What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I am going to make this happen!

So yesterday was a very productive day. I got up early and headed out to see another brick factory a little ways outside of Makeni with Yapo. He's a quality young guy, in university for law, long way to go, but working hard. He used to work at the development council so knows a lot of the ideas and people.

But anyway, we went out and saw a dilapidated, run down facility that obviously hadn't been used for months. Yapo says its about bad management. Given what the council chair said, I would agree. Sounds like bricks are a hot commodity. That factory had 1.5 million Leones in bricks rotting away unsold (3000 bricks). Roof falling down, machine rusted. Sad. Money and investment just sitting there wasting away.

So from there we went and bounced around till we could find computer facilities to write up an official letter of introduction for the Bombali Development Council. We went in to hand deliver the letter to the chairmen. I must say, he and I have developed a good repore. As he said, there arn't a lot of people out there like me... Business minded people looking at development from a not profit place. We have the same goals.

So it is from this point that we moved forward. First thing he did was to bring up a plan he had been working on for the Sierra Leone diaspora living in Europe and the US to make small donations back to the country. They have been working on a website to allow people to see exactly what their village has or does not have and allow for fully transparent donations. Names, amounts, earmarks, etc all visible online. What he wants from me is someone that is not here, not african, to manage it. He wants it so that when a project is ready to start, only then does the exact amount get sent to SL. Very interesting to hear a man of his stature saying such a telling statement. He trusts me more than his countrymen.

Anyway, we did not get much further than saying I would be interested, but he and I will get back into it Monday. Monday, is now the day that I will be registering a company here in Sierra Leone. Maybe walking lion, maybe something else I'm working on. The weekend will tell. But the company will be opened to build bricks and then expand from there. And the $45k machine is actually 5 machines. Much more to get started, but such a good opportuntiy. Can't pass it up.

The arrangement that we have come to in conversation is that 50% of the profits will go to development projects and 50% to reinvest in the company. Now I will have to get into the specifics of it all as in the beginning we may need more for the business than we will in the longer term. And this is just for the bricks, if we expand from there into other endeavors we then can use the money as we see fit, but which is along the same lines anyway. But I will say that I am a bit nervous about a preconceived split as some control is lost. We will have to establish that the business must be sound first and foremost. Then, we can give back.

All that being said though, the gist of what has happened here is that I have walked into a man's office who is in a position of power, and he's liked what I have to say. He wants to work with me. But the key to all of this, is that not only does he "get it", but he is the President of Sierra Leone's uncle. Yes, uncle, and he wants to introduce me to the president. He has already told him about me. Wow!?! This is a great deal of pressure all of a sudden. I H.A.V.E to get it done. I am now on record. It is to late to turn back... and it is also everything I want to do. I AM going to make this happen, there is no other option. ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

A day in the life...

So today was a very interesting African day. Got up and had two visitors before 7.30!! No time is private time!! I found two mosquitos in my net, both of which were tested for internal content and both were full of human blood.. Not the best of omens!! But as always I did some chi gung, hoping it will make a difference. Then I went for a run with moses (neither of these are typical african though!!). Of course though on the run I wanted to see a specific area and of course didn't!! Then I was supposed to meet with Mak, the rugby coach and head of athletics for the northern province. Found out later that his phone was off as it was out of charge.

I went instead to the internet place and it was not working. Its at the posh hotel that all the foreigners stay at, so I set up shop near the pool/bar area and started to write. There where two (i think british) business men all geared up, obviously on a mineral type profit making mission, then in came my crew of young african progressives - educated and trying to make a difference. Of course here was me (idealist) and then a youngish scotish ngo women, several random africans, and another american ngo/writer type. All meeting up in the same place. People that in other lights would never be in the same room. I of course struck up convo with the ngo types - and the next group of for profit guys to come in - which ones do you think I got along with!? Anyway, out of it all I might of gotten a free two day trip to a far out village next week, and also an invite to a conference on disabilities next weekend.

From there my next appointment fell through. So I headed home where dinner consisted of "bush cat". Not sure what it was, tasted good, but stomach a bit off. I think it is the oil in everything i'm struggling with... Then I waited for the first meeting's person again and eventually pushed off to tomorrow and headed to meet up with two peace corps volunteers for a little conversation. Headed from there to look at school for the disabled. Part of the school and housing are in an old slaughter house. What!? It was the first thing here that made me angry. Appalling conditions, packed into rooms, in a place designed for killing (though apparently never used). I need to go back in day light to get some pictures. From there we headed home on a motorcycle and called it a night.

Woo.. what a day. Got nothing done I set out to do, but saw some incredible things, met some interesting people, and got some other things done that I didn't intend to do... But hey, this is Africa.. Amazing place. ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the Radio!

So today was an interesting one. I spent the day at the internet cafe - and it was actually working!! So got some research in. Looking for a name for our company. Gotta set up an ngo here for implementation and in the US for donations. The government needs a proper company to partner with on the bricks. Anyone interested in being a part of it...?? ;) Lookin to put together a team!!

Anyway, the machine we'd be looking at is from a South African company called hyrdaform(.com). They make portable machines for the developing world. Makes the set up and use so easy. You can move them from site to site if you want, use the clay there, produce bricks there, build it there. No transport costs of bricks if you don't want. Good machine to start with and build from. Getting some manuals and will go from there.

Its not exactly what I came here to do, or would say my lot in life was - building bricks - but I did come here to make a difference by seeing what people want, and they want buildings, houses, schools, etc. And they don't have enough bricks to build them with. How do you rebuild a country with no finished building materials? Its a foot in the door and would be a big push from the local government. Plus I won't be running the machine, just making sure the right people do. This I can certainly do.

Otherwise, I was on sports radio here today talking about building the track. No turning back now, national broadcast!!

And on a side note- bit by mosquito this morning!! ;) Lets see what comes of it in two weeks time!! :p

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building materials

Umm.. So the district council just tentatively offered to partner with us making building materials and to give us a $45,000 machine to produce 3000 bricks a day (one school).. !!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Progress

Things moving along quite well. Got the gamechangers proposal in today. Finally got on the internet. 3 hours to do 30 mins worth of work.. So we just decided to put it in and role with it.

Otherwise, we have been doing a lot of opportunity hunting. Yesterday we went to an old war-time looted jam factory. we will be looking into the viability of getting it up and running again.. Not holding breath!! Then today was about bricks and building materials, sounder footing as reconstruction requires construction, requires materials.

Othewrwise, local custom scenario is going well, but food has bothered stomach last couple days. Got a little frustrated at speed of movement today, but think it was more of a spillover from connectivity issues and trying - and not succeeding - to be connected with friend/architect. Then some other issues involving land rights that seemed concrete as well.

But anyway, moving forward. My idea for a corporate structure based on for-profit efficiency and not for profit revenue usage for the biz and community benefit are going over well. Most people talking investment are looking at profit for their pockets, not jobs and local development.

otherwise, all is good, i should start walking Thursday, with a head start Wednesday.. Let the adventure begin...

Oh, yes, and i should have you all know that i killed my first mosquito today. I know i know, i don't kill anything... Except for usage (such as food) for self defense.. Mosquitos here kill. :-/ but i did at least not take it lightly... obviously still thinking about it!!