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20 Dollar African Blackboards There Can Be Checks And Balances On Money Spent

Generally, aid organizations will say, "We raised X amount of money," this just ain't right... They should be making YouTube videos showing their fruit, their good work, whereby it would be obvious how the money was spent, transparency is possible in this new world

Thu, 27 Jun 2019 23:48:09


"We will take a before, and after video, and publish to YouTube." -- Thank you, Andy Lee Graham

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20 Dollar Blackboards - checks and balances - money spent

In my opinion, every do-gooder organization on the planet should be making videos of their accomplishments.

There's a saying in business: you can't expect what you don't inspect. 

So, if we're going to take money from people with the intention of doing good works, how can we demonstrate it, and prove we actually did something? Generally, aid organizations tell you how much money they raised, while a business may tell you how many products they sold and how much profit they made .

What is the profit, and what is the benefit performed by an aid organization? There can always be a metric, a way to measure success that has nothing to do with the amount of money donated. It's simple math: the $20 blackboard project can take in $20 with the hope that one blackboard is created for every $20 received. Now, indeed the price of a blackboard is $20, to have a cement worker plaster it onto a wall here, in Kpalime, Togo, West Africa.

2500 cfa black coloring

1500 cfa sand

4000 cfa cement

3000-4000 labor

10000 to 12000 cfa per black blackboard made.

This is 20.79 US dollars, so you can see that I sort of rounded the price, because it's going to change all the time - not much, but a couple of dollars here and there. This is life: things go up and down and change, especially here in Africa. For example, if I talked to the worker myself, the worker would look at me and probably quadruple his price, making his labor 10-20,000 cfa instead of 3000 to 4000. This is generally how aid organizations just blow money out of the window, throw it up in the air and say they did something. 

And yes, I did say they threw money up in the air and let the wind blow it away! Generally it's been on a $70,000 Toyota Land Cruiser. And making sure that nobody working on the project lives anything but the best of lives. Yet, you can see they will tell you how much money they raised, not how many things they did - which is the annoying part for me. 

I see their signs but I can't see what they do…

I'm trying to hire a young man by the name of Mario to find locations to have these blackboards installed. Really quite easy; you just find a place where a lot of children are sitting around playing, then go talk to the owner, and ask permission to have one installed on the outside wall. Never private; these must be public. The compound houses here all have walls around them, so there's always a concrete wall often, in very bad shape, but accessible to the children, where they can play and draw pictures with chalk on these blackboards. The blackboards are kind of a central point for the children to play, but at the same time learning to write, draw, and have fun. Learning can be fun!

I'm hoping that I can pay Mario 5000 saffer (‘saffer’ is how they usually say ‘cfa francs’), roughly $10 per location he finds to install. Or maybe I can pay the cement worker 5000 extra if he finds one. Now, like any clever person, these guys will find a place where there's no children - oh, and a deserted wall - and try to make money from the silly white guy from the USA that seems to have too much money. And we do, when the average wages here in this country are roughly 40,000 cfa per month - for the sake of argument, around 80 US dollars. So, you can see that $20 is the raw price, and there's going to be additional expenses for other things.

Maybe the only way this works is if I pay Mario or one of the workers $10 or $20 per board. That would raise the price to $40 per board. And this is in the hope that the project propagates and spreads and soon, in the city of Kpalime, Togo, West Africa, there are blackboards everywhere children are playing! 

Yesterday, I gave $20 to a friend of mine named Antoine to have one made in the small village of Gbalive. Who knows if they'll do it? Maybe I'll lose $20, or maybe WE'll lose $20, I hope not, but I was trying to get Ese, a young woman living there, to go find a place in her village, with the same promise that I'll pay her $10 if she finds an owner that will allow a blackboard to be on the outside of their building. 

And some of you smart people are going: “What about the chalk? Who's going to buy the chalk?” A box of chalk costs about $1 here. 

Somewhere down the line, we have to trust people. And the art of this is to find people that are trustworthy. But, as I said at the beginning, you can't expect what you don't inspect. So, I'm going to leave Togo here in about 30 days and go to Europe. I'm hoping to do two things in this time; first, I’ll train Mario to take videos of each of the locations, before and after, with the hope that he continues on this project. Then, I hope to find two or three other people that can take videos and earn $10 to $20 for organizing each of the blackboards. I really want this to be a Togolese project, with me just being a producer, working with the few people that I trust and have known for years.

Therefore, now I'll create a YouTube channel called something like “Blackboards in Togo”. Or in French, “Tableaux de noir”. And somehow I'll learn the local Ewe language words for blackboard, and we hope this doesn't all get lost in translation. I'm having to speak French with a few, and the workers who will sell them don’t speak French, they only speak Ewe. So, I will persist as I have persisted for the last three to four years thinking about this project, with how to put checks and balances on it to ensure that money is invested wisely in this culture. Then, we can actually inspect, so we can expect something to happen. 

And I sincerely believe that every single aid organization on the planet should be making videos daily, showing the work they do - and stop annoying me by telling me how much money they raised! And show me the profit of their business by the video they take. If they're not smart enough to make a video with their smartphone and publish it to YouTube, I'm not sure how they're smart enough to get anything done in a very complicated country like Togo, West Africa.

Billions of dollars are blown away into the these countries each year.

Anybody that wishes to help is welcome. I can even allow you to get on the GoFundMe page to help raise money to keep this project working in a series of checks and balances. And I'll continue to say, “You can’t expect what you don't inspect”. 

I enjoy doing this, and I love to learn about different cultures. But, trust me, the locals are very clever at extracting money from me for miscellaneous reasons! Yet, after 21 years of non-stop, perpetual travel and visiting 112 countries, there's probably nobody that has learned more from experience how to avoid somebody putting their hand in my pocket. Or, we can send over a lot of young people from the USA and Europe, and these African people can take their pants down and spank them! And that's what happens normally.

It makes me angry every time I see a white Toyota Land Cruiser that cost more than a whole village. They are everywhere here in Togo, West Africa. I see them at the best restaurants in town.

I will continue to take motorcycle taxis. And live somewhat like the locals. I will hide in plain sight, eating my egg sandwich in the morning at the Africa Bar. 

Well, stick with me! Let's have some fun: let's see if we can do something good. Each and every project that I work on, I think of it from a point of view of ‘First, do no harm’. I really think the worst thing you can do to a person is to give them money for nothing. It takes nice people, my friends, and turns them into beggars that say to me, “Give me money”. 

“L'argent”, in French. When I hear a small child here in Togo say that word to me, I know that some American or European person, well intended, gave them money and created a beggar. Please, don't give money to children! Give them the tools to learn, so they can be self-taught children and students of life. Knowledge can open any door. 

La vie est belle.

Life is good

Andy Lee Graham of HoboTraveler.Com

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