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."
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