Dear friends,

Back in Botswana and getting back into the swing of things. The children are all on holiday and will be coming back in the 7th of August, so we are gearing back up for that.

Here is a little summary update of what has been going on around here.

In my last letter, I spoke about the drought hitting us quiet hard here in this area. We have been obliged to cull, sell, and move animals off the reserve such as wildebeest, zebra, and waterbuck in order to keep a viable number of animals which are not competing too much for the small amount of food that is there. This means we have plenty of meat that has been donated for the school.

Unfortunately, upon coming back from holiday, there has been another poaching incident on the reserve, we lost another female and her young newborn who died next to her of starvation. We are all stunned and saddened by this event and are still discussing what our best options are in order to protect the remaining rhinos that we have. There has been a steady flow of government officials that have been coming through here dealing with this crisis. I’m a bit pessimistic about whether we will be able to catch the culprits of this terrible act but we should be able to put in place a plan that will make the rhinos more secure. For now we have a team of Botswana Military that have set up camp on the reserve and are patrolling the grounds on a regular basis, we hope that this will deter any further poaching for the time being until we put in place a permanent plan.

It was great to have Cecilia amongst us once again, I’m sure that she already told you but she dressed a total of 180 children (I will have to ask her again for the exact number but I remember it being close to 200). She dressed the kids from school, adoption kids and all the kids from the employees of Mosaico and Edo’s, as well as any random kid that ended up showing up here at the school. She never turns away a child in need. She was also busy with the women’s project while she was here. We are seeking other local shops in ghanzi lodges as well as Maun and perhaps Gaborone where we can exhibit and sell the goods that the women make. Hopefully it all pans out and there will be a steady demand for the women’s project to continue.

The school is doing well. I’m quiet happy with the diversity of children that we have attending the school this year. And the fact that Andy and I have moved into the house here at the school has made it much easier to monitor the employees and the children. I have been doing workshops with the teachers in order to continue to expand their horizons and bring in new material into the classrooms. I challenge them to always do more, to do better, and learn from what has been done and how they can improve it. They have a tendency to get comfortable and repetitive in their class activities. Having a good internet connection here has helped me bring forward new materials and ideas that they can use and adapt for the children. Both teachers and children are excited with the novelty of the activities.

We had a bullying incident here where a few kids ganged up and bullied a boy in class B. Our last workshops together have been about informing them on what bullying is and how to prevent it. It has been very eye opening for all as they have all admitted that they didn’t fully understand what bullying was are now better prepared to deal with these incidents as well as reinforce the learning experience with the children in the classrooms to teach them about bullying through story telling. Early childhood is often where it starts and together we can make a difference so that the children learn at this ripe young age that bullying is not to be tolerated.

We had another field trip that I organized for the older children in class A that was quiet a success. I have only gone with class A as I think that this field trip is not appropriate with the younger children and it also gives something for the children to look forward too as they progress through the classes. There is a non for profit conservation effort in ghanzi to educate about the importance of vultures in the ecosystem and food chain of animals in the area. They have created a “vulture restaurant” where they collect cattle from the local feed lot that have died and put it out for the vultures. They created an underground hide where you can go, so as not to disturb the vultures, and observe them as they come in to eat the rotting meat. It’s absolutely fascinating! I have pictures that I will send to you on whatsapp. They bring in a education officer who creates activities for the children to teach them about wildlife, the ecosystem, and of course vultures. The children learned how to use binoculars, identify various animals and what they eat, how to use a magnifying glass to observe insects, as well as learned about the different species of vultures that one can find in the ghanzi area and why it is important to respect them.

Our goats, sheep and pigs are all doing well. We have slaughtered our first goats to the grand delight of all the children, they love goat meat! We will soon be slaughtering our first sheep as well and another round of goats. All of our female goats have all had twins recently! Our chickens and guinea fowl are also increasing in number and now that the winter cold is subsiding, we are starting to incubate eggs again. The idea is to get the numbers high enough where we will be producing enough eggs for the school ourselves. Our pigs still have not reproduced, but we hope that the female is pregnant and that in a few months we will have young ones.

The garden has its ups and downs but we still persevere, learn from our mistakes and try new things. We still supplement as much as we can directly from local farmers, especially the things that we can not produce in big enough quantities for our needs such as dried beans. I have an order in to purchase 500kg of dried beans from a local farmer. This will last the school until the end of next year. I buy this bulk of beans because they can be preserved for a long time and it doesn’t come every year, so when it does, I stock up.

There has been some interesting happenings lately in the D’kar community. The Gosi (chief) recently passed away and a new one is to be elected. This is different than in the past as the previous Gosi was appointed by the dutch reform church and this time they will have elections for the new Gosi. This democratic system is much better and we hope that the village elects someone who can really represent them.

There is also change in the air for the primary school in D’kar. A mining company (diamonds) has adopted the school and are looking to donate 5 million pula to uplift the school. I was invited by the education department to participate in the discussion panel. The meeting pulled together all the different players in the D’kar community that have to do with education (Local government officials, ghanzi district education department officials, primary school head and assistant head, teachers, PTA representatives, church council, social workers, community representatives, health representatives, dkar preschool and myself) and of course the representatives from the mining company. Here we were all sitting around a table discussing how we can all work together in order to ensure the education and future of the children of Dkar. I must admit, I was a bit frustrated because this is something that I have been trying to do since I have been here, getting everyone on the same page so that we can all work together towards a common goal which can benefit the children of the community, I just didn’t have 5 million pula to waive around to make people cooperate… As the going says it’s never too late and of course I have been relishing on this opportunity that has been provided to really work together and make a difference for the children. On top of that, the government has allocated 3.5 million pula to renovate the primary school. So together we are developing a 5 year plan that will hopefully get the primary school back on track to become the pride and joy of the Dkar community. I’m staying hopeful and optimistic that we can all make this happen.

Our role in this project is simple, keep on doing what we are doing as we give the best preparation that the children can get in order to prepare them for primary school. One of the issues being discussed is of course the fact that we can not take in all the children in Dkar so we are developing strategies with the local dkar preschool as well as the primary school to compensate for this. I will work more closely with the local preschool to provide training for the preschool teachers so that they can teach at the same level that our teachers teach by inviting them to do workshops with us as well as in house training (this adds no extra cost to our operations). This will hopefully amount to the children who come from both preschools being at the same level as they enrol into primary. The local government has also started a program which they call reception class, which is bringing in children 1 year before primary to get them geared up and used to attending school. This targets the children who have not had the opportunity to attend preschool. Unfortunately at this time the primary school does not have the facility to house this reception class and we are discussing with the district government whether it is something that we could perhaps take on here at Paolo’s until the facility is built up at the primary school. The government would be the one covering all costs associated with this endeavour and would also pay rent to the school which would bring in some local money. These are all just ideas that have been discussed for the moment as we still have many more meetings which will fine tune what everyone is capable of committing themselves to do. I will of course keep you well informed of the progress and will be able to present to you a final project which will define in detail our involvement. The final decision on whether we move forward with this will be up to the Mosaico Board to decide.

I will write again soon and as I already mentioned will keep you updated on what is progressing with the primary school. Winter here seems to be coming to an end, there hasn’t been much of one actually, but we might still get a few cold days. We had a complete freak storm over the weekend which brought us 2mm of rain! Caught everybody by surprise. Our fruit trees have been covered for the winter and seem to have survived so far, we will wait another month before uncovering them.

We finally were able to open new accounts with another bank as Barclays was absolutely slacking in providing us with decent service. Cecilia, Andy and I sat in the bank for a total of 10 hours over two days in order to get the accounts operational. We finally managed! We have a current checking account, a savings account and a dollar account with FNB. We have transferred the funds from the dollar account (20 000 was in there from the last time Bill Holmes sent us money a few years back) into the savings account which earns 4% per year.

Best regards,