. As of the beginning of next year, one of the Senior 1 classes which I had to hike down to the primary school to teach (By the way, in Rwanda the students stay in the classrooms and the teachers move around.) will be moved into the brand new building. We'll also have a real library room with a real librarian. Things are on the up and up.
However, if you get a look at the classrooms in the original building (of three buildings, including the new one), it makes you feel sorry for the kids that have to try to learn in them, and probably makes you wonder what the hell the builders were thinking. The classroom walls' plaster is coming off, many of the windows are broken, and those windows that are there don't provide near adequate ventilation. This school year I had four classes in Senior 1, and one of them was in the old building. Teaching in that class on a warm day (1/3 to ½ of the time) makes me feel like I gotta be Richard Simmons to get anything done. Imagine walking into a class with 45 kids and a third of them are asleep before you even come in. In the middle of the day. And you teach chemistry (which isn't exactly mind-blowing for everyone). With all my other classes, getting them into my lesson, taking notes, making eye contact, and participating in the discussion, is so easy. I don't even try.
But it's not these kids' fault, and that's what really pisses me off. Some of my brightest kids are in that class. There are future doctors and scientists in there, and their immediate environment is hindering them from continuing towards their goals. There's no ventilation. There is one window on the doorway wall, and the other side only has gaps in the bricks above 8 or 9 ft. or so. I made it a point to teach the definition of the word "stagnant" during the first term. I come out of a great lesson from another class and go in there and say, "Is it hot in here?" I get a resounding "Yes." I get reminded of the TV show I watched (The Wire, holla) where they purposefully heated up the classrooms so the kids would be more docile.
Anyways, here's where you all are gonna come in: I need money for a remodel project. I want to put 24 windows in and redo the plaster and paint on the inside of 10 classrooms. The break will begin in another couple weeks and continue through the first week of January, and this is our chance. It's three weeks of work, which means I've gotta get money together fast, within the next month and a half or so.
Here's how the cost breaks down:
Windows: 24 * 55,000 RWF = 1,320,000 RWF
Cement: 20 bags * 11,500 RWF = 230,000 RWF
Cement mix soil: 3 trucks * 80,000 RWF = 240,000 RWF
Caulk: 36 kg * 1500 RWF = 57,000 RWF
Labor: TBD man-days * 1000 RWF = 350,000 to 500,000 RWF
Paint: 18 cans * 16,500 RWF = 297,000 RWF
Total: about 2,600,000 RWF, or a little less than $4,500 US
Many of these things can be paid for in installments, so I don't have to worry about having exactly $4,500 before we begin construction, but the money for the windows will be needed all at once. Our guy in Gitarama has to weld them by hand. Nevertheless, I'd like to get it all together before we begin construction so I know exactly the extent of what we can do. If we don't get it all together, we'll have to do only part. But let's just do it all at once, ey?
There are a few things that are pretty obvious and maybe some that aren't:
1.) You're gonna have to trust me with your money. I love this school, I love these students, and there's no way I'd ever steal from them. 'Nuff said. I know your money is hard-earned, and it will all be going towards a great cause.
2.) Expect me to have receipts for *every single expense* made. Assuring you this is just to make you feel more comfortable that the people that I work with will also be responsible with your money. And, honestly, I want the receipts because it will make me more comfortable with whoever's helping here, too.
3.) As for making this tax deductable, I'm not exactly sure how you're gonna do that. My sister said maybe this email would be enough evidence for the IRS to not worry about it. Pictures and video of before any work is done are on the way – give me a week. If you need something else from me before you give me money, just ask and I'll do it.
4.) If there is any money left over, it will go towards my next philanthropic project: I'm going to buy a couple cows to get me started on a decent bride price. Just kidding. If there is money left over, I'll be sure to use it all for other stuff to do at the school, and I'll keep you all posted as to what I end up doing with it. Flat screens in every classroom or something, maybe a Starbuck's.
5.) Why isn't there money in the school's control to do this project with? In short, there just isn't. I can get into the costs of tuition for every student and all that if you'd like personal attention to detail like that (just email me your questions). I'm Jack's (the manager's) unofficial secretary, and I've written a lot of statements and seen a lot of receipts. The money isn't getting mismanaged, believe me. We're not talking about DR Congo's (former) Mobutu trying to buy another cheetah skin hat or whatever. It's a tight ship.
6.) The minimum donation is $100. Just kidding, give me whatever you can. I know the economy has been sucking for a while (though I do think that excuse sucks). But think about how much money you'd want to help us out with, and let's get 'er done. Little by little, we can do this. As my people say, Turi kumwe – we are together.
7.) I'll be sure to take lots of photos and video of the before, during, and after. I'll make sure and get lots of the kids, maybe get them to sing you guys a song or something. They'd be stoked on that.
This money will be greatly appreciated, guys. Sometimes I remember teachers at my college (Cal Poly SLO, holla) would gripe about not having a smart room to plug their computer into. When I do a quiz, I have to write the questions on the chalkboard and kids pull out paper from their notebooks because we don't have a copier (or a power supply to fire up something like that). E.S. Rugabano is pretty barren. At least I don't have to deal with those stinky dry-erase markers. Anyways, it's resource-low, on the real. Bare essentials to their environment are all I'm trying to get to my kids. I just want to make teaching more possible.
Thanks a lot for reading, and please get at me if you have any questions about anything, email or phone. I'm pretty far away from y'all and dig the correspondence. Otherwise, you know what to do. If you know me, you know this is a worthwhile endeavor. Let's make it happen.
Much love from the Great Rift Valley,