Happy New Year from Reneal! We are excited to begin 2018 with plans in place to be back to the Philippines and Tanzania this year. It’s almost 12 years ago now that we set off into the unknown with the U.S. Peace Corps. Little did we know how much our lives would change – and how blessed we would be by the people we would meet and with whom we would work. While it can be hard for an organization like Reneal to measure its impact on its partners, their impact on us has certainly been profound.
With most of 2017 in the rear view mirror now, it’s a good time to reflect on the year. Our list of Reneal schools did not grow much in 2017 compared to recent years – just two new labs in the Philippines and two new labs in Tanzania. However, although such work is often unheralded, Reneal made big strides in addressing equipment attrition in both countries in 2017. In particular, thanks to Free Geek we were able to replace numerous aging and inefficient CRT monitors with flat-panel monitors in the Philippines. We also began the process of replacing the oldest computer units in Reneal schools in both Tanzania and the Philippines. But the unquestionable high point of 2017 was Reneal’s return to Tanzania!
In the mid-November blog post, I reported on the upcoming Tanzania scholarship program. Since that time, Reneal School Liaison David Nyangaka has made fantastic progress in helping us finalize the cost estimates and select our first group of six scholars. We welcome Kennedy Lema, Domina Matesh, Daniel Miboki, Eliamani Silamoi, Cynthia Swai, and Ruth Telesphory to the program! Reneal has made the payment for room and board for the first term at Mwandet Secondary School, and David is in the process of coordinating uniforms, school supplies, and dormitory needs for the students.
Some great news this week from both the Philippines and Tanzania! From time to time, Reneal computer labs go “off-line” due to school renovation or expansion. We are happy to report that Tayud National High School in Consolacion, Cebu and Ilboro Secondary School in Arusha are both being readied for a return to service for students!
This week brought very sad news to the Reneal family in the Philippines. Our long-time friend and colleague Ma’am Nerry Bugtai passed away in Cebu following a valiant battle with breast cancer. Ma’am Nerry was the computer teacher at Compostela National High School when Neal and I first arrived in the Philippines as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers. She became a mentor, teacher, advocate, advisor, encourager, early adopter, and so much more. But most of all, we counted her as our friend. It’s safe to say that the work of Reneal Team Philippines would never have progressed without Ma’am Nerry’s contributions.
For several years now, Reneal has partnered with our church in Cebu (United Church of Christ in the Philippines, UCCP) to administer a scholarship program for public high school students. One batch of students has graduated and we now have fourteen Grade 9 and Grade 10 scholars in the program. We are excited to report that Reneal’s Board of Directors just approved a similar program for public high school students in Tanzania at the last board meeting. Starting at the beginning of the 2018 school year in January, Reneal will be supporting six high school students in Tanzania with a scholarship.
Now that we’re between trips to Tanzania and the Philippines, Neal and I are in the midst of spending time with family. The next big thing on the Reneal calendar is the Board of Directors meeting on November 11th. We’ll recap the 2017 Tanzania trip and lay plans for 2018 in both the Philippines and Tanzania.
Neal and I are home again following our time in Tanzania. It is bittersweet, as always: good to be home but missing our dear friends now so far away. The trip turned out well, with computer lab installations in two new schools in Arusha, visits to the existing eight computer labs, and the joint work with The School Fund Tanzania. But this business is much more than getting computers into schools. More importantly, it seemed this time that our team has turned a corner in getting students’ hands on computers in Arusha.
It’s been a week that we expected to be busy, and it was. Despite some twists and turns, we were able to complete the remaining four Reneal school visits, meet with Asante Africa, celebrate the invaluable contributions of Habari Node and Arusha Marie, have an absolutely fantastic Arusha Super User Review Training, and close out the week with a knowledge transfer session with Neal, Reneal School Liaison David Nyangaka, and Mr. Hezron Ipyana of Oldadai Secondary School. Sunday we had just a few loose ends to tie up with the software we’re leaving behind, and we transferred the boxes of items we’re leaving behind to David. It’s hard to believe that we’ll be heading home tonight!
Another busy week here, finishing up the installation and training at Mateves Secondary School, visiting two of our existing Arusha school sites, and returning for a day to the United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC) for some server updates. We were also very grateful for chance to meet with Arusha District Council Executive Director Dr. Charles Wilson Mahera. The Arusha District Council has provided invaluable support to Reneal – it’s safe to say that we wouldn’t be here today without their enthusiastic and effective work on behalf of Reneal.