Monday, November 25, 2013

Final Despatches from Moringa Community.Org. November 2013.

The Moringa project has entered its final phase: the validation phase. Will the Moringa project achieve our goal of long-term self-sustainability? 

After an enormously successful fund drive in late 2012, MoringaCommunity.Org raised sufficient funds to enable the construction of a student hostel, in addition to a three unit teacher accomodation building (both pictured) on the Moringa Community School of Trade’s facility in Central Region, Ghana.  Completion of this latest construction project is key to the organization’s overall viability and was ably lead by our Moringa Ghana president, Abu Abdullai.  We are proud to have achieved this last major goal that will finally enable the Ghanaian part of our project to become self-sustainable and independent of support from the USA. Through their generosity, project donors and supporters from the USA and elsewhere have empowered this milestone.  Now, as we have envisaged from the outset of this project, it is the turn of the Moringa Community School of Trade in Ghana to forge ahead on its own and carve out its own destiny. 

MCST Youth Hostel Exterior
In this, my last blog entry, I firstly want to thank all of our project supporters, and secondly, give an overview and some perspective to all of you who have believed in, and taken a chance with us on this great journey.  

Organization Background
Genuine self-sustainability, we realized from the outset, could only be achieved if the Ghana Non-Profit business entity was fully and independently Ghanaian owned.  We strongly felt that independent ownership would foster a healthier, self-rewarding environment for growth as a profitable business and educational enterprise for the good of its staff and for the good of the students trained at the school.  From its inception in 2008, the project has consisted of two separately incorporated non-profit organizations. First is the MoringaCommunity.Org entity, incorporated in the USA (hereafter referred to as Moringa USA); the second entity being Moringa Community Org, incorporated in the Republic of Ghana (hereafter referred to as Moringa Ghana). The two organizations have no formal legal bond. 

Moringa USA was created solely to advise the project in Ghana and act as the primary funding resource.  Moringa Ghana was charged with using and effectively developing the significant quantity of resources and technical advice provided by Moringa USA in order to realize the project mission. 
Each unit will house two-three teachers each.
That mission was to create a trade school that would teach others how to mitigate the harsh rigors of typical rural African life through labor saving, site-built mechanized devices; and to greatly improve food security through the implementation of a successful home canning program, among many other things. This training center is the Moringa Community School of Trade (MCST).

It was decided right from the outset that the project would not be the typical, never-ending third world charity project.  Instead, we would work together to develop a properly founded school that would provide valuable service to the immediate community of roughly 3,500 villagers, as well as be accessible to the more remote regional population. We would provide unique, practical and culturally appropriate educational services in a sustainable way.  To achieve this goal, we’ve completed the construction of comprehensive facilities consisting of multiple classroom and laboratory buildings, separate girls’ and boys’ dormitory buildings and associated staff quarters. In addition, we have outfitted each program with enough tooling and resources that each department could function independently as a successful and ultimately self-funding local business for the benefit of the school as a whole.

Moringa USA, with its donor support, has been highly succesful in achieving its goals.  As you’re probably aware, since September 2008, the Moringa project has faced innumerable nearly insurmountable roadblocks to our forward momentum.  Through the help of our Moringa USA project donors, coupled with the immense committment and dedicated work of Abu and the many key associates of Moringa Ghana and local community members, we have to date overcome nearly every obstacle laid before us.  These obstacles are too numerous to list here, but I shall mention some of the more significant.  

The Moringa Woodshop also produces
student desks and furniture for other schools.

Our first major challenge was the need to bridge a river to enable vehicular access to the compound.  Admittedly our bridge, which is now five years old, is currently somewhat compromised due to ongoing flash flood conditions that periodically render it impassable to vehicular traffic, but it has always remained crossable by human and cart traffic and has become the lifeline of the school.  Next, we secured formal land ownership for the Moringa Ghana Project with legally uncontestable deed documents for Moringa Ghana’s land ownership (a nearly impossible thing to achieve in W. Africa). We overcame enormous interference and costly obstruction from an extremely intransigent and unco-operative officialdom.  We secured licensing from the Ghana Ministry of Health certifying our Moringa-made canned goods for sale in the market place.  We established a woodworking facility and modern workshop; a weaving and fabric arts department capable of commercial clothing manufacture.  Agriculturally, we’ve firmly established our Moringa Olifera plantation and developed and capitalized on Moringa product sales within the wider West African community with some additional sales in Europe.  There are so many more achievements I could mention, but one additional thing I’m particularly proud of is that the Moringa Community School of Trade is one of only a very few building compounds in the region to have on-demand running water through our artesian rain water collection and distribution system that we designed and built ourselves for the compound.  

Project Validation Phase
Now, we have reached the final validation phase of the project, where compared to previous years, the obstacles appear relatively few. It therefore behoves us to consider at what point the continued assistance and involvement of Moringa USA translates from an essential and integral element of the project to an emotional and financial crutch, which may actually hinder the future momentum and independent progress of Moringa Ghana.  In essence, we need to be wary of turning this amazing and successful undertaking into a never-ending third world charity program that has doomed so many others like it from their inception.  We have to ask ourselves, ‘At what point do we push the child out of the door and require it to stand on its own two feet and support and feed itself?’  MCST now has virtually all it needs, both infrastructurally and organizationally to move forward on its own. We believe, therefore, we must now task the Moringa Ghana organization to endeavor to provide for its own long-term future, without dependence on assistance from its USA associate, through use of its Moringa-owned farm lands, its physical plant and its own tools and resources to develop its own self-sustaining identity.
We've built our 60 student beds but remain in need of funding
 for mattresses, sheets & covers

Our Final
Punch List

We have every confidence that with the exception of some few remaining physical supplies that Moringa USA has yet to provide, Moringa Ghana is poised to make a real run at project self-sustainability.  All of our long-term supporters will remember my pledge at the end of 2012 not to come back with the begging bowl out yet again, provided we were able to raise enough funds to construct our dormitory and youth hostel in 2013.  Well, we’ve completed that mission and have completed construction of the dormitory, so I have no intention of going back on my word.  I had indicated from the outset that this experiment would not be an eternal, never-ending project. We always intended that this project would have a defined beginning and end point in so far as Moringa USA involvement was concerned, and this end point would be marked by the successful achievement of all of our stated project goals. I am happy to say that with the exception of a few minor elements, we have together succeeded in achieving all of those major goals. 

I’ll only reference in passing Moringa Ghana’s final punch list of needs for which Moringa USA currently has no remaining funds to cover.  Should any of you be inclined to lend the project financial assistance towards securing these key remaining essentials for Moringa Ghana, we will most certainly accept your assistance through your tax deductible donation to MoringaCommunity.Org (Moringa USA) and we will see your money gets put precisely where intended. 
You’ll find this Punch List on the Moringa website ‘Support Us’ page.

The Future?
As for what happens from now on regarding this unique and life-changing venture, it is our intention that will remain as a 501C3 charity entity until such time it seems there is no longer any reason for it to exist.  Anyone who wishes to continue supporting this project will be able to make ongoing contributions in future years if they wish and any such funds will be wisely applied towards the mission.  My wife Linda and I, having invested five years of our life in the creation and nurture of this project, will be stepping back from active management of the organization starting January 2014.  What this means is that, in the absence of any other individuals willing and/or interested in taking over active management of the Moringa USA 501C3 Non-Profit, Jeffry & Linda Lohr will remain as the president and vice president of record respectively in name only.  We will continue to file the State and Federal annual reports required but we will not be actively campaigning or fundraising on behalf of the organization effective January 2014. We feel we have done our job well, have given of ourselves fully and without hesitation, and have set this project on the right course for success.  After completing what we have set out to do, success or failure of the project as it moves ahead on its own will lie squarely on the shoulder of Moringa Ghana, where it was intended to be from the outset of the project in 2008.  

I would like to offer an enormous and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has trusted and believed in this project enough to put their help and financial muscle behind it and enable it to surpass our expectations.  In the end, although enabled by myself & Linda and with the help of several key US volunteers, this project could never have been brought to life without the vision, work ethic, and remarkable leadership of Abubakar Abuduali, the Moringa Ghana project founder.

Thanks to all. 

Jeffry Lohr

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Moringa supporters respond to dormitory fund drive !

Click Here if you haven't yet read our 2012 Newsletter
In our all out -full throttle- fund raising push in 2012, we could not be more proud of our private American stake holders for responding so generously to The Moringa Community School of Trades (MCST) dormitory challenge. Yes we did it! We raised enough money to build the dormitory plus a reasonable cushion.  For newcomers to the site, a click on the image at left will open a PDF of our 2012 Newsletter appeal that helped make the drive so successful. If you did not see it before, I'm sure you will find it interesting.

HOWEVER, to our supporters, the Newsletter is yesterday’s news and you’re likely very anxious to see just how far Abu and his staff and volunteers have come on the actual dormitory construction that your donated funds have enabled. Trust I’ll take our loyal donors to where all such things will be revealed within the next two paragraphs.

Click here to see our construction progress!
Before we go to the dormitory constructoin progress update, be aware there are many new entries to this BLOG as of 2013 found below. I am hopeful all will come back to this page and scroll through the new BLOG entries below that chronicle many details of Abu’s fall 2012 USA Tour.

All the above said,,, and without further ado, I am honored to bring you Abu’s proof of life of the Moringa Youth Hostel construction. Thank you all so very much and enjoy what your funds have wrought by clicking here for the March 2012 Dormitory progress photo update.

Enjoy the fruits of your support and please be very proud of what all of you have enabled!
Thank you.
Jeff Lohr

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Abu's October - November 2012 American Tour

 Abu Arives in Philadelphia  
After an enormously frustrating eight month US State Department delay, we finally won renewal of our African project director Abu’s visa in the fall of 2012 and immediately booked a flight for his return. Although arriving three months past our planned block of time set aside for his visit and unfortunately missing three key scheduled events, (one being a meeting with the Ghana ambassador to the US), surprisingly we managed to put together a respectable itinerary for his visit that helped move the project forward significantly.

Abu was here in Pennsylvania with us once again, this time for just two months rather than the three months in 2008 when the Moringa Community project was born. There were too many activities engaged in during Abu’s 60 days with us but referenced below are a few high lights .

 Hearne Hardwoods Saws Spectacular Walnut Log as Fundraiser for Moringa Community

Within the first week of Abu’s arrival, the Lohr Woodworking Team traveled with Abu to Oxford PA for the Hearne Hardwoods Fall Open House where owner Rick Hearne hosted a remarkable two day event including exhibitions, vendors, music, and the exhibition sawing of several enormous highly figured walnut logs Rick donated and then auctioned at the event with all proceeds being split between MoringaCommunity.Org and the George Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

The Hearne Hardwoods monster band mill (an enormous machine who’s massive castings and wheels were salvaged as a relic of World War II from the Naval Ship Yard in Philadelphia) is a real crowd pleaser to watch in action. This was the mill on which the Moringa designated black walnut crotch log was milled at the event and then palleted for auction in its entirety for auction to the highest bidder on the last day of the event.

Appearing with the little girl in the photo at left, Abu demonstrates African style work bench clamping employed by many Ghanaian
carpenters. These methods have since been replaced by the Lohr School of Woodworking wedge style of clamping at the Moringa Community School of Trades (MCST) with the new system proving to be a real boon to accuracy, speed and quality of production.

Abu with Mira & Kevin Nakashima at Hearne Hardwoods event
At left, Abu shows Mira Nakashima-Yarnall and Kevin Nakashima, daughter and son of George Nakashima, how our Moringa Made Fabric arts are made at MCST. All proceeds from the October 5th and 6th 2012 Hearne Hardwoods Open House weekend were divided between MCST and The George Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

The huge crotch walnut logs donated by Rick Hearne and sawn for the exhibition on Saturday were auctioned off on Sunday Oct 6th. Not being able to resist both the stunning figure and the historic nature of the ceremonially cutting of the Moringa designated walnut crotch log, Jeff Lohr outbid all others to claim the prize. Suzanne Kahn, an associate at the Lohr School of Woodworking is pictured below with two of these remarkable flitches to give the viewer a sense of scale of their size. As these live edge slabs are over 2” thick and heavily figured, they will need to season very slowly before kilning. This consecutive book-matched set will be ready to be rendered into another stunning piece of J.D.Lohr Live Edge Furniture by the September 2014.

As many of our Moringa project supporters are Alumni of the J.D.Lohr School of Woodworking, I can’t resist showing off a little “wood bling” at left with a close up of the terrific crotch figure in the Moringa log flitch set donated for auction by Rick Hearne and purchased by me, (Jeff) as the high bidder at the event. I am thrilled to have this log set.

 Abu’s 2012 American Tour - Speaking Engagements

Unfortunately as a result of our fiasco with the US State Department in securing Abu’s Visa, we missed having him speaking at a regional multi club Rotary International meeting that was being planned for August 2012. I mention this here as we are proud to have had the support of Rotary International for our work in Ghana and would like to thank the Montgomery and Chester County PA clubs that have actively supported MoringaCommunity.Org

As most know, MoringaCommunity.Org is a non-religious / non denominationally associated charity. However, despite that we help those of all faiths and do not in anyway proselytize to the minions, our mission does parallel the ethos of Christian charity in helping the poor and less fortunate. As a result the Moringa project, not surprisingly, has a number of American Church groups and congregations that have actively supported the project since our inception in 2008.

 Although we wish we would have been able to schedule a presentation at all the church groups that have supported this project, we were most grateful that Abu had the opportunity to speak before members of both The Lancaster Church of The Brethren and The Saint James United Church of Christ in Limerick PA. Both of these churches have members that have organized others in their respective congregations to lend particularly dynamic and key support to the project at the most critical times we needed it over the past four years.

Abu's 2012 American Tour - Part Two

Events that show the way forward
It is often remarkable how many seemingly unrelated conversations, happenings, and chain of events can lead to yet another wholly new possibility to greatly improve life in the African community Moringa Community Ghana serves.
Cases in point

American Farm Corn Maze.
Our trip to a local Corn Maze here in PA sparks evening conversations with Abu about the lack of anything to do after dark in Ghana. This leads to an idea for creating Movie & Game Night at Moringa to draw the community together and also to generate some modest income for MCST.

Halloween PumpkinsBeing here in Pennsylvania at Halloween and seeing Jack-o’-lanterns, Abu comments that some of the seed packets sent by American project supporters that grows particularly well in Ghana are pumpkins. While African’s are familiar with certain types of squash, they had no idea what to do with pumpkins. Linda then works with Abu on pumpkin processing and recipes, one of which is dried and baked pumpkin seeds that are an instant hit with Abu. Suddenly a new market potential is born.

Saw Making
Earlier in 2012, fellow woodworker and friend, David Diaman  started investigating the potential of saw making for the Moringa Community School of Trades. Although the Moringa woodworking program is built off of Mr. Jeffry’s Third World Machine Shop, the reality is that even though the machine is relatively inexpensive to make, not all African carpenters can afford even a basic machine. They can however afford handsaws and employ them all the time.
In his travels, David came across a contact that enabled him to secure an old Foley Manual Retoothing machine that will enable our students to make their own saws as well as recondition and rework old worn out saws to like new condition. David bought the machine for the project.

At left Abu is working the machine under Jeff’s instruction. This machine is now in Ghana and being put to use as a welcome addition to the many facets of our program.

Planning for Moringa Community School of Trades (MCST) to become fully self sustaining


Abu’s fall 2012 visit to America was focused on bringing the Moringa project full circle and our quest to make the NGO in Ghana one of the first organizations to achieve full self sustainability. The need to construct a student dormitory was clear as early as 2011 but despite the need many other infrastructure elements had to built and completed first before such an ambitious endeavor would be attempted. During Abu’s tour, plans were solidified on how we would bring the dream of what Abu calls our Youth Hostel life.

What also unfolded throughout the course of what we like to refer to as “Abu’s 2012 American Tour” was a better grasp on Abu’s part of how each program within the trade school’s umbrella had to take more responsibility for sustaining that individual department’s viability. Profit sharing and personnel motivational strategies were arrived at that will be implemented for the overall good of the Ghana NGO.