Report by Rob - Part 4

It has been some time since my last blog entry and much has happened in the meantime.Early in January I took the opportunity to travel with Irene and Lily to Kigali in Rwanda for a few days where we enjoyed the opportunity to eat some Italian and French food, quite a welcome change from our diet in Bukoba. Kigali itself is a fascinating city to visit. Of course, as a visitor, it is important to learn about the tragic history of this tiny country by visiting the memorials in and around the city. This was a valuable and unforgettable experience. Travelling onwards by myself for a few additional days, I reached Kisenyi at Lake Kivu, on the border with the DRC, Kibuye and finally Butare, Rwanda's "intellectual capital", the home of the National University and the excellent National Museum. I was astounded by the beauty of the countryside, particularly around Kisenyi and Kibuye, where steep mountains plunge down into the lake and some short hiking trips can reward one with the most spectacular landscapes. Travelling in Rwanda was a challenge. The stories are almost as long as the journeys themselves, but in brief; a 7 hour journey in a local minibus crammed full of 25 people plus luggage made even more uncomfortable by the endless potholes and rocks in the road and interrupted only when we had to hide ten of our passengers from the Rwandan police in the forest (bus is licences to carry 15 only) and then smuggle them back into the bus once we were beyond the police check. There was also an incident with a sliding door falling off a bus and another 10 hour coach journey where the driver played one 4-minute song on repeat for 4 and a half hours. Truly, travelling is so much of the total experience here. Despite the beauty of the countryside, after a long and arduous journey of 20 hours back to Bukoba I was delighted to return to familiar surroundings and see friendly faces.

In the last two weeks I have been busy working on my two projects, with a great deal of time spent with Sr. Adela, analysing the soap production. I have been able to recover a great deal of essential information regarding ingredients, quantities, costs, supplier locations and competitors which I have been able to share with the team in Munich via Podio. As we attempt to bring this business to profitability, this research has enabled us to focus on the distinct source of losses, notably the hard soap as being separate to the profitable liquid soap production. I'll be working with the Sisters closely to discuss the next steps. Aside from the soap production, I've been trying to find alternative profitable business activities and I have an idea which I believe has some promise, but I'll reveal that in my next blog entry as I'm going to discuss the idea with the Sisters tomorrow.

Through our contacts in Bukoba, the three of us have become members of the Bukoba Rotaract Club (Junior Rotary Club) and this weekend we made a visit to an orphanage in central Bukoba which is facing some serious challenges and so this has become a side project of ours. This week we will make another visit to assess what approach it will be best for Rotaract to take.

Otherwise, another friend, Afzal, has taken us hiking in the countryside around Bukoba and on Sunday he took us to the beautiful waterfalls, about 7km out of town.

On Friday night I'll be taking the overnight boat to Mwanza, returning on the Sunday night crossing. I'll be travelling with the Bukoba Cricket Club to play in a regional tournament over the weekend. I never anticipated that I'd be playing cricket here in Tanzania, but then again, Africa is nothing if not full of surprises.

Jahresbericht 2003

Die ersten Waisenkinder, denen Sie mit Ihrer Unterstützung bessere Chancen für ihr Leben ermöglicht haben, sind nun schon erwachsen. Aber auch die Gruppe der Schwestern, die die Hilfe in den weit verzweigten Dörfern leisten, ist älter geworden. So hat sich 2003 die Solidaritäts-Mannschaft neu gebildet, jüngere Schwestern sind hinzugekommen und im Laufe dieses Jahres werden zwei ausgebildete Sozialarbeiterinnen, deren Studium unsere Spenden ermöglicht haben ,das Projekt mit neuen Ideen und Strukturen beleben können.

Der Aktionsradius der Waisenhilfe hat sich auch etwas erweitert. Im Ort “Kishuru” (ca. 60 km südlich von Bukoba), der in einem abgelegenen Talkessel liegt und nur mit Gelände-fahrzeugen zu erreichen ist, haben die Schwestern eine “Aussenstation” errichtet. Ein altes ungenutztes Schulgebäude besteht schon und drei junge Lehrerinnen aus Bayern , versuchen hier ehrenamtlich wieder Kinder zu unterrichten. Beim Beschaffen von Lehrmitteln und Verköstigung und Unterbringung von mittellosen Kindern haben wir finanziellmitgeholfen.

Auch eine Einladung für Mitglieder der Solidaritäts-Teams, das unsere Jugendlichen 2002 so gastfreundlich aufgenommen hat, uns zu besuchen, könnte dieses Jahr die persönliche Verbindung zu den Schwestern wieder auffrischen.

Eine Summe von € 25.000.-- konnten wir 2003 den Schwestern überweisen, um, - so unsere Wünsche -, mehr Helfer vor Ort zu finden für die Waisen und Kranken, einfache Kurse anzubieten zur Nutzung von Solar-Energie, zur Vermittlung von Grundkenntnissen der Computer - Bedienung und vor allem Beratung und Testmöglichkeiten der Aids-Bedrohten zu verbessern.

Herzlichen Dank für ein weiters Jahr Ihrer Treue und Sorge für Kinder, deren Lebensaussichten Sie verbessern halfen.

Zur Erinnerung: Für überwiesene Spenden bis € 100 gilt der Bankbeleg als Quittung. Wer eine Quittung des Vereins wünscht, bekommt diese gerne auf Anforderung

Report by Rob - Part 3

My Christmas period at Nyaigando has been a mixture of highs and lows. Christmas Day itself was very special. By some great coincidence, Vivian, a Tanzanian friend of mine from university in London has family living here in Bukoba. After meeting up with her uncle Appollo before Christmas, I was invited to attend the family Christmas celebrations. I attended Appollo’s church at Kiteba, close to Bukoba in the morning and afterwards, along with all of Appollo’s neighbours, family and friends we ate the most magnificent feast; goat, chicken, pork and beef. Of course, I was truly grateful for such a meal but also for the incredible welcome which I received, something which is common here in Tanzania but which never loses its charm.The immediate days following Christmas Day were not so dissimilar to a typical European Christmas, as I slowly recovered from the vast quantity of food which I had consumed. Unfortunately the aforementioned low-point came a few days before New Year, when I developed the symptoms of malaria. Although this was very unpleasant, I was well looked after by Lily and Irene and of course by the Sisters too. For this, I am very thankful. Irene, Lily and Sister Gaudentia prepared countless teas and sugary syrups and I was just getting used to this fantastic waitress service when I recovered! Anxious to catch up on lost time and to make sure the 2014 budget was complete before the Munich team’s strategy conference on 4th and 5th January, I spent last week in meetings with the Sisters, going through the budget, discussing the goals for each distinct activity and from this, making revenue and expenses projections for the forthcoming year. While an essential piece of work for the organization as a whole, this also represented a great discussion platform for my own projects. It was an opportunity to introduce a new conceptual and strategic way of thinking about budget planning to the sisters and it was also a great context in which to discuss the soap business and any other possible expansion plans. Since the completion of the budget my attention has been turned towards progressing with each of my individual projects, in particular the analysis of the soap production facility. This week I have meetings with Sr Adella and Sr Redempta which will allow me to collect the necessary information and I am looking forward to discussing these findings with the rest of the team both in Munich and here in Nyaigando. Aside from work, the last few days have been notable for other reasons too; we were fortunate enough to receive invitations to visit Raymond, who works with the carpentry students and Edmond who is a friend of Sister Redempta and our driver on that original journey from Kampala down to Bukoba back in the beginning of December. Raymond took us to his home via a quick tour of his village, Igombe. It was fascinating to see his collection of photographs which showed the St Maria Gorethe organization across the previous 10 years. Before returning home, Raymond posed us with a welcome problem, by giving us a live chicken as a gift. Such generosity, but we didn’t know how to prepare it for the kitchen. Fortunately the wonderful Sister Monica was willing to give us all a quick lesson in chicken killing and the image of her holding a bloodied knife, while standing over our murdered chicken, is one that will last long in my memory! We look forward to making a return visit to Raymond and offering our own gift, carefully selected to offer him a new challenge too.

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This weekend I will take a short trip out to Kigali which will be fascinating I’m sure and on the way home, I plan to visit another organization in Masaka, Uganda which is undertaking similar work to that of St Maria Gorethe.

Report by Rob - Part 2

The 2nd week in Nyaigando has passed smoothly and I now feel totally at home and comfortable here. We have now fully explored the small town of Bukoba and regularly bump into familiar faces on trips to the market or down to the lake shore. Indeed, I even met with the family of a good friend from university who is from Bukoba and I've been invited to join them for Christmas Day. Small world! I have also got to know many who live in the villages of Kashozi and Kibengwe, close to Nyaigando, as I am playing football at the local school with the 30 or so who play their every day. Of those I know in Kashozi, one is now a very good friend, the fantastically named Papa Perfect, who seems to know everyone in the area. Of course, it's always more fun having a wider circle of friends to meet, but it's also interesting to get different perspectives on the lives of the local people, both here close to Nyaigando as well as in Bukoba.

This week has also signalled the beginning of my project work. I have had meetings with the Sisters to introduce my proposals and these were well received. With regard to the soap project, I am undertaking a full-scale review of operations in order to try and improve the financial performance. This would enable us to further safeguard the sustainability of the organisation and to invest the profits either into the VTCs or the school scholarships. It appears that there are already a number of clear ways in which we can optimise the activity and I will go into further detail on this as and when the work is completed over the coming weeks. It was great to receive the support and understanding of the Sisters for this project.

Furthermore, I have begun to conduct an analysis of alternative, newly proposed business activities into which we could enter. Sister Redempta was eager to inform me of some of the ideas which the Sisters have considered recently and I already have 14 different proposals to investigate. I think some form of prioritisation must take place here! I'll also benefit from taking a trip to Musaka, Uganda and to Mwanza where the Sisters were aware of similar projects which I should research. I'm hoping to schedule this in for mid-January.

I wish you all a fantastic Christmas period and I'm looking forward to settling down to some more of the local specialities on Christmas Day; matoke (a boiled savoury banana dish), matunda ya Bukoba (fruit of the region) and the fried grasshoppers, which I'm assured are "very nutritious".

Merry Christmas.