Once we had the first project well underway in ViengHin, and a schedule to roll-out the first 257 water filters, it was time to get our last major project underway…Donesok School construction. It was a heck of a long drive on a very bumpy road but we finally got there, after ensuring we hadn’t lost any limbs along the way. The village visit went well and the chief reconfirmed the village’s commitment to provide sand, gravel and wood for the framing of the roof. The first surprise however was that there were ony 16 students at the school, not the 63 students (with a waiting list for the next term to start). The chief told us that they had sent 20 students to another school until the new school was built. Still, tht made a total of 37 – We also so no evidence of other students that were old enough to go to school, but forced to wait until the new term (granted, they could have been working in the fields). Concurrently we met with a water engineer for the dug well and had brought the builder for the school with us. Satisfied that everything was generally in order, we retired to a village with a guest house, about 2 1/2 hours away so that we could prepare contracts with the intent on presentation and signing the next morning.
Things were not as they seemed…at all. The village met that night also, to discuss and to assign duty tasks but something did not go right at the meeting I guess. While I suspect some of it might have been politically motivated (perhaps a power struggle in the village), a decision was relayed to us that the villagers would not provide anything. Our team had previously noted that there was lots of sand a short distance from the school, on the banks of the river…free for the taking. This was extremely disappointing news…not to mention frustrating. Our own team had another huddle and it was agreed that it was unlikely that the villagers would maintain the school, pump and toilets either. With no skin in the game, the pride and ownership just didn’t seem to to be there. Even with their lies, it was a difficult decision to withdraw our support. This left us with quite a dilemma however. It meant finding a new project(s) quickly, emailing modification requests to our school donors and to all 19 Rotary Clubs for the water portion of the project.
After reviewing all of the requests, it was decided to approach our donors to allow us to re-designate the funds to adding two more rooms to Katang Xieng School, provide a toilet bank to Pha Yong where we had done toilet banks before, and to provide additional water filters to the rural villages (currently there are requests for over 1200 systems). We just got final approval from the Board of Directors at Global Change For Children as the last major sponsor for the school, who announced their support for the change. Whew! We are still awaiting decision from 3 Rotary Clubs and may have to return a small portion of funding to the Rotary District due to their funding rules -it doesn’t prevent us from reapplying for the same funds but the deadline is today and with the Christmas and New Years holidays upon us, there was just no way to process everything in time. Still, we are extremely happy with the results so far.
So Katang Xieng will get two additional rooms (doesn’t need water/toilets because it was done last year), Pha Yong will get the final bank of toilets and there will be at least another 50 water filters (serving 250 more villagers). Fantastic!