‘Tis the season!

Thanks to some very generous Canadians we received 1600CAD in donations for the Monastery and the children. We weren’t trying to raise money but people offered and we were thrilled. The donors wish to remain anonymous but we can say they are part of our close circle of friends and family. It brings us joy that we have people in our lives that have such big hearts. This post will give a run down of how the money was utilized and the impact it will have on those receiving it. Enjoy!

After a day or so at the monastery we realized there were infrastructure and hygiene issues. This is due, in part, to a rapidly expanding community and an inadequate amount of funds being allocated to the less glamorous areas (hand soap, pumping systems, proper maintenance, etc.). Putting up a new structure feels and looks great; it allows donors to see their money in a single photo. What can quickly happen, however, is a growing population resulting in greater stress on the already insufficient infrastructure.  It was our opinion as fiduciaries to put the money towards things that would reduce suffering by the greatest amount. That meant increasing education on hygiene and purchasing hygiene products that the children need. It also meant fixing broken systems and educating locals on how to fix their systems once we leave.

The last focus was increasing the comfort level for volunteers. The monastery’s greatest asset is the human capital that its volunteers bring. If someone isn’t sleeping, or if they’re sick due to poor conditions, then they are an under utilized asset.DSC03340 We tried to combat that by offering hot water bottles, kettles and more blankets for the cold nights. Large laundry bins that allow for washing of sheets and blankets (something that had never been done previously). We also bought three bicycles so volunteers could get to town without having to walk 45 minutes each way.

By talking to other volunteers, foundation organizers and teachers, we came up with a list of things that would help the children. The list was separated into different categories and that got us thinking of how to purchase all this stuff in the smartest way possible.Luckily enough, our group of volunteers (roughly 15) had rented a tuk tuk for Sunday to explore the area around the monastery. Connecting the dots we asked the volunteers if they would participate in a scavenger hunt in the local town. All agreed and we broke off into teams each with a wad of cash and a list of things to buy.DSC03331.JPG It worked exceedingly well and all those micro decisions that would bog down a single buyer were delegated to volunteers that knew what the monastery needed. The rules were simple: get the best price possible and return any unspent money. We had local prices written beside the list of items; this helped reduce “tourist” prices. What ensued was loads of fun with different teams using different techniques. Some would pile a mountain of goods at the shop keeper’s desk and threaten to walk if the price wasn’t reduced (you know, buying in bulk) while others meticulously noted every expense and haggled on each item. In the end, a third of the money donated was spent and in a very efficient way on teaching items, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, tools and building supplies and fun and games.

To spend the final amount of donation money we rented a tuk tuk for a day and got a group of volunteers to go to the main city, roughly one hour away. Again, we split into teams and broke off to find items like: vacuum cleaners, kindergarten mats, and other specialized things. At the end of a long day we returned to the monastery with two tuk tuks full of buildings supplies and random items.

Hygiene and improving health was our main priority. Alayna took care of the clinic’s needs by restocking supplies and purchasing missing medications. Proper body hygiene products like soaps, shampoos, toothbrushes were purchased along with everything needed to do laundry. New pillow cases, underwear, floor mats and blankets were purchased. We bought building supplies improve the cleanliness of the kitchen area with a new cement floor and building a new garbage area away from the fresh food (and dogs). A new building to store the children’s dishes in a sheltered area is already in the works. The children were very excited about the cool, new vacuum cleaner to use on the carpets.

We had the opportunity to go around to each classroom and individually handout goodies to the children. They were obviously more excited about the soccer balls than the pens, but every child had a huge smile as they received their toothbrush, soap, or new socks. They were excited and appreciative, it was a little like a Burmese Christmas for us!

Mark gave up his teaching duties to focus on improving general maintenance with our new tools. His replacement was a motivated and talented duo (German & French). He spent a few days working on the water distribution system for  the monastery. The existing system barely worked and was completely manual, i.e. you had to manually turn on the three pumps to fill the ascending water reservoirs. This led to pumps burning out and often no water at all if someone forgot to turn on the pumps. The answer was to install float switches in two of the water tanks and automate the system. After a day of changing the wiring and installing controls, they fired the system up but no water came out! The PVC pipe that carried water from the river (through three pumps and a water tank) had no glue on any of the joints or couplings. The next day they tackled repairing the whole line. It was a tough, muddy day with more issues arising when one was fixed. Towards the end of the day the pressure was getting strong enough to blow open the couplings that weren’t glued. A geyser started forming from a pipe under the road, so they dug a hole and glued the final piece of the puzzle together. Looking up at the first concrete reservoir you could see fresh water blasting up into the air like a fountain. Success! Finally consistent water pressure and no more burning out motors! Nana ( the caretaker) gave Mark a high five as he celebrated.The monastery now has a reliable and automatic water system that holds clean river water.

 

Here is a list of what we purchased:

  • Anti Fungals, Gloves, Antiseptic, Prescriptions, Dr visit, Shampoo, Soap, Multivitamins, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Spades, Saw, Screwdrivers, Electric drill/power tools, string, Pillows, Bed mats, Mosquito nets, Blankets, Sheets, Paper, Markers, tape, Skipping ropes, Volleyball/soccer, Candies, socks, Large tubs, Washboard, laundry detergent, Dish soap, Sponges, Scrub brushes, Clothesline, Bathroom cleaning products, Mops/bucket, Toilet paper, Hand soap, Vacuum cleaner, Whiteboard markers, Magnets, Notebooks, Highlighters, Whiteboard erasers, Tape, Posters, Float switch, Electrical wire, Disconnect switch, Electric kettle, Hot water bottles, PVC pipe, PVC glue, Insect repellent stuff, bicycles, computer supplies, cement, building supplies, roofing, garbage bins, floor mats, underwear, feminine hygiene products – and more random things that we can’t think of!

We would like to thank those of you who donated and the other volunteers that helped us along the way! We will post photos of the new buildings being built with the donated materials. You can also look at the Mudita Foundation’s website: http://muditafoundation.de/

 

4 thoughts on “‘Tis the season!

  1. Mark & Alayna, you are such an inspiration as I read your blog. You have helped this monastery in so many ways and I really admire your commitment to improving the lives of these children.

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  2. Great to hear! From my camp experience if you do not have a comfortable shower and bathroom facilities and eaily accessible toiletries people tend to skip some hygiene routines because it is just a hassle and that can lead to infection.

    Like

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