Monday, December 28, 2009

School in Waku Kungo - Update #1 by Luis Samacumbi

"So raise up your tired hands! Strengthen your weak knees! (Hebrews 12: 12)

The plan!

It was 3:30 AM on December 16, 2009 when I woke up at Hotel Nino where I overnight after the hard work in Bunjei Mission Station- Huila Province. No water in the tap for the needed shower! Then I took the small bottle of mineral water left the day before just to wash the mouth at least. Everything was quiet, all sleeping including the guards at the Hotel who did not notice my departure. It was raining strongly; a hat protected my head from heavy drops of rain.

I went to my car a Toyota Land cruiser, green plate LBA 44-55, the companion of long trips and moments of solitude on the roads of Angola. The American music animated the fighter for peace and social justice leaving for the city of Waku Kungo in the fulfillment of another noble mission.

Yes, the future of Angola depends on good education that frees the minds of children and youth from the recent past, which was not the good one forced to live for more than three decades. In fact education is peace, peace is democracy, and democracy is social and economic justice.

Children in Waku Kungo have been waiting for the school without getting tired since September 2003 when a team led by Luis Samacumbi did the baseline survey that indicated education as a top priority in that particular area.

What is new?

In my recent monitoring visit on the ground December 16, 2009, I was able to see the progress in the implementation of the project. So, I am pleased to report to all of you the following occurred developments:

• The building of the school started with the opening of the specific Bank Account in Waku Kungo to ensure transparent use of funds;

• Three people are subscribers of that account, their signatures are compulsory for any bank account transaction;

• A team of four persons was created and trained in financial management by the Director General of DASEP [Department of Social Programs] to ensure transparency and expenditures control;

• Three builders were hired to build the school. They will have the support of volunteer members of the community;

• Construction materials including: stone, sand, bricks, cement, etc. were purchased;

• The plan of the school with six classrooms is in place and approved by the Waku Kungo Municipal Section of Education, which will pay the teachers when school starts;

• The foundations are already being dug and lifted.

The photos attached show some of the advances mentioned above:

Photo #1 - U shaped School Plan with 8 classrooms and offices, but we are going to build only 6 classrooms with the amount of money that will be available;

Photos # 2, 3 – Tractor and men transporting stones for the foundations;

Photos # 4, 5 – Workers unloading the stones;

Photo # 6, 7, 8 – Kids already smiling for the school construction starting;

Photo #9 – Stones unloaded ready to be used;

Photo # 10 – Luís Samacumbi providing financial instructions for good records and transparency;

Photo # 11 – Team of builders.


There is no internet available in Waku Kungo and the Project team doesn’t know how to operate if there were access;

Digital photos will available only when Luis Samacumbi or other DASEP Central colleague pass by;

The digital camera purchased by Rev. Mike is being used and photos are being printed. So, DASEP in Luanda will then scan.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Your BIC(Brother in Christ)
Luís Samacumbi

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Following the Money

A few people have asked me recently about the finances for the school building in Angola. Specifically, I think people need to know more about how the money is being accounted for, and what controls there are to make sure the money goes to the right place. The increase in need, from $50,000 to $70,000, has probably (and understandably) raised a few eye brows. So here is a fairly full description of the situation with regard to the financing of the school in Waku Kungo.

First, while my swim of the English Channel was the event that created this school building project, this is by no means something I have put together on my own. Soon after I proposed the project, the Waku Kungo school became an official project of the Global Ministries division of the United Church of Christ, the denomination of my church. Here is a link to official information on the UCC website about the denominational side of the project. Global Ministries and the United Church of Christ has had a 50 year partnership with the Evangelical Congregational Church of Angola (I.E.C.A. - pronounced "YAY-kah"), and through the various collections of Congregational churches through the years, the relationship with the Congregationalists in Angola goes back over 120 years. Global Ministries has been directly involved in hundreds of projects with I.E.C.A through the years. Global Ministries has significant financial controls in place, because it is absolutely critical for both our side (Global Ministries) and their side (I.E.C.A.) that donor wishes are strictly followed and that money given is used only as intended.

Second, I visited Angola in 2005 and personally met many people who are now involved in the school building project. The primary point person in Angola is Luis Samacumbi, the Director of D.A.S.E.P. (which somehow stands for the Department of Social Mission and Education and Special Projects of I.E.C.A.). He has been the Director of D.A.S.E.P. for many years, and has an impeccable record of responsible financial stewardship. He is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars given to support social mission projects for I.E.C.A. and has strong internal financial controls. I have also personally met with the leader of the one million member I.E.C.A. denomination, Rev. Augusto Chipesse. Rev. Chipesse was recently re-elected to a five year term as the leader of the denomination, and again, has an impeccable record of responsible stewardship of donated funds. Luis Samacumbi was here in the U.S. this past summer and we hosted him part of that time in Rockford. We thoroughly discussed the school project, his plans for use of the money, and those plans have been confirmed through Global Ministries.

Third, while corruption and financial mismanagement are sadly common in many places in the world, including Angola, I.E.C.A. has proved again and again that it is a reliable partner in social mission projects. I have personally been involved in two previous social mission projects through I.E.C.A. involving thousands of dollars (distribution of Bibles, and purchase of motorcycles for transportation for pastors) and have personally seen and confirmed the follow-through on those projects.

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning that Luis Samacumbi first informed me about the change in government policy (the change from four classrooms to six classrooms) back in June, when I had raised less than $5000. He was not able to give me an adjusted cost estimate at that time. Because I had widely publicized the $50,000 figure, and because even $50,000 was a far away dream at that time, it didn't make much sense to publicly raise the number. But as we approached the $50,000 figure, and the full needed amount of $70,000 looked possible (with some more determination and patience), it made sense to make the new goal public. The increase to $70,000 was not a late attempt to simply get more money, but absolutely needed to complete the project. Our Angolan partners, in fact, never asked me to increase the amount, but knowing of the need, I decided to continue to try to fully fund the school.

Thus, I have strong historical, organizational, and personal assurance that the money is being used 100% for the intended purpose of building a school in Waku Kungo. This is one of the advantages of working within the parameters of a long-standing partnership between two church organizations that are committed to embodying the good news of God's love, through promotion of education, and in a thousand other ways.

This is not the most fascinating post, I know, but hopefully you appreciate this little look "behind the curtain" of the school building project. This sort of reminds me of what legendary baseball manager Tony LaRussa said one time when he was trying to describe the apparently simple task of stealing a base. After beginning to explain the managerial thinking involved in base stealing, and apparently feeling like he had only scratched the surface, he leaned back and summarized: "There's a lot of stuff goes on." Well, I try to keep the details out of the public eye, since they are rather boring really, but when it comes to swimming the English Channel and building a school in Angola, "There's a lot of stuff goes on."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Happy Day - $51,385

Yesterday was a great day. In the mail I received an anonymous gift for $2000 from a woman who had read about my swim in a national weekly newspaper (a.k.a. tabloid), the National Examiner. I don't know who she is, but it sure was wonderful! That brings the total to $51,385. And thus we have passed the original goal of $50,000. I'm doing a little happy dance.

Wow. $50,000. Where I come from, that's a lot of money. The most amazing thing is almost all of it has come from small donations. The average donation was $145.82. The median was fifty bucks! (Those numbers don't include the very important $10,000 gift from the Tuthill Fund.)

If you read my previous post, however, you know that I, and we!, are not done yet. Because of changes in government policy, our Angolan church partners need to build a bigger school than originally planned. The new six classroom school will cost $70,000. So that is the new (and final, I promise!) goal.

I am very open to new ideas of how to bring more people in on the fun of helping to build a school in Waku Kungo, Angola - a school that will serve 630 people who otherwise would have little or no access to education. With an average donation of $145.82, we need 134 people to discover the joy of giving to such a wonderful project. Can you recruit one or two or ten of them? With our help, about 630 kids like this...

...can face the challenges of their lives, through education.