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Fundraising Failure
28 September 2003

It started with a snake.  A teacher and a learner went into the staff room around 5 pm on Friday evening trying to find me.  When they looked in the room, instead of Sera, there was a snake.  Most snakes in Namibia are poisonous.  Namibians don’t like snakes.  They kill them.  So the learner went to fetch some sticks and other learners and they came back and beat the snake to death.

 The teacher told me this story later Friday night.  She said that in their culture, snakes were a bad omen.

 At seven on Saturday morning I was loitering outside the dining hall, waiting for things to start happening.  The teacher and I were the “hall preparation committee” for the fundraising event that day.  I found one learner and told him to go call Freddy.  Freddy came, groggy eyed, and I said, “Freddy, good morning, you’re a winner.”  I handed him the Supa Strika (soccer comic book) from Friday’s paper where it announced he had won the art contest with a prize of N$250.  He looked at me kind of blankly and said, “Thank you.”  He sat down beside me for a few minutes.  “Freddy, were you sleeping?”  “Yes.” Everyone was still sleeping, but I didn’t know that.  Finally he actually woke up and looked in the magazine to see his name, a picture of his drawing, and a large “N$250.”  Then he started jumping up and down.

 The teacher came a few minutes later, and we investigated the dining hall—full of tables, chairs, bread crumbs and large shiny sticky spots.  She obtained some brooms and mops and I went to the hostel and started rounding up learners to help clean.  At the hostel, most of the girls were still running around in towels and various other degrees of dress, but I found a room full of ninth graders that were dressed and ready to go.  We went back to the hall and they started sweeping the stage while I directed the removal of the tables.  Eventually the boys woke up, and started bringing more chairs from the classrooms.  With everyone’s help, we had the dining hall cleaned and arranged within an hour.  Then I brought out the bag of balloons (sent to us from home).  There was no shortage of balloon-blowing volunteers, so all 50 balloons were inflated in no time.  Then I gave a mini-lesson on static electricity, and everyone went walking around with balloons stuck all over their shirts.  Keep in mind these are high school kids.  By nine o’clock everything was ready to go.  Now we just needed the people to show up.  The event was scheduled to start at 9:30Selling Nothing:  Notice the big open empty space in front of my table?  The boy in the green shirt just behind me is Peya and to my right is Sandra in the white T-shirt. And then there’s me, and I guess I’m scratching my armpit or something.  Maybe that’s the real reason no one is coming near my table?  And yes, despite being in Africa for nearly a year, I still manage to have absolutely no tan..

 My other job was to sell T-shirts and the Information Brochures that I designed (I was trying to stay as far away from the food cooking and selling process as possible).  I set up a table under a tree and displayed the shirts and brochures.  Lots of learners came over and investigated—but no one bought.  Who was going to pay N$50 for a T-shirt and N$30 for a brochure?  Now, I take no responsibility for these prices.  The principal’s idea was to sell everything at a high price since it was fundraising.  I said no one would buy, fundraising or not.  The learners wanted to buy on credit, or purchase hire, and gave me many lessons. “In economics, we learn if there is no demand, you must reduce the price.”  I know, I know, but the principal, who is their economics teacher, wants the prices high.

 Around 10:30, some girl brought me a program.  According to the times on the program, the events were supposed to start at 8:00am and finish at 10:40.  I looked at my watch.  Good, we only have ten minutes left and then this thing is finished.  I looked around.  Learners were wandering over the campus, and there were a few parents sitting on the stoop outside the dining hall.  I had sold a total of five T-shirts and one information brochure.

 About 11:30, the principal told the learners to call everyone to the dining hall, we were finally starting.  I peeked in the hall.  Some of the balloons had popped, and a few had shriveled into repulsive shapes.  There were a grand total of maybe 20 parents, and five “VIPs” at the head tables.  The principal looked disgruntled.  It was hot.  The program, with the ultimate purpose of the presentation of the Oshindonga trophy (for scoring the highest on HIGSCE in the whole country), began with the national anthem, and went downhill from there.  It was all in Oshindonga, so I soon went back outside to supervise the brochures andCulture Group:  this is the group performing at the program.  I guess they’re doing a traditional dance.  Notice the empty seats. T-shirts.  I returned to the hall for the performance of the cultural group, which was at least lively, but equally incomprehensible to me.  I noticed a lot of the parents laughing though.  Finally around 2 pm the program ended and everyone poured outside.  Business was still slow.  But I had a good conversation with Peya, one of my 9th graders who is smart but quite hyperactive in class.  He informed me that he liked me because I had “good behaviors.”  I asked what that meant.  “Miss, you never sleep in class.”  Of course not, I’m the teacher!  Do other teachers sleep in class?  “Yes miss.” 

Around 3pm, I decided I was finished.  I had sold a grand total of 7 T-shirts and 4 information brochures.  Maybe the principal was smart to not put a year anywhere in the brochure.  It could take ten years to sell all 100 color copies he had me print.  I think the food people faired better, but there were still a lot of chickens and beans left over.

 I talked with Sandra, one of my 11th graders, about what went wrong.  Here’s our analysis:

1.  In the beginning, the principal sent a letter to the parents saying that there would be a party to celebrate the winning of the Oshindonga trophy on the 20th of September.  The learners must bring donations and then the parents would buy the food at the party.  He forgot to mention that it was for fundraising and what the fundraising was for (to build more classrooms).  Furthermore, only about half the kids took the letters home to their parents.

2.  Then they changed the date to the 27th of September, but didn’t really tell anyone.  So some people came on the 20th, but then were angry that they wasted their money to come here when there was nothing, so they certainly weren’t coming back in a week.

3.  There were a lot of other events at other schools on the same day.

4.  Some VIP’s wife died, so all the other VIPs were attending the funeral that day.

5.  The stuff for sale was overpriced so people didn’t buy it.

6.  The whole event was rather disorganized.  Because it started so late, people just wanted to go home, they didn’t want to buy things.

7.  Most people get paid at the end of the month, and this was just a few days before the end of the month, so everyone was broke.

 All in all, I was disappointed. When the principal gave the financial report from the fundraiser, it was discovered that we actually lost money on the event.

 Love, Sera

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