On Thursday, Pilgrim took us about an hour away to the town of Sugur. Unlike the previous communities we visited, Sugur had found great success with the MFP. Implemented with the Chang-Fa engine as opposed to the inferior Lister engine, the Sugur MFP has been working well and generating a profit for the members of the co-op. When our van pulled up to the site, 40 men, women and children, greeted us, welcoming us to their home.
This meeting was a specialized business-training seminar, and Pilgrim took the lead, explaining the tenets of good fiscal practice. Tyler and I mainly observed today, as the training was conducted Teso, the local language. However, Julius was able to keep us up to date with rapid translations. This observation was crucial for EWB’s understanding of the program we’re running, and it was very cool to see the way the community engaged with the project. While Tyler and I sat (amongst bats, 9-inch-long lizards, and swarms of bugs), Elaine jumped into the role of official secretary—mainly as a result of Titus’ truly abominable handwriting.
As soon as we arrived to the community, we were greeted by about 30 of the members of the community. It was as if our presence gave them a new sense of hope. They were cheering and singing. Finally we settled down into our meeting. Our meeting today lasted 4 hours and I think that every hour was worth it. The community was so receptive to the business training and was so eager to learn. The business skills training shows that our trip is not just an engineering trip but a community development trip as well.
Elaine definitely gets the MVP for the day for her penmanship. Thanks to her, the members of the community were able to better copy the business skills notes for future reference.
As a side note, I’m always very alert during the meetings because of a particularly jarring incident in Tubur. As we spoke with the executive board of the MFP there, a 6 inch lizard fell from 10 feet from the ceiling onto my back. After falling on my back, it made its way into my hat which was hanging from my neck. The best part is that everyone just sat around and just stared while I tried not to panic. Julius finally turned me around to check my shirt when the lizard got out of my hat, down my back, and onto the ground. My binders and papers went everywhere. We laughed for a few solid minutes before resuming work but I’ll never forget those moments of panic. So as soon as I got to Sugur, I made sure to check the ceilings and of course I find a 9 inch lizard and some bats. I kept it together. Mom and dad, you would be proud!
Now back to serious matters. The business skills training included topics such as business planning, budgeting, management, savings, and investments. My favorite part of the program (and probably the most useful to the community) was the budgeting section. There was a discussion on how to budget on a monthly basis. The community members estimated expenditures and we came up with a monthly total and how they would make revenue for those expenditures. The community did a lot of brainstorming which was very exciting. I think that the best part of the business training is that the lessons learned could be applied to the MFP as well as any other businesses the community wants to start. I would definitely say that today was successful!