So I went to the shop and asked how much a uniform would cost, a pair of trousers, shoes, two shirts and a pair of socks. Total average cost RD$1,200 which is about US$30. I posted the information on his page and the money came flooding in. Some bought one, some two and some more. It was staggering. People forwarded the message to their friends and they offered to help too.
The head mistress provided me with a list of who needed a uniform. She was supposed to put the sizes but mostly it was just the ages. The school is what we call an infant school in English, the first 5 grades plus kindergarten. Some of the kids are 12 or more though as they started school late.
Ana, Chivirico’s aunt, went and visited all of the kids on the original list of around 80 students – half of the school total, and crossed off those who had a uniform but just had not gone to school, and those who did not want to go as they were working instead – usually as shoe shine boys. She then came with me to the shop to help put everything together as she had a better idea of the right sizes for the right kids.
I then went to pick up the money which had come by Xoom to my bank account here, into my British bank and by Western Union. That is when things got a little sticky. I was already wondering what sort of reception Danilo would get in Western Union when he handed over his long list to pick up – they would be bound to think he was a sanky panky, but we used his name as he goes into town every day to University. Well WU has some new rule that you can only pick up two deposits a day, so I had to call the shop and confirm I could have some of the uniforms on credit until we managed to pick up all of the WU money.
Then it was off to Banco Popular to take out the Xoomed money, which was no problem. Then to take out the money from England but they had a new machine in the bank which you have to put your PIN in. It was behind the counter so I couldn’t put my PIN in. I offered to give the number to the bank teller but that is against the rules, so I offered to come behind the counter. That is against the rules too. The only option was to go outside to the cash machine and withdraw 4 times, as there is a maximum of RD$10,000 a time. First withdrawal was fine. Second said go away you fraudulent person, or words like that. So I had to call India. My bank is in the UK but their customer services team is in India, which is useful as I get good curry making tips.
I tried to call but the phone wouldn’t work, even though it had plenty of minutes on it. Off to Claro, the phone company, who told me that I cannot use the minutes I pay for on my contract as they are a different type of minute. If you want to call overseas you have to buy more minutes, which although the same minutes, allows you to call overseas, and India. Bought minutes, called India, said I was me and not a thief, got the money out.
Then it was off to pay for the uniforms. Each one had been carefully put in their own plastic bag and numbered but some were lacking shirts which the owner had been to buy at the warehouse the previous day.
Every bag had to be opened though to see if they had shirts, and all were tightly knotted. The new shirts were put in and every bag tied up again. Then the owner thought he had better check the bill, so every bag was opened again, items called out, added up and the bags tied up again.
We had money left over so I bought notebooks and pencils and at last everything was loaded into the car and we drove home. Then every bag had to be unknotted again and the notebook and pencil put in.
Each bag had a label with the name of the student, who had gifted them the uniform and which country they lived in, and a message from Chivirico telling them to take care of their uniform and study hard.
Tomorrow morning at 8 am we will go to the school and hand them over to the kids. The headmistress is supposed to have told them all, and the TV and press are supposed to be turning up too. I am sure it will be total chaos, but fingers crossed all will go well and 50 kids will now be able to go to school.
What started as a thank you for one child a week ago, has snowballed into a massive thank you with people from all over the world coming together to help a little barrio school. Totally amazing.