Over the past few months we have tested your patience with fund-raising activities for Sierra Leone Project. The Big Band X-Factor event was followed by the Beard Growing, and finally we asked you all to exercise your way to Sierra Leone. The response has been truly fabulous. The Big Band event raised around £5000, the Beard Growing over £500 and I can report that we are close to £1700 for the Exercise Weekend.
If I were you, I'd be asking 'why?'. And 'where has all the money gone, or where is it going to?'. And further 'what else are we doing? These are good questions.
First, and noting that £1 here has the equivalent buying power of £20 in Freetown, I can say that up until now the money raised has been spent as detailed in the poster below.
This list does not include £2500 we spent on supporting last year's trip to Sierra Leone by 2 members of staff and 7 students. The remainder of the trip (around £8,500) was self-financing.
But what now? There is a good deal of ongoing activity which you might be surprised to hear about.
At the Ballanta's request, Karen Trego and I are working closely with them delivering consultancy advice on how to make the Academy more efficient. We have held regular weekly meetings to discuss management, meeting structures and potential income streams and are now holding conference calls with the Ballanta staff and Directors to agree a way forward.
The Ballanta lacks decent administrative processes, and to help fill that gap we have already paid the wages for a new administrative manager post at the Academy. That person is leaving in July and we have agreed to fund that post for a further year. Of note we have agreed to support the selection of that post later this month by way of Skype or conference call.
Earlier in 2009 we arranged for a non-Wells piano tuner to travel to Sierra Leone to tune all of Freetown's pianos. He was so successful that the British Council decided to fund his involvement. He returned again earlier this year and has brought back a Sierra Leone national (Egerton – who we met last year on our trip) as an apprentice. Whilst the piano tuner is teaching Egerton to tune pianos, we have agreed to assist Egerton in passing his Grade 6 exams in piano and voice. He will return to the Ballanta as a fulltime member of staff, tuning pianos and teaching voice and piano.
The Ballanta are looking at expanding their recording studio (originally paid for by us) to allow them to record away from the Academy. This would provide important income, and we hope to help the project by funding the new equipment.
In conjunction with our Junior School we are looking to assist the JT Reffell Primary School with further project work – discussions are ongoing here.
Finally 4 members of staff and 13 students are traveling to Freetown in October. We plan to support the Ballanta with music lessons and concerts, and assist the JT Reffell with student teaching. As with last year, we intend to travel with money in our back pockets, evaluate short term projects and fund them whilst we are there. These visits cement our fledgling relationship and are wholly worthwhile for both sides.
All-in-all, I hope you can see that there is a good deal going on – much of it unseen. None of it would be possible without your generous contributions of time and cash. And, perhaps obviously, the beauty about supporting the Project is that the money goes to the people we are supporting. There is no middle-man.