I’ve been very busy with our school project, and am deliriously excited to put up before and after pictures. First here is a look at some of the progress we made recently. The last few months have seen great changes that I have noticed in the physical structure of the school, and intangibly in myself and in the community.
This has without a doubt been the most difficult undertaking of my life. From the allocation and attainment of resources to the management of a leadership team of five it has been gratifyingly challenging. There were hard days and tough decisions that we made together. There was the week in which we could not work due to the rain. There was the personal dilemma I faced as I questioned my own role. I wanted so much to help the school, but was constantly afraid that the work would continue the stereotype that all white people are rich – that we come and spend and leave. In the end, I hope that the legacy was based not on bricks but on capacity building. The awesome thought that they could have done this without me.
The most important difference is the attitude of the leaders, teachers and neighbors of the school. Recently, a father offered to add a layer of cement to all of the interior classrooms for a fraction of his normal price. He is also painting the classrooms free of charge. For weeks, 70 or so volunteers showed up to lend a hand. Now that school is in session, we can only work in the afternoons or on the weekends.
Jon and I, as well as my European friends from a local NGO have been painting and taught and installed our “solar light bulbs.” The teachers were amazed when they saw it. Their dark, muddy and dank classroom is now filled with light and color. In one of the photos you can see the new laboratory/classroom that we are building, highlighted by new roofing and brick interiors. It will allow the classroom held under a tree to move indoors.
It has been a joy to watch the physical transformation. More importantly the cultural transformation is beautiful. From the first day, I’ve tried to instill a sense of ownership for the leaders of the project and community members. This is your work, not mine. I’ve also taken a back seat, and allowed leaders to emerge. The vice principal Kero has been a joy to work with. He has learned so much about community mobilization and construction, and he and the principal glowingly discuss their plans for the future. They want to raise funds and continue to improve the school. That is the greatest achievement of the school – the idea that I’ve worked myself out of a job.
Tomorrow we will finish the painting, the last step in our rebuilding process. The laboratory is finished, but still needs the cement flooring. The materials are in place, but I will not see this last piece – the cemented floor of the newest classroom. To me, that is the greatest joy. The feeling that I trust my friends to finish it without me, with money they raised to supplement the project. This is the beginning not the end.
Enjoy the pictures. On Sunday I will post the final ones. Thank you so much for all of your support!