Goodbye and Welcome!

Sunday, November 15, 2009- It is about one month since I arrived here in Makondo to take over as new project officer from Gemma. Saying good bye to Gemma was a sad occasion for everyone here in the village as she has done a brilliant job and will be dearly missed. However, everyone was really friendly and welcomed me to the community with open arms.

After two weeks of working hand in hand with Gemma, I am now on my own and continuing the work of helping to make St. Denis a self sufficient school. As we are waiting for the approval of funding to implement further income generating projects, I am focusing on making sure everyone here at St. Denis is prepared for the new businesses. We are now running weekly Excel courses for staff who will be involved in running the businesses with a focus on record keeping. The group has grown from 3 to 6 and we have extended the length of the class to two hours per week. My keen students are progressing very quickly and have even agreed to do a little exam next week.

Another focus right now is to improve the current businesses. Unfortunately Makondo parish has been hit by a drought and a very late arriving rainy season means the Matoke plantation and the dairy business have not been productive. The main goal for the dairy business will be to find ways to cost-efficiently counteract the malnutrition of the cows to increase output. Purchasing cow feed from the profits made or acquiring more land to plant nutritious elephant grass could be possible solutions which will be investigated. There have also been discussions about the possibility of extending the Matoke plantation to cope with the large demand for banana in the school kitchen. As for the internet and copy business - our current internet provider seems to be a bit like the electricity supply in Uganda – very temperamental. Therefore we are investigating alternatives to improve the internet service.
Furthermore there was also a revival of the agriculture club, but, in a slightly different format. To get students excited about the planned introduction of a new course called ‘Creating a Profitable Business’ next term, there is now a fortnightly ‘guest speaker series’. Guest speakers, owners of successful start up businesses, will share their experience with the students, to give them an insight but also inspiration about running a business. The first guest speaker last Wednesday was Father Edward, who, next to running a school also has a cattle and eucalyptus tree business. Father Edward’s talk, which was truly inspirational, has definitely worked up the student’ appetite, who are looking forward to our next guest speaker in 2 weeks time.

Alternating with the guest speakers, every Wednesday the agriculture club will take place with its focus on involving the students in the agricultural businesses at St. Denis. Next week, after planning and discussing future activities of the club, there will be a ‘treasure hunt’. Students need to solve a total of 10 tricky tasks such as estimating the number of Matoke plants in the school’s plantation or calculating the amount of cows needed to give every student at St. Denis with a cup of milk per day. The best 3 groups will be awarded with an exciting prize!

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