Thursday July 2 – Maseru/TY
Some days are bad days. This one was very bad. It started out well with Simon picking us up in the morning and driving us up to TY where our Hub is located. TY has a population of 30,000 people and is Lesotho’s second biggest town after Maseru. The drive up is through some stunningly beautiful country with the scenery reminiscent of Cathedral Canyon so often seen in Hollywood westerns. That was the high point of the day.
Got an emergency call from Eoghan, Camara’s Technical Director, saying that Kenyan needed ϵ3,000 urgently to clear its container. Camara is not like the larger charities, Concern or Oxfam that have got significant reserves behind them, we basically spend every penny we get and sometimes spend money we don’t have. We can handle a couple of these emergencies a year but in the last 6 months we seem to have run foul of every customs authority in Africa. We have pretty thorough procedures for clearing customs (having sent out and cleared nearly 50 containers over the last 3 years) but we cannot account for the increasingly arbitrary nature of tax, fines, duties, demurage and expenses being levied against us. I suspect the global economic crisis is forcing some governments and companies to target “wealthy” organisation to make up lost revenues. Unfortunately this short term gain will have a detrimental impact on the advancement of the African educational system.
Unfortunately for me the day got worse. I went to visit the Lesotho Hub for the first time since August 2008 when I had last saw it as just a shell that our volunteers had helped paint. The good news – there were lots of computers there. The bad news – there were lots of computers there, about 800 Camara machines in total (with revenue potential to the Hub of some ϵ40,000) waiting to get sent out to schools. There were other problems: lack of volunteers, poor technical capacity; lack of documentation; no training programs; and limited marketing or follow-up with the schools. The Hub was also quite messy with stuff scattered everywhere (also not a good sign) and no obvious systems in place. I was not happy.
Got back to our beautiful guest house (called Pitseng) where myself and Trisha had dinner and a few beers (I deserved them) with Monica and Carl the two team coordinators for the Lesotho team. Went to bed knowing tomorrow will be a new day.
Press-ups 0, Situps 0, Bicep curls 0 (The beers didn’t help)