Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Triumphant Return, Part 1.5

Okay, so I am late to post again as is now my norm....what can I say?  When in Africa, I follow African time!!  But actually, no, I have been HUGELY, AMAZINGLY, FANTASTICALLY, AND STUPENDOUSLY busy at school!  And it has been a blast!!  I know that as far as smooth sailing goes, we are just lulling along and will at some point hit rough waters, but honestly, this year has been LEAPS AND BOUNDS easier, more enjoyable, and an overall better experience than last year.  I AM ENJOYING MYSELF, PEOPLE.  It's kinda crazy....
Now, I know I promised testimonials from last year's group, the kids and their parents and the teachers at Msaranga Primary School, but though I've taken tons of photos and videos and Vumi and I have interviewed everybody, I've not yet had time to do all the transcriptions or weed through the footage, so....patience, dear readers, patience....
As for this blog entry, I'll just continue to give you the haps on what's been taking my time away from blog-writing and you all can be the judges of my work.

Nine days back at school and we have:
1.) re-assessed the 19 students from last year who have been attending special ed tuition with Vumi.  Last week's post concerned their progress; flip back in case you missed it.
2.) completed testimonials from a fair number of these students, their parents, and the Standard One and Standard Two teachers.  I am still waiting on a good time to talk with the Headmaster and I hope to get that done soon so I can post all the testimonials together, maybe this weekend.
3.) resumed tuition of last year's students with the help of one new hire, a young lady named Yacinta, who was brought on and is being trained by Vumi.  Hopefully by next month, she will be sufficiently instructed in our Toa Nafasi ways to take a real position with us.  I've not known her long, but she seems kind, patient and, above all, to actually care for children and their education.
4.) started observation of this year's Standard One kiddies with a new system whereby I don't fully dis-engage from the class and watch from afar, but rather allow Mama T to teach her lessons and then when the kids need their work corrected from their notebooks, I can do a kind of pre-assessment with them by marking it myself.  This does several things: it helps Mama T to not go nuts; it helps me to focus on the pupils rather than the teacher (my rookie mistake last year); it allows me to learn who is struggling and in what way; and it keeps me fully engaged the whole day long.  Win-win-win-win.
5.) successfully moved the little girl I have been writing about from Msaranga to Kibosho where she will attend classes at the Gabriella Centre during the day and get the special education support she needs as well as board there at night and stay safe from the social dangers she faces as an intellectually impaired child.  We brought her and all her things (packed carefully in one of Angi's old suitcases left behind last summer) along with her babu (grandfather) for enrollment this morning.  After paying the first month's school fees and settling her in with the matron, we left her happily waving goodbye and running off to her new "family."  Possibly the biggest coup of my Toa Nafasi career thus far.
From Msaranga Primary School.... a new room.... the start of a whole new life!!

My only disappointment since I last wrote has been that I did not get farther than my LOI with the family foundation I had approached.  It seems their current funding priorities do not accommodate the scope of Toa Nafasi's work, so it's not a good fit at this time.  While I was pretty bummed at first, I rallied long enough to eke out an email asking for some constructive criticism.  I feel comfortable sharing with you all what I got back since I actually think despite the rejection, I am moving in the right direction.
At the moment, we are placing an emphasis on supporting organizations that are addressing issues relating to reproductive health - and particularly on those that are engaging youth in the provision of adolescent sexual reproductive health services.  That being said, our funding priorities do shift from time to time; I would encourage you to check in with our website periodically to see if any bullet points have been added or changed to the Thematic Areas of Interest section of the Request a Grant page.
With regard to your application, I would first say that it was well-prepared.  You presented Toa Nafasi's mission clearly and you articulated well thought-out goals for the organization's future growth.  I can't speak to the criteria that other donors use to evaluate applications, but as far as we are concerned I would say that we have a short list of components that we like to see potential partners meet.
First and foremost is the thematic fit as described above; then the presence of strong, African voices in the organization's leadership; evidence of diversified and sustainable sources of funding; and active partnerships with other grantees in our portfolio and/or other organizations working in the community.
I hope you find this feedback helpful and wish you all the best in your work in Msaranga.
And, do you know what?  I do find her feedback helpful and I believe she does wish me all the best in Msaranga!  And I also believe that while this opportunity did not pan out the way I had hoped, enough good stuff has happened in the last nine days to make up for it, and to spur this Project on to further successes.

Forward....MARCH!  And, while you're at it, enjoy this panoramic viewing of the afternoon class performing their best Oliver Twist at lunchtime.

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