Friday, November 16, 2012

Re-introducing the Tembari Children

A Friend of Tembari

WHEN I met the Tembari kids for the first time in December of 2009, there were only 78 of them.

To date, Tembari’s beneficiary children number 175. It used to be about 200 towards late last year, but for one reason or the other, part of the 25 absentee kids have not been coming for TCC services regularly while others completely dropped out.

The present 175 Tembari kids are receiving services such as preschool education, elementary and primary education alongside the daily feeding that takes place from Monday to Saturday. What’s more, they are getting a place they can call their home away from home.

We provide them meals every day – an early dinner – from Monday to Saturday, thanks to our generous donors.

Our beneficiary children are orphans, abandoned and neglected who live with their “bubu” relatives and guardians around the village.

Of the 175 beneficiary children, 28 are preschoolers, 95 are schoolchildren (43 elementary and 52 primary) enrolled at Wardstrip Elementary School (Gordons), 6-Mile Holy Rosary Elementary School, St Peter (Erima) Elementary School, Wildlife (Motokea) Elementary School, Philip Alaope and Ted Diro Primary (Murray Barracks), and the rest (52) comprise the following: Thirty-five (35) kids below 6 years; and 17 over-age kids (14 years old and below) but not in school.

At present, TCC’s Preschool Program covers 70 kids. Of these, 28 are TCC beneficiaries while the other 42 others are children from the community who are living with a complete set of parents – mother and father who are financially able to support them.

The outsider-kids are using our preschool facilities since we are the only preschool center at the village (ATS Oro Settlement); we have to take them in as part of our functions as a Community-based Organization (CBO). It is also a deal we signed with Digicel Foundation when they provided us with two fitted containers that now serve as classroom and office.

We receive foodstuff donations such as rice, tinned fish and milk from individual and corporate donors.

To provide services to such a big number of beneficiaries, TCC requires help from cooks, preschool teachers and others.

During my first year with Tembari (2010) as volunteer fund/foodstuff chaser, all help was provided by volunteers. But as I managed to get funding from donors and supporters, the volunteers demanded that they also be paid for their services just like the pre-school teachers.

There was a time when we were unable to pay the preschool teachers as funds ran short and the teachers walked out for several days, living the preschoolers with nothing to do at the center.

So, when I found new money, we hired a paid staff to do the daily dirty jobs. These hired staff comprise of three (3) cooks, one (1) center administrator; and a cleaner (janitor) who would keep the premises in order. This is alongside the paid preschool teachers.

We have to maintain a paid staff because this is the only way to keep them working for us and sustain our services to the children.

I am also thinking of hiring a night security guard to protect our property from drunkards, raskols and trouble makers in the village, at a rate of K100 a fortnight. 

The whole village is aware that we are storing substantial foodstuff in one of our containers, which is a potential magnet for thievery.

The Head Teacher that we hired is a Certified Teacher who was retrenched sometime ago. She used to work as Head Teacher at her former school. At Tembari, she is responsible for designing and evaluating the effectiveness of the curriculum for our Preschool Program, running in-service training for the two support teachers, supervising the daily classroom activities, maintaining school records of individual preschoolers and other pertinent data and coordinating with the School Principal at Wardstrip on behalf of our elementary schoolchildren. She also handles a daily class. She lives in the community and was idle for some time. We realized that she got the experience that would help improve our early-age education program.

The Administrative Officer takes care of documenting donations that came in, monitor the daily withdrawal of foodstuff that would be cooked for the day’s meal; monitor and record the number of cordial bottles and milk packs used for the daily feeding; monitor the daily attendance of staff and beneficiary children during feeding that takes place in the afternoon (early dinner), taking stock of Tembari properties, liaise with Wardstrip Elementary School and donors. He also doubles as secretary and do official errands for Tembari.

Most important, he records spending related to the daily feeding program – cooking ingredients – checking if they are properly supported with receipts and related documents. And PMV fares.

The volunteer auditor from Deloitte has required us that such records of spending be properly supported with receipts otherwise, money spent without backup docs would be considered as unaccounted for. This is very difficult for our cooks, especially when they buy foodstuff (veggies and others) at the Gordon’s market where receipts are unheard of.

But I am trying to come up with the necessary forms – vouchers, petty cash vouchers, receipts, ledgers and others – to meet the requirements for transparency.

We are doing our best of institute changes in our financial operations because this is the only way to attract funding donors and assure them of transparency in the use of the money they donated.

For instance, I have done away with cheque signatories who are related – husband and wife. This is the case of Penny Sage-embo and Hayward Sagembo who are both officers of TCC. Penny is the founder-program coordinator while Hayward is the president.

Familiar with the complications resulting from having husband-and-wife cheque signatories, the volunteer auditor from a prestigious accounting-auditing in POM firm has demanded that one of them resign his/her signing authority.

I took over to become the second signatory, while a British expatriate, who actively supports our pre-school classroom building project, became the third signatory. So, this time, only Hayward Sagembo, the TCC president, the British expat-volunteer and I have the signing authority.

But before I sign any cheque, I see to it that I know the items the money would cover. And as soon as the items have been bought, I demand that the receipts be given to me for a tally-up with the drawn cheque.

This job is quite awkward because I don’t actually see the items that are bought - ingredients that go into the cooking of the daily meals and many other stuffs; I only see the receipts, if they are available.

I hope to appropriately handle our cash flows, and keep it going till the next funding from our generous donors come again - that is after a year.

We are maintaining two accounts: one at BSP and the other at Westpac.

If you think you can support us in our goal of improving the lives of the Tembari children so that they would have a normal life -- happy and with peace of mind, educated, well-nourished and healthy -- just like the rest of their more-fortunate peers in the community, please let me know.

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