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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Bean-counters see the bottom line as being the most important, but the little things are important too!

Submitted: August 11, 2016

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Submitted: August 11, 2016



Outcomes! For governments, businesses, agencies (now there’s an all-encompassing word), for all of them, the use of funds must have measurable outcomes. Bean-counters run the world, and this is one of their demands. During my working life, I have been no different to anyone else when it comes to outcomes, having had to state likely outcomes and then file a report for monies that I have been responsible for. My reports, like all such reports end up in some bottom drawer or manila folder and forgotten about soon after.

Nothing I, nor the vast majority of us do, will have a major impact on this world and my cynicism of outcomes is based on enough experience to become cynical. Outcomes usually make money for someone else or give kudos to agencies (that word again) so they can raise even more funds. After fifty years of planting trees, I see tangible outcomes and have facilitated some jobs for a good number of people, but bean-counters are a funny lot and look at the bottom line of a spreadsheet and glow if it balances. Does it really matter though? There is more to life than balanced spreadsheets. Thing occur that bean-counters have no way of quantifying, and between you and me, I get a perverse joy from sticking it up the bean-counters!

I was at the village of Muriet, following up on trees that were planted by primary school children. I knew these kids had done a good job and it was usual for me to present token prizes. Joshia always said to the kids, if there are no prizes, be happy shaking hands with the Mzee! I stopped at the market and bought some mangoes and avocados to hand out, and after the main part of the day was complete, the pre-school, five-year-old sister of one of the students was looking sad because she was the only one who missed out in ‘receiving a gift’ as she put it. I gave her the spare avocado, and showed her how to keep the seed and to plant it. Eighteen months later, I was in the area again and talking to the village chairman when this little girl tugged at my trouser leg. She wanted to show me her tree, which had grown to about as high as her waist! I made a point of calling there at least each year for the remaining five years and the last time I visited, she could sit in the shade of that tree, and it had flowers! To me that’s an outcome!

Using a democratic process, the students of Manyata primary school elected their environment committee and Lily, a standard six pupil, became the chairperson. Kids don’t elect other kids for no reason! I found Lily to be bright, intelligent and would look you in the eye when talking to you. I also found that she was good at the job she was elected to do!

Her head teacher told me that she was his brightest student, consistently top in each subject and fiercely protective of her top spot! Should another student, especially a boy, show a sign of catching her, she would respond by studying harder.

Towards the end of Lily’s standard seven year, her head teacher hinted to me that a student of Lily’s potential should go on to secondary school. He also told me that her solo mother with difficulty, raised Lily and her siblings by growing rice on her small subsistence farm.

Mags and I had made up our mind to sponsor Lily to secondary school, but before we could tell her, she arrived at our door with her mother. Not an easy journey, all the way from their village. We knew why they had arrived so told them the news before they had broach the subject themselves. Lily knew we intended to return to New Zealand shortly and wanted the issue resolved one way or the other before we left.

We undertook to sponsor Lily to Maji ya Chai secondary school for four years, to the completion of her form four year, the equivalent of O levels. Loti, my co-worker was chairman of the school committee, so we had carried out an environmental programme there.  When we arrived back after two years at home for another two year stint, we carried out another environmental programme at the school and guess who took charge of the trees? Just before we left again for good, the headmaster of the school told us that Lily really should proceed on for her A levels because she was such an exceptional student. But we had taken on another family financially through this period, so looked for other sponsorship for her. You just can’t expect other people see things in quite the same way as you do yourself, which is why we could only find one year’s sponsorship, and so as not to leave the girl in the lurch, took it on once again.

Lily’s time at secondary school was successful and her headmaster together with Loti told us that she really must go to university in Dodoma! She sent us copies of her A level results and hoped that we could help her, which we did. She studied environmental related subjects, which I was pleased about, and she regularly sent updates of her progress which showed she was doing very well. On attaining her degree, she sent us a letter of thanks us and attached to a photocopy of her degree was a note saying, ‘These are the fruits of your work!’

She quickly secured a government job! They snapped up the brightest!

Lily told us that her ambition was always to gain a master’s degree, but she was clear that she was not asking for further sponsorship from us. She realised that ambition through her own efforts, spending a year in Tokyo! Now back in the government job she realises her other ambition: to support her mother and siblings!

Now that’s what I call ‘an outcome’!

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