July 3, 2014

Projeto Embelezamento - Messica

I'm sorry that it's been awhile since my last blog. Things have been rolling along just fine here in Messica! We're well into the second trimester now, and will be finishing up with provincial exams in just a few weeks. Though I am less than excited for provincial exams, I am extremely excited to finish up the trimester so that I can head to South Africa to meet up with my dad and brother on August 6th! I can't believe that it's only about a month away!

So to catch up on the events of June, there were many things going on including but not limited to planning for JUNTOS workshops, 3 out of the 4 JUNTOS workshops happening, and the implementation of Projeto Embelezamento at our school here in Messica!

My JUNTOS workshop fun will be next weekend in Gondola, so hopefully I will be posting a blog after about how things went. I'm hoping for the best this year, since my workshop last year had more than a few problems. I'm optimistic that this year will be much better, as long as the counterparts are all involved and ready to give their sessions on topics such as HIV/AIDS, violence, leadership, diversity, malaria, and more. There are 5 students from Messica that will be attending the Workshop, including two of my 12th grade students, that were so excited that they were chosen that they started jumping up and down...not joking. It was adorable, and I can't wait to see all that they will learn and contribute to the conversation next weekend.

Moving on to the most important thing that has been happening here in Messica over the last month and the reason that I'm writing this blog. Projeto Embelezamento!

Last year, Sarah and I took two of our colleagues to a conference put on by Peace Corps called Project Design and Management. This conference taught us how to plan and implement a project. We learned how to do a needs assessment of the community, how to plan a budget, how to apply for grants, etc. Over the two day conference, we came up with many ideas about how we could improve our school, and we decided that we should survey the students, teachers, community, and school direction to find out what our priority project would be. The results of the survey told us that our community's number one preference was a computer lab for the school. This all happened in August and September of last year.

Sarah and I worked on writing a grant, and eventually submitted it to Peace Corps. After waiting awhile and getting some feedback, we had to make some changes to our application. We resubmitted it, and waited approximately FOREVER to hear anything.

While I was home in December/January, we finally got word that upon changing a few more things, our grant application would be approved. Sarah and I talked in depth about the project and whether we thought it would be realistic to try to construct a whole building, and then try to find computers to fill it with in just 10 months. Based on the fact that there are 4 classrooms at school that have been in construction since we got here and are still not much farther to being finished then when we arrived, we decided that it was probably unrealistic to think that we could get it all done in such a short time. We definitely didn't want to only do a project halfway, so we broke the news to our colleagues that we didn't think our computer lab project was feasible.

Our colleagues took the news well, and insisted that we should still try to do a small project to help the school. After brainstorming with them, we determined that the school had a great need for benches and tables outside. There was one double sided bench at the school for the entire student body of about 2500 students. It was a well-used bench, but it wasn't cutting it. Sarah and I agreed that extra tables and benches would be extremely useful to have at the school, and the project seemed like a very doable one with our remaining 10 months. We got to work on the grant proposal.

After about two months, our proposal was approved. Then came the fund-raising. Thanks to all of you that donated and made the project possible!

When the funds were all donated, the money was deposited into our accounts, and we met with our colleagues to start the construction process. Construction started on June 3rd. After only 20 days of construction, the project was finished on June 23rd. We now have 5 tables with 6 seats each and 3 more double sided benches on our school's campus. I was absolutely amazed at the coordination and efficiency that our colleagues showed us throughout the project. They worked so well together and made sure that everything was perfect! They made sure that 25% of the cost that was the community's responsibility was all accounted for, and all of the money was well used. I could not be more proud to have taken part in such a successful and well-executed project.

The tables and benches are already being used by many students. They are SO excited to have new places to sit and study, or just sit and chat with friends. One student even told me, “Teacher, our school is so nice to be building us new places to sit!” I couldn't help but smile.

After the construction was finished, we had a meeting with our school director and school council president to sign the tables and benches over to the school. The school has told us that they are looking into buying paint to make them more pretty as well as useful. All in all, I can't imagine the process going much smoother, or the project turning out any better. Here are some pictures!

One of our newly constructed tables!

Our new bench next to the only existing bench that we had only one month ago.

Sarah sitting on top of one of our new double sided benches!

Thanks again to everyone who donated!  It wouldn't have been possible without you all!