Add it up

Wednesday was our first full day in Bulima, the village Matt has visited numerous times over the last 15 years, and I've only been once (or maybe twice) since 2000. I've spent the last two days seeing how much has changed since those visits, and it's really encouraging. Progress in East Africa can be glacial compared to Western speeds, but progress happens. We're on a power grid where before you had to rely on solar cells, generators and diesel (the non-Vin variety). Power goes out daily, but it also comes back. The internet and Wifi are (dare I say?) stable. That last one is much of what my brother has worked on over the years, and it's paid off for Sheila and students and workers around the NTC campus.

On Wednesday, Micah (the fella that picked us up from the Mwanza airport) & Moses (works for Micah) showed up to get some finance training from Matt. Micah runs an orphanage and school (called TCRC) for around 100 kids in Mwanza, and is himself a graduate of NTC. They run the orphanage on a shoestring budget, and the goal is to improve their budgeting as well as financial transparency to show potential donors where their money goes. Food, clothes, school, housing, along with dorm parents, teachers, etc. They'll support kids from ages 1½ through university graduation. Some kids stick around and join the effort to help other kids (Moses was raised through TCRC), and some go on to education and careers in the world at large. The life orphaned kids can expect on the street here without intervention is miserable. It's on display on almost every side street or edge of any town.

Matt Matt Matt. It's the Matt show (kidding, he's just managed to orchestrate a lot of complexity on a tight schedule). My job in coming here was to assist building an example desk out of wood and steel that could be replicated for teachers at another school Matt's (there he is again) church supports. He was here in February and helped with a prototype desk and chair for the kids, from which 200 copies were built. I'm supposed to do the same for a teacher's model with a few drawers and panels. Why build such a basic item? Lousy ones cost a lot here, and good ones are next to impossible to find. Buto is exceptional at welding, and willing to learn wood working as needed. He's got a shop and already does welding projects on commission, so this seems like a good fit. All we need is time to do the work.

Wednesday was out because of a death in the village that all the younger men had to help dig the grave for. Thursday was out because of the funeral for the aforementioned death. All village members must attend, and working that day is really frowned upon.

So today, Friday, I got to work with Buto. From about 8:30AM to 7:30PM, with a break for lunch. He got about 95% of our design welded up. I got one drawer built. And tomorrow at around noon I leave for Mwanza and will start my journey home. It's frustrating -- I just wasn't prepared for the tool & equipment situation. I could have packed more stuff and made things go faster. As it was, I couldn't make a square cut to save my life. We had rough, un-planed wood planks, and it took forever to try to get it to a usable condition. One drawer. I may have an hour or two in the morning, but we head out after that.

I'm telling myself this trip was meant to be more about relationships than agendas. We've had a bonanza of the former often at the expense of the latter.