Final Excitement Before Heading Home

I spend the last few days in the office getting things wrapped up, since I’ll be returning to the US soon. I finish paperwork, accounting, scheduling, completing reports and organizing our binders with the data that we’ve collected on this trip.

The office is hopping with people coming and going, as we try to get things wrapped up before I go.

We pick up our new motorcycle that the field crew will be using. One of our incredible donors bought it for us and we are so thankful. It’s an easy and inexpensive way for the team to get around to a lot of these schools.

The Loo Crew also comes to check out the materials for their next eco-sanitation system, which they will be installing at Alela Modern Primary School, in Alebtong. I am so happy to be working with this school. This community was terrorized by the LRA during the war and a number of the pupils had even been abducted and forced to be child soldiers. We’ve heard personal stories of atrocities the students have endured and hope, in some small way, we can help as they struggle to return to a normal way of life.

We also get the drilling team in western Uganda started on ten projects there, which we surveyed in the fall. We were only waiting on the funding for those, which recently came through. So that team is all set with their work schedule for the next few months.

In the middle of the chaos, I get a call from my friend who works for a large international NGO in South Sudan. He’s been a great advisor to me and knows we are an extremely hands-on group with a strong presence on the ground. He tells me that he wants to come work for DITB, as our Uganda Water and Sanitation Coordinator. I would love to hire him. He would be an enormous asset to our team. We are getting to the point where we really need an additional employee with his experience. But we just don’t have the money to pay his salary yet. I really think it’s coming this year. We are applying for grants and doing everything possible to get the extra funding needed to continue growing the organization. I tell him we will keep talking.

Finally, with the crews, schedules and plans in place, I pack up and head for Kampala. I have a few final big meetings before flying home. It’s always hard to leave when there is so much going on. I feel like I need to be here to manage things. But there has to be balance. I now need to get back to LA and deal with all the work that has accumulated there over the past 6 weeks. I know the teams here are fully capable and they will keep me updated on everything. Everyone has someone to report to and we have a solid schedule for the next two months, until I return.

Friday morning at 8AM we have a meeting with the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Water, in Kampala. This is our most important item of business and for some reason it’s scheduled for the very end of my trip. This will be the first time we’re meeting with him since receiving our official NGO status last year. We are required to submit an annual report and status update. I’m pretty happy with the information we have in our reports. I just hope I don’t look as tired as I feel for the meeting.

We leave the hotel at 7:15 to make sure we’re not late for the appointment. It’s raining and we all feel like we only got about 5 minutes sleep.

The meeting goes better than we could have ever expected. The Undersecretary starts by saying how happy he is that we actually scheduled a meeting, rather than simply sending the reports. He tells us that most NGOs only physically come for meetings when they need something, like assistance with clearance on import taxes.

I brief him on our program and present him with the packet that I’ve put together, which has all of our reports, work plans, and the article from the New Vision, on our eco-sanitation system. He reads the article and begins asking a lot of questions about the technology. He is clearly impressed with the design. He tells us that the federal funding for sanitation is now going to be dispersed through his office and suggests that perhaps we can work together on installing some of these systems. This is so exciting! We have such a hard time getting funding for toilets and now we may be partnering with the Ministry of Water to do them. If this happens, maybe we can finally buy ourselves a decent truck and hire the extra field staff that will make our lives so much easier and really strengthen our program. We leave the meeting completely charged up. This is such a wonderful way to end a successful trip.

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Author: Stacey Travis

Founder and Executive Director of Drop in the Bucket a water charity building water wells and sanitation systems at schools in Africa.

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