Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Onward!

Today the NPHC and I met with the Small Grants Coordinator from the U.S. Embassy, who has us short-listed as a candidate to receive funding come October.  The funding will be in large part for a Permanent Structure (capital P and S) for the company.  The rest will go towards solar panels, a couple computers, and mosquito net fabric.

In order to get ready for the meeting, the company did quite a lot of work.  We became officially recognized as an NGO within Uganda (!), we worked out a land agreement (you are now looking at the beneficiary of 2 acres of land), designed an AutoCad-esque reprensentation of our proposed building (on paint, mind you).  We got recommendation letters from companies selling our hammocks, the Local Chiefs on three different levels, and from the CAO of Ngora (Chief Administrative Officer)(Pronounced "cow"---yeah, really.)  We wrote our official constitution, outlined our progress thus far and made 6 month, 1 year, and 3 year goals for ourselves.  It is awesome!

Our idea for the grant is to scale up the company in a fairly big way.  We would be buying 25 sewing machines and adding on 30-50 interns onto our company.  These interns are all OVCs (Orphans/Vulnerable Children) who have come from P7 (basically, 8th grade equivalent.), but who aren't able to make it to Secondary Education. 

The system set up in Uganda is such that attending Primary education is fairly manageable.  There is a UPE (Universal Primary Education) in place that makes it "free" to go to school through P7.  I say "free" because it is what every politician calls it, yet expenses like uniforms, books, pencils, food for lunch, etc. still exist.  Unfortunately because some people call it "free," and because of the huge problem with corruption, when parents hear that they have to pay for things at their school, they just assume that someone wants to smuggle money and ignores it completely.  And the kid goes hungry. 

Anyway, while USE (Universal Secondary Education) is technically also in Uganda, it is much less widespread.  I personally have never seen a USE secondary school.  Schools are pretty expensive to attend--anywhere from 200,000UGX-700,000 per term, three terms a year.  That means a minimum of about 222 (sweet) dollars for every student, every year.  Consider this for a family, which on average makes at or below $1.00 a day (85% of homes here hardly have any income at all; they live off the land completely, but have nothing extra to sell in the market).  Add on the fact that a woman in Uganda births an average of almost 7 children in her lifetime.  The math is getting fuzzy.

Thus, "Vulnerable Child" is a pretty easy-to-assign term here in Uganda.  We will be searching for the kids who are the most driven out of all of these to join us at the NPHC for a 1 year internship.  During this time, they will spend time learning about finance skills, entrepreneurship, public speaking, savings and loans, as well as the vocational skill of Tailoring.  The small amount of money (no less than 10,000(4 bucks)--no more than 100,000) that they put in to be apart of the company each term will be held for them, and given back at the end of the year.  Along with this, they will be given the portion that they have earned through their work with the NPHC during this year.  With this money they will be encouraged to go back to school, or if they so choose, to set up their own business with the skills they've acquired within the school-like atmosphere. 

While the kids are interns, they will be given the option of accommodation within the structure we hope to build.  There will be a screened in porch around all sides of the building, with poles in the middle to support the very hammocks we are trying to sensitize the community about.  These will be strong, netted, and will act as an emergency shelter for the kids in need. 

This project is something that is evolving every day.  It has ignited the creativity within the two most committed workers in the NPHC, which has been such a great thing to see.  Everyday they come to me, nearly running, wanting to tell me about their new idea they have.  It's the same with me, too---I'm still trying to stay in the background, though, and let the kids figure it out on their own. 

This really was meant to be a blog about being DONE with the interview from the Embassy, and all about me being excited about going home to America.  I guess I was deceiving myself; what I'm excited about is happening all around me.  Right here, right now.

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