The onslaught of “Uncle Jon, I need to talk to you” has begun. Every trip, as people learn of my approaching departure date, the requests for help or a laptop or a phone or school fees or shoes or something starts to intensify. I’ll politely decline for the remainder of the week.
I went into Gbarnga and picked up the latest batch of feeders made by Jerome the carpenter. Since I was nearby, I decided to finally stop at “Mary’s Meals”, an NGO from the UK that provides rice, oil, and other ingredients for school lunches. I’ve spoken with Sumo about this over the past 2 years but now that our student enrollment has grown some (and the cost for feeding them), it’s time to seriously look into how we can benefit from their program. There’s a large Mary’s Meals warehouse down the road from Jerome’s so I knocked on the big steel gates and spoke to a security guard. She directed me to the main office on the other side of Gbarnga (just past the football stadium). I headed over and spoke to a young man named Mulbah. After giving my pitch about our school, he said a budget to expand their program in Bong County hadn’t been approved yet. He was, in fact, hired to lead the expansion efforts but was basically hanging around until someone from the UK gave authorization. He said he was currently “under utilized” in his position. We discussed the process for us to become a program beneficiary and how we could get one “the list” should funding come through. This included a site visit, minimum requirements such as boys/girls bathrooms, water, and proper registration with the Ministry of Education. Wanting to get him interested and since he seemed somewhat capable and motivated, I asked if he could visit our school today to take a preliminary look. We met later in the morning and he was quite impressed. He said, “I didn’t know there was a beautiful ‘city’ back here.” He commented that we were clearly qualified from the facility perspective, now it was a matter of his program funding. I’m hopeful but, as with most things here, only the squeakiest of wheels get any grease (and sometimes you have to grease the greaser). I need to have Sumo stay on top of this.
During a stop at Mr. Barbar’s, I asked if he knew someone who could address our leaky tank fittings problem. Just so happens a young plumber of his, Bill, was standing right there. Mr. Barbar arranged for the man to check it out. After scaling the tower with me, a plan was set for Bill to return in the morning to climb inside to complete the work and fix the problem for good….I hope!
In the afternoon I decided to visit my friend Eric at the leprosy community he works with. Annie came along for the ride. This community in Suakoko is doing a great job of farming. With vast land area of swamp, they have an extensive patchwork of swamp rice being grown. They’ve recently painted most of the buildings and have added a solar panel for some community lights. They also make feed for their fish farm. I asked about having them make chicken feed for us using their grinder since the fish feed has similar ingredients as the chicken feed. One is “bony dust”. They take bags of dried fish parts – heads, tails, bones – and grind it into a powder which gets incorporated with ground corn. Bony dust would be good for our chickens that are actively laying to improve their calcium intake needed during egg production. They’re working up a cost to see if it’s worth buying this from them as a supplement to the feed we get from BRAC.
On the way home from Suakoko, I stopped with Annie at her house to see the construction progress. Much has been done since May when I visited last and she’s excited to move in before the rainy season. I ended the day with Kalalee bringing more baskets to sell and Moses hanging out in the guesthouse porch. After Kalalee left, we finished watching “The Incredibles” on my laptop together. The next batch of chicks arrives tomorrow!