The time finally came to head out to Dessert Palm after getting ready for our big event. We took a taxi over around 6:30pm and to our surprise everything was already mostly set up! It was really awesome to see everyone so eager and excited to get started. Sarah and I manned the donation table, which was just off to the side of the courtyard. The set up was fairly simple there were tables in the back for the guests, the slideshow projection and our table up front and the stereo was set up on the other side for music. Lucas informed us that the MC we wanted wasn’t going to be able to make it so he graciously took over the role; which was fine by us since he is very charismatic and knew 90% of the people there.
There was only one very obvious and frustrating issue… the power was out! There was some kind of work being done on some of the nearby power stations and the electricity wasn’t scheduled to come back on until about 7:30pm or 8pm. Being prepared and educated Event Managers, we came up with a plan to “set the mood” and have one of the guys buy candles so that we could have some light. Once we got the candles we realized that there were no candle holders, but we found a way to keep them upright by putting them in empty beer and pop bottles. Since the projector wasn’t working just yet, I opened the slideshow on my laptop, opened ITunes and let them play at the donation table. We also encouraged Lucas to talk to everyone to inform them of the night’s activities. We also got in touch with the hotel manager to try and get them to start the generator for us so that we could have some more lighting since it was pitch black out. In light of everything this could have been a big issue but using some critical thinking we made it work.
The power came back on eventually and we didn’t end up using the generator but we were still thankful that we had a plan B in place anyway. Everything got set up and finalized in about 30 seconds and then Lucas took over as our MC. We had set things up as a casual bar night for the community but I really don’t think that this concept translated at all to our committee or the attendees. Lucas had everyone introduce themselves, which was about 30-40 people taking a good hour to state their names, occupations and other tid bits about their lives. But once all of the introductions had finished, the donations started to come in. Again, most people wanted to do a little presentation of what they were donating, why it was important and how they got involved. It was great to see all of the enthusiasm but I wasn’t expecting all the formality and presentations!
One of the most moving donations was given by a director of three local schools in the community. He donated 100,000Tsh from each of his schools (300,000Tsh in total) and offered 10 free spots for admission to his schools. This was my favorite donation because it represents so much to me. First and foremost, it directly affects the educational benefit for the children at the orphanage and will give them encouragement to seek higher education. This gesture also was a perfect demonstration of a win/win situation, where I finally saw all of the committee members have their moment of clarity and understanding. It taught them that this amazing act not only benefits the children, but also the director since this will be mentioned in the media, word of mouth and through the children. The kids who end up filling those 10 spots will become ambassadors of those schools with the positivity and support that they have received. They will also likely spend money at these schools, convince their friends to attend these schools and will always carry a positive response to these schools.
The other donations that were made were not all monetary, but they were just as important and just as needed by the orphanage. Individuals and groups donated bags of clothes, flour, sugar, soap, laundry detergent and other helpful items. This was a big surprise for us because when we first started advertising that people could bring material things as well as monetary we were told that people don’t really do that and that it’s a new concept that a lot of people may not understand. I like that this wasn’t the case and that the material goods were plentiful. One of my favorite stories about these donations was from one of the VETA teacher’s. He had gone home one day and explained the orphanages situation to his son, and what the fundraiser was meant to do for them. The son immediately ran around his room with an old backpack and collected clothes that he no longer wore or out grew. He then gave the back pack to his dad to bring to the fundraiser. If anything gave me hope for the future of fundraisers and neighbourly compassion in Dodoma that was it!
Games are a fan favorite here in Tanzania and Lucas has suggested that we play a game called “Do or Pay”. Basically, people write out funny and odd things for others to do, and if your name gets called and you can’t do what is asked then you have to pay 2,000Tsh. People responded really well to it and it was a lot like playing a party game with all your friends and family. It was a really nice game to have been a part of. Other than that, people could pay to have their picture taken with Miss Dodoma or could pay to dance with her. It was a lot of fun to watch everyone hesitantly come up, discreetly pay and run up to see her.
After the games and the donations people just started to quickly trickle out around 10pm or so which gave us some time to have a debriefing meeting afterwards. The guys ordered some drinks and a bit of food to munch on and then we got down to business. Anthony, Sarah and I went into the hotel to count up the donations, triple checked the number and signed off on it. When we got back to the table we made a quick drum roll and revealed that we had raised over 500,000Tsh in cash donations tonight and over 800,000Tsh in promised donations that will be collected next week. This is such a great accomplishment in that this is the first fundraiser event that has ever taken place in Dodoma and even though no one here knew what to expect, everything turned out better than expected. Our discussion quickly moved to having the teachers create a long term plan to have this event annually which they can now grow off of this experience. It’s amazing to see how much they’ve learned just by watching Sarah and I put this together in an organized and paced fashion. I’m very proud of what we accomplished and I’m still so moved as to how this all came together for the House of Hope.
The teachers had already put a game plan in place to bring all of the donations to the orphanage on Monday; unfortunately we won’t be here to celebrate and deliver the goods but we will be there in spirit! We were also sad to have to say good bye to everyone since we wouldn’t have much time tomorrow morning. We gave out lots of hugs and fist pumps and hopefully they’ll all stay in touch over facebook and e-mail.
Looking forward to opening a new chapter in this adventure! We’re off to Dar es Salaam tomorrow and then traveling to Stone Town, Zanzibar early Saturday morning!