After three years of drought rain has finally come to the area. The village farmers have been able to plant crops which are growing and so there will be a harvest in March; this should help stabilise prices in the region. The local economy will also improve as villagers will have money to spend on things other than food. The guttering and new roofs have ensured that all the water tanks are full and will provide enough water for the children for several months.
In November the Land Rover broke down and needed a new clutch and suspension parts; we sent £600 so the work could be carried out. Sylvester hoped it would be back on the road to take some of the children home for the Christmas holidays. Although the repairs were finished in time, the gear box failed almost immediately and the Land Rover is back in the garage awaiting repair. The mechanic reports that the parts required will cost the same as a new gear box - about £2500. We do not have the money to help at the moment so the vehicle remains off the road. It is important that the hostel has transport as many of the children are unable to travel on the buses and need to see specialists at hospitals several hours' journey away. Collecting the essential supplies of food and fire wood is also made more difficult as there are few cars in the village.
This year we are helping pay for 7 students so they can attend secondary school. Only students who pass the entrance exam and can find a sponsor to pay the yearly fee (this year it's £85) can continue to study after finishing primary school. If anyone would like to help an individual student complete their secondary education by paying the school fee, please contact us so we can let you have the name and details of one of the boy's currently at school who will need support for the next 4 to 6 years. At present only boys are continuing with education after primary school, the girls preferring to train as tailors or return to their homes. We hope that some of the girls who are now at primary school will be successful in the end of year exams and continue into secondary education. We sponsored Antony, a boy from the hostel, to go to teachers training college and he graduates on 5th April this year. There is another boy who hopes to go to teacher training college later this year if his end of year exam results are good enough; the cost will be about £600 each year for 2 years.
Sylvester was able to get the toilets emptied before the rains came; it took some time to arrange as it seems as though everyone in the district had to be consulted and agree on how it should be done, causing the cost to escalate. Workers had to be employed to dig the pit and fill it in, as well as having protective clothing and disinfectant provided. Many of the officials at the district health authority had to be paid and they all wanted to have observers present to ensure the correct procedure was followed.
Sylvester is continuing to improve the buildings and other facilities at the hostel. Parents are encouraged to make a contribution towards the cost of food and with all money from overseas sponsors being sent direct to the hostel bank account instead of via the diocese, saving on administration charges, has enabled a schedule of minor repairs to the buildings and paths to be agreed and action taken on the most urgent. We have been given a grant towards completing the solar lighting so all areas used by the children will be lit in the next 3 to 4 months making it much safer for those who cannot walk as well as increasing the range of activities available after dark.
The computer room is being used regularly by the children and the number of villagers taking lessons is increasing. Once a few more people can master the basics the internet café will provide sufficient income to be self financing.
A new operating theatre is being built at St. Francis hospital. This will be a great benefit to the village as the old theatre was condemned several years ago so anyone needing urgent surgery had to travel, often in pain, for about 2 hours to where they could have an operation. As you can see, work is well under way and, all being well, the new facility be commissioned in July or August.
A German charity is funding the building work although the hospital still has to find an organisation to provide the equipment. Once the hospital building work is complete it is hoped that a visiting orthopaedic surgeon will visit to assess the children and, if necessary, they can have corrective surgery without travelling away from the hostel.