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Alex - 10th of jan 2008

When I was here in December we started new advanced school project, so I went over to the site to see the progess. It seemed to be going slow. The delay had been finding a good contractor who would do the work without ripping us off. Here they see foreigners and think the project is made of money, so they charge extra high rates, it doesn’t occur to them that we run this on a shoe string and do it to help their country! Thankfully a reasonably priced contractor had been found and work had started 2 days prior to my arrival. After conversations with the site foreman I got up to speed on the general brick work, electrics, windows and plumbing. After meeting Murad, another local Dhaka project supporter, we managed to get 10 extra men on site and a late shift, so work continues until 1am in a frantic dash to get the school ready for the new school year which is now days away!
Maria is exhausted today. She has been here for 10 days already and I know the challenges of working in an environment like this can really wear you down. She is short staffed as it is, even though she has interviewed about 100 people in the last week, it is a real challenge to find quality staff. A lot of qualified people don’t want to work in this area and/or don’t want to work with the poor, their parents have sacrificed a lot for them to get a good education and so there is huge family pressure to work for prestigious large organizations and not small projects working with the poor – which isn’t so glamorous. Sometimes we even employ people, but they don’t last for a day or two due to family pressure. So Maria has been fighting against the clock, working understaffed and with loyal, but under qualified staff, to get the new school ready for the new school year because she has to return to Dubai to her job, which is the platform for everything that has been achieved here.
The main work of today was being on site, making sure the work is progressing in the new school. In order for them to work late shift, they need lights…unfortunately it takes weeks to get the electricity connected here in Dhaka, thou Maria went to the electricity authority and apparently they will do it in 5 days…we wait in hope! So, we went to the school and borrowed twenty rechargeable lights from the children so that workers could continue after dark. The children normally use these lamps for studying, but as the school year hasn’t yet started they can spare them for us for a few days! Together with Shimul, a teacher at the project school, we went back regularly through the day and early evening to check on the progress and push the foreman to get the fastest work possible out of his team! We also met the architect Onay so now we know who to call if things aren’t up to speed!!!

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