Thursday, February 24, 2011

Construction Update

During the first three weeks of January - while we were in Tanzania - the construction team got a good start on the second building. The goal was to finish the first classroom of the second building before classes resumed at the beginning of February - we were successful.

Progress by January 20th
A ring beam was strengthen the walls of the second building

Ring beam steel

Jane varnishes posts of the first building with a help from Ishmael

Richard prepares the trusses for the first classroom on the second building

Eva, one of our wonderful cooks, works on lunch

Bill with the Kampala crew AKA "Vickam"

Hundreds of students lineup for lunch in the middle of the site

Dave and Sam work on stairs for the first building - brick forms would be covered in cement

Abdu, a new team member, helps with strapping

The cookhouse was moved from the center of the site shortly after this photo and note the nice concrete steps

The construction team receives new tape measures and carpenter pencils on their last day of work

Brick circles were arranged around the school grounds that were filled with soil and had trees planted for shade and fruit

This phase of construction has come to an end. More was accomplished over the last four months than we had planned but there is still more work to be done. The veranda for the second building still needs to be added and there is a lot of finishing work yet to be done, although, sometimes it is hard to discern when you have completed one project and are starting another.

Teacher Workshops

The past few weeks have been a wonderful period of turning our focus to the social initiatives and capacity-building that are key to developing the school centre into the resource hub, and well-staffed school and centre, that we all want it to be.

Working with the teachers has been pivotal start to this process.

It was by chance that we met Linda at a small presentation we were invited to give to some of the staff at Victoria General Hospital late September. At that point, just a couple of short weeks before we were to depart for Uganda, everything was pretty much in place. The only thing that was really bothering us was that we hadn’t yet found someone to work with the teachers, which had been a real priority ours but regrettably pushed aside in the overwhelming task of organizing the construction, solar, and fundraising.

Meeting Linda was one of several great things that came out of that small meeting at VGH (along with meeting John and Jill, who were wonderful travel companions, great hands to have on site and personal mentors; Tracey Moody, a wonderful new supporter of the project who now shares a name with a small goat in on of the mountain villages; and other great connections, ideas and support).

A retired teacher with much experience running training seminars for teachers in BC whom we had no previous connection with, Linda came up to us after the presentation and introduced herself. “You are just missing someone to work with the teachers? Well I’d like to go.” Settled. A meeting or two over coffee the following week and a basic plan for the development of a teacher training initiative was in place.

Over the next couple of months Linda worked hard to collect resources and input from a wide range of teachers and administrators at the high school level, and developed a wonderful collection of materials and ideas that she could draw on to tailor a series of workshops to the teachers’ areas of interest.

After arriving mid January, Linda worked every day with the teachers on a range of skills and ideas that they had elected to focus on – different methods of teaching encouraging both slow learners and fast learners, systems to ensure that each student had individual contact with the teacher, math and other course specific techniques, discipline, developing respect in classroom, and on key administrative responsibilities.

Linda also organized an intensive period of instruction for the teachers on solar electricity and the care of the new school solar electrical system, with guest instruction from solar team members. She also organized lectures in some of the key areas skills that the teachers had expressed interest in developing, including basic first aid. At the end of the workshop period, and once students were back in school, she worked with the students of each class on solar, on the importance respect and discipline, on recycling and composting, and on goal setting and individual recognition.

Knowledge and insights were shared all around, and strong connections made over the course of Linda’s three weeks in Bwera. We were all impressed by the effort and energy Linda put into making the program a success and equally humbled by the enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers despite the hardships that they have obviously suffered. Amidst the hustle and bustle of building the school, the development of these initiatives has been a great and final step forward. A step forward that seemed a long way off just four short months ago when the school yard was one big dusty yard with a small papyrus school house.

In a further blog post I’ll ask Linda to share some of her thoughts and reflections.

The teachers celebrating the completion of the first classroom late December

Teacher training workshop in session

Robert (Head Teacher), Gideon (Deputy Head Teacher), and Linda

Julie instructs on photovoltaic systems

S2 students take notes in class

Peter and Linda plan the first aid course

Linda and some of the solar team students

The Solar Team, a group of volunteer students trained to look after the solar system on a weekly basis

Linda gives out certificates to the teachers for the completion of the training workshops at the opening ceremony of the school

The student choir preforms at the school's opening ceremony

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Zanzibar or Bust

 On January 2 we set off from Kampala for a two week holiday(/honeymoon). We piled in "Wilson" and drove 1,400Km to Dar es Salaam passing through Kenya and the national parks of Tanzania. For the most part, we put the cameras away but here are a few of our favorite shots from beautiful East Africa.

The gang and trusty Wilson. Although, 1,400Km doesn't sound like a lot, with potholes, police checks, boarders, road construction, hyenas and speed bumps we averaged about 40Km/hr

Bill's motto 'never leave a dead animal in the road'... Bill drags a hyena from the highway

Small twisters touch down around Mt. Meru, TZ

The Ngorogoro Crater in Northern Tanzania is 20Km across and is an amazing ecosystem - all the following animal pictures were taken here

A hyena carefully approaches a kill

Acacia trees against the wall of the crater


A last glimpse into the ctater

Wilson with Kilimanjaro in the distance

If Nat had an oil company...

Leaving Dar on the ferry to Zanzibar


Finally some sand and sun

Zanzibar carved door

The spread at the evening seafood market in Stone Town

We found a few days of tranquility at Mtoni Marine resort - just the two of us. It was a strange juxtaposition with the pool beside the mosque on the beach