With official classes over, the overall project has winded down a lot. During this week we have been meeting with the students to talk individually on what is next for their projects. For those who are receiving funds we began to discuss what their funds would go to. Those who had a shop or land where they will conduct their business we visited to see if it was a usable place for them. On Wednesday we went to the northern province of Rwanda with a fellow student named Angelique. As her business is chicken farming we brought her to a fellow chicken farmer who is working with Tyson. They talked a lot on what is needed so that she can succeed. On Sunday we went to the Eastern province of Rwanda to see the land that another student, Frederick, owned land and was planning on herding and selling goats. After touring the place we decided that he had lots of land and all of the resources available to achieve what he wanted to do. With the students who were not receiving funds we talked about how they could either change their business enough to where it would work, or how to look for a new business idea. Some business ideas were just not feasible. For them we offered the chance to go to a workshop where they could think of new business ideas that would work for them. Others we found out would be receiving funds either from family or friends. During this week we found out that one student did not want to receive the funds as she will still be in school and cannot begin her business right now. Another student who was going to receive funds will not because many factors, such as workers and clients he had, fell through. He as well will be going to the idea workshop to see if he would like to pursue another idea of his. Finally one student who did not make some areas clear on her pitch was able to clear things up and showed a better financial report. She has already started her business though, so she will not receive the funds as they are for start-up businesses. We chose to direct her to a company that works with Belay Rwanda often, called Inkomoko. With them she will be able to make her business better and fine-tune the financial aspect even more. Overall the week has been productive.
We all create expectations for ourselves and the things we do. While working in Rwanda I have found that expectations are almost always getting in the way of reality. Everything that has happened over the past few weeks has been to constantly overturn expectations. No matter how many times it happens it is always jarring and educational.
When we first arrived we my understanding of what were going to be doing was turned on its head. We were given almost total control over the entire program with a free had to conduct it as we saw fit. It was so much more then I though we would ever get to do and we were all very excited.
At every turn during the class nothing went as expected. The biggest surprise of all was the first day of presentation, all of the students were fantastic and we felt that the class had been a huge success. The day before we were questioning the value of the class and were dismayed at the fact that no one seemed to have understood the material.
The very next day we left feeling vindicated and very proud of the work that had been done.
A lot has happened in week four. On Tuesday there was a lot of worry again for the students and for what we were able to teach. One big issue we saw was that many were not prepared for the pitches on Wednesday. While many were given plenty of opportunities to come in and receive our help, very few did. The biggest part that was lacking in their business plan was the financial aspect. Some figures seem to be speculations rather than facts. On that day I felt the worry that every teacher has felt for his or her students. On Wednesday and Thursday I those worries dissipated and a sense of relief came over me. Most of the students pitched well and showed that they were able to implement what they learned. With only a little over three weeks of learning I feel that they have done quite well. The progression has been quite interesting to watch. When the proposals ended we decided that six would be receiving some amount of funds, ranging from thirty thousand francs (around forty-two dollars) to two hundred thousand francs (around two hundred eighty dollars). While it is not enough for them to start the business they dream of, they will be able to start small and grow from that or find other sources of income. On Friday we spent the day talking to each student individually to discuss what went well and what did not with their business plan and pitch. With those who will get a startup fund from us we talked to them about providing clearer projections of what they will do with those funds and allow us to help them spend wisely. With those who will not receive funds right now we talked about what they can do better and how we can help them for the next couple of weeks. Even though they did not receive the funds this time around, they still have many opportunities to prove Belay that what they are doing can work. In addition I created a short questionnaire asking each student what they enjoyed and did not enjoy about the project as well as what could be improved with the teaching methods and the curriculum. Out of the eight that answered, four wished for more examples when teaching and another two said that more time was needed so that they could spend more time on the more difficult areas such as financing. What really hit me was that all of the students said that they enjoyed the material learned and how dedicated and personable we were to them. It felt really good to know that while throughout the teaching period there were many doubts that arose, it worked out in the end.