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The first thought about

The Santina Gusmini Onlus Association was founded August 2, 2012 and is dedicated to Santina Gusmini, died March 21, 2012 . During the forty years spent together, with her husband has made numerous trips, visiting over one hundred and thirty countries on six continents. To push them to countries always different, it was, not the desire to bask in the sunshine on a beautiful beach fringed with palm trees, but the curiosity to discover worlds and cultures. Who loves travelling and therefore calls himself traveler and not tourist, has as his first goal the knowledge of the countless diversity that our planet offers us: the wonders of nature , the extraordinary variety of the animal world and the humankind.

Visiting countries and poor areas, Mrs. Gusmini paying particular attention for the plight of children: maybe because , in addition to her own sensitivity , she was a kindergarten teacher in youth.

The plight of children in pre-school age in the villages further away towns, with little or no basic services , it is remarkably similar , even in different countries, continents or cultures. With mothers from sunrise to sunset busy in an infinite number of indispensable activities and fathers often absent or very little interested, these babies roam uncontrolled through the village with their peers and dogs, cats and poultry, exposing themselves to obvious (and less obvious ) dangers.

Who has even the slightest knowledge of the countries in developing world and of international organizations operating there, knows very well that humanitarian initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions of these people , they pursue two main objectives: health and hunger. Basically this point is correct: these are primary needs. But improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable, women and children and bring children to the school as soon as possible, is it believed to be secondary? This asked herself  Mrs. Gusmini observing these disadvantaged people.

The Association is the answer to this question : our project has certainly cultural purposes, but with important social implications . Create a school for kindergarten teachers and then reinsert the graduated students in the village devoid of any structure for childhood, supporting the cost for a limited period in order to allow for a stabilization of the service, is the goal of our initiative.

Who we are

he Association, founded August 2, 2012 currently has 15 members.
It’s a private entity, set up and financed by private.
It’s absolutely secular.
It’s based in Italy, more precisely in the town of Bergamo.
From September 4, 2012 was officially recognized as a non-profit organization
( Non-profit organization of social utility) by the Italian Authorities in charge and enrolled in the Register of the non-profit organization, allowing supporters and donors to the facilities provided by the Italian tax law.
The Association is registered in the appropriate list of beneficiaries of 5 per thousand.
Members are completing the establishment of a branch of the Association in Switzerland.
The Association currently has, since its foundation, a constant relationship with the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences of the University of Bergamo.
More information about the Association, members and projects can be found by the website: www.santinagusminionlus.org.

Why in Botswana

Define the guidelines of the project , it was necessary to think about where it could find a first application. We evaluated several criteria to select the first country that will host us. The choice fell on Botswana for the following reasons :
  •  the country is very large, 582,000 square kilometers (twice Italy ) and sparsely populated (2,000,000 inhabitant) with villages far away from the main centers and roads complicated by the rains in some months of the year.
  •  independent since 1966 , since then, universally considered the safest African country,
  • have never been reported tribal or religious conflicts and has always enjoyed an effective social peace,
  • has always paid great interest in the culture: it is probably one of country in the world , even today, that allocates a good share of its GDP to education,
  • is the African country with the lowest level of corruption. According to the ” Corruption Perception Index 2012” compiled by Transparency International, Botswana is the most virtuous among African countries, finishing in 30th  place out of 176 countries. Italy occupies the 72nd place of the ranking …..

Mission e vision

Our Mission is ambitious or maybe someone could say presumptuous: change the world. Yes, it is, but we want to change it from the bottom, by means of some small activities which lay the foundation for a collective growth of social aggregation, based on concepts such as respect, the acceptance each other, social solidarity. Many may be initiatives with similar goals: we have chosen to offer our help to children and women, to those who are already the weakest in areas where they are even more so. In countries that host us, we shall enter always on tiptoe, constantly trying to deepen the knowledge of the surrounding environment and society, with full and continuing cooperation of local authorities, to be able, in some time, to change our condition by guests to friends
Allow small children to spend part of their day in a safe place, in the company of peers, to carry out the most of what children around the world, at that age, should be doing: playing. But at the same time introduce them to the school and education: the only non-violent way that will allow them to grow individually and collectively. At the same time improving the condition of women, already burdened with multiple tasks: this is our Vision. The future? Perhaps a society where, respect for others and the real individual skills, constitute the foundation for a peaceful and participatory social structure. Perhaps it is merely a Vision and we are Vision-aries, but why not try?

How we shall work: the project in dectail

A) The plot of land. The first step will consist of the research and then the taking over, by the Association, of a plot of land needed to allow the construction of the buildings functional to the project itself. The acquisition will be made by donation or free lease for 99 years, by public or private entities. This plot, whose size won’t be less than 3.000 sqm,  will be located in the capital, Gaborone, in a central or otherwise appropriate area, both to the conduct of teaching, and to the acceptance of children who attend the kindergarten built therein.
 Acquired the plot, the Association will carry out, from scratch and its own expense, the following buildings:
  • the school for the training of the kindergarten teachers,
  • a boarding house for students during the course of studies,
  • a kindergarten for children aged three to six years,
  • a house capable of accommodating: the teachers of the school, the resident staff, members visiting.
It’s important to emphasize, however, that this project was thought more than two years ago, with the first visit to Botswana Embassy in Bruxelles, on 19.11.2012. The modest, if not absent, interest of the Government, for over two years, did not allow any significant fundraising.  At the same time, the situation in Western Countries has definitely  changed and Italy too, was attacked by the economic crisis. At the time of writing, beginning of  2015, countless areas are in need of economic support. Public and private institutions, are much more inclined to invest the limited resources available, inside their own country. Does it mean that the fundraising could also be very long, causing the start of operativity very diluted on time. The intervention of  local private entities, financing the construction of the building needed, it may be essential.
 B) the training school. Once ultimated the buildings, the coursework will start.
  • The students. The Association is committed to form ten teachers per year for all the years in which it will operate on the territory. It hopes and expects that this will happen for tens of years. Aspiring teachers, who will preferably come from disadvantaged villages (villages visited, informed and involved previously), will be accommodated in the hostel, built next to the school for the entire duration of the course; with board and lodging paid by the Association. The aspiring teachers must have completed the two levels of Secondary School, both Junior and Senior. This means that: A) they will be at least 18 years old; B) they should have achieved the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Examination (BGCSE); C), our course of study could be equated to a Vocational Education in Teaching or Nursing, already known in Botswana, before the University. The village will be responsible to notify us if, inside of the Community, there is a student born in the village itself and still resident or resident in the city, interested in being part of our project. Otherwise we will turn to other stakeholders.
  • The training The training will last for one year , divided in two modules of six months each, with an interval of one month of holidays. The lessons of the first module cover several theoretical subjects: psychology, general pedagogy, special pedagogy, pedagogy of human rights. The lessons of the second module, on the contrary, will focus on teaching and practical aspects, trying to give the students practical ways of intervention. The subjects offered will be: childcare, education, children ‘s literature, pediatric first aid, hygiene. The study program  has been prepared by the Association and is visible on the website www.santinagusminionlus.org. The course will be taught by two qualified teachers and by a doctor for pediatric first aid and hygiene.
  •  Activities in the villages. Upon completion of the training course and received their diploma, new teachers will be reinstated in the village of origin ( or similar if deemed most in need ) and must be provided to them a focal point for the opening of a small kindergarten that can accommodate the children of the same village. The Chief of the village and / or the Council of Elders will provide and guarantee the granting of such spaces , in accordance with a previously accepted and signed agreement between the parties. The Association will take over the initial learning material needed and will pay the new teacher for three annuities with a wage of 1,000 Pula ( approximately Euro 100 ) per month , as per the agreement signed with each student before the beginning of the course. The Association reserves the right to conduct any monitoring and evaluation on the work of teacher and solve the existing contract at any time upon the occurrence of a serious matter due to the same teacher . After the three-year period , cost of  teacher and updating of teaching materials will be borne by the village ( or by the state if it decides to supply directly ) . Starting from the third year of life, therefore, the Association shall provide for the annual salary of thirty teachers until its activities will last in the country.
  •  The kindergarten. At the same time with the beginning of the activities of the Training School, the kindergarten, made in the same school complex, will start to operate. It ‘s important to note that the kindergarten constitutes the only one of  the initiatives carried out by the Association  not for free. It is and will be the sole asset in return for payment of all the activities carried out by the Association in the country. So the families that will use the facilities of the kindergarten, will have to pay a rate established for the services offered . The born of the kindergarten will allow the satisfaction of two different needs : to enable students to carry out an internship in a suitable environment and decrease the annual economic needs of the Association. It is essential to remember that the activities of the Association on the territory will create a constant budget deficit, to iron out annually with spontaneous donations and sponsors. If this deficit , thanks to the proceeds of the kindergarten, become somehow reduced , would make more easily sustainable the presence of the Association in Botswana indefinitely. A quality nursery school would also be an additional service offered to the population. The Association believes to provide for facilities and staff to accommodate an initial number of twenty children, with the possibility of increasing the number of young guests up to forty  individuals. The service which will cover the time period from 07:00 a.m. to 01:00 p.m., with the possibility , after assessing the needs of families , of future extension of service up to 05.00 p.m. The quality of the offer , beyond the time period in which the services will be provided , however, will always be on top of our evaluations. We will propose highly skilled staff, complementary activities for everyone, such as music, psychomotor, colors room  and, if possible, an indoor swimming pool.
  • The staff. Santina Gusmini Onlus  has both social and cultural aims and is a non-profit organization, but it might be important to remark how its activities in the country will contribute, albeit in limited numbers, to reduce unemployment that seems for Botswana a very serious problem. (See Sunday Standard article, Sat 05.10.2013 – “Botswana’s unemployment rate among the worst in the world”). In addition to the 30 new teachers, who will receive a salary from the Association, it creates about 15/20 permanent jobs. The school and kindergarten teachers  must be foreign, at least during the first years, but the rest of the staff will be local. And perhaps in a country that, according to the article referred above, “only has between 20 and 29% of its able-bodied citizens employed full time ..” this fact could not be secondary.

Sustainability and sponsor

Certainly economic sustainability is crucial to allow at a  project to pass from the status of excellent idea to become real and solid initiative. Too many times, especially in developing countries, laudable initiatives are miserably wrecked in short time or because too ambitious and not adequately supported, or expenditure estimates were incorrectly assessed. Santina Gusmini Onlus is a young association, but the partners have absolute awareness of the risks that have swept individuals and organizations like ours. That’s why concepts such as pragmatism, practicality, low profile and certainty of costs are the cornerstones of our Association.

But why such a small number of associates? would be easy to enroll tens of individuals, just as supporters. Our members have evryone (or most of them) an operative role. Our growth in terms of numbers of associated will then take place simultaneously with the operational growth.

And why so few new teachers per year? The members are aware that, as with all new initiatives, after an initial period of enthusiasm, there could be another with minor involvements and resources. This explains the seemingly small number of new teachers trained each year: our Association wants to stay long time in Botswana and not to succumb to the costs after a short period.

Beyond principle considerations, it is clear, however, that the fundamental question to which the Association must answer unequivocally is: how do you intend to cover the costs? The answer can not be simplistic or evasive, but it deserves a thorough analysis, because on it, is based the survival of the Association itself and the success of our initiatives on an ongoing basis.

The funds will be found through four types of supporters / donors:
  • activities of the members,
  • the operational volunteers,
  • the “targeted” donors
  • the “generic “ donors
None non-profit organization, except for those supported  by institutions and public funds, can survive if based solely on voluntary donations. These funds are certainly a significant component and sometimes even the majority, of the assets under management by the associations, but they are still an element too volatile, especially in the early life of every organization. Another consideration focuses on the destination of the funds collected from donors: it is ethically correct to use them in large part to cover general expenses ?
It’ s our belief that donors would show even more enthusiasm, if the amounts donated were directly invested in the essential activities of the Association. That’s why, we firmly believe it is essential to publish, in addition to the regular balance sheet, an ethical balance sheet, which documents the percentage of funds allocated directly to the purposes set out by the Statute. There are many items of expenditure that we shall face. That’s how we intend to cover the most significant.
  • Activities of the members. Members only operate for free. The President and other members who travel, meet people, take action even essential for the Association, do it exclusively at their own expense. So no refund for airline tickets, hotel stays, meals, etc.. Ditto for telephone charges, implementation and updating of website, building project, business cards, drafting and printing of programs and similar activities. Everyone makes available, free of charge, his time, skills, premises, staff (if any), conveyance and communication tools.
  • The operational volunteers . The critical economic situation in the European countries makes it very difficult to ask ( and get) by workmen and companies, already experiencing difficulties in their professional activity , time and resources for other initiatives, though laudable . However we will try to promote our project with carpenters , masons, plumbers and electricians in Italy , favoring their presence in Botswana, each group for a short time , free of charge , offering them food and accommodation during their stay . This step, moreover subordinated to the heavy restrictions by local law on foreign workers, today cannot be considered primary and perhaps even feasible, but can, at best, be complementary to the completion of the construction works by institutional donors.
  • The targeted donors. Among the many items of expenditure , there are already some quantifiable with a low margin of error. We have divided these items in ” packages ” that, given the amount significantly high , we wish to propose to donors so-called “institutional” (companies, banking institutions , medium-sized companies ) . We expect to receive the subscription of commitment to support this expenditure , as soon as the Government of Botswana will confirm us, in explicit form, its own interest and full cooperation to the realization of our project.
Among the items of expenditure identified at the time, we indicate by way of example:
  • Annual salary for new graduated teachers.
  • Salary for teachers of the training school.
  • Conveyance at the disposal of the structure.
  • Providing school uniforms.
  • Providing educational materials.
  • Supply furniture for  kindergarten, school , hostel, house.
The generic donors. These are supporters of equal , if not greater , importance of the others, but who donate amounts of minor value and not directly linked to a specific part of the project. In addition to spontaneous donations , even via web , we are active in the collection of five per thousand , donated by supporters in the tax return , we have provided a form of donation for customers of restaurants and pizzerias , based on dedicated special dishes . Similar shapes are used for other categories of shopkeepers . This money will be used for all other expenses , that is those not specifically mentioned in the previous paragraph , essential for the proper functioning of the structure and of the activities. We listed the major of them:
  • The annual cost of the staff for kindergarten.
  • The annual cost of the service staff for the entire property.
  • Materials of construction.
  • Purchase of electric current generator .
  • General and administrative expenses : water, electricity, tv, etc.
  • Food expenses.
The proceeds of the kindergarten. Remembering that one of the functions of the kindergarten is to create a cash surplus, to decrease the annual requirement for the maintenance of the whole structure, it is essential that this surplus is generated. Predict it at this stage, it is absolutely impossible: too many variables to consider. The most obvious are: number of children, number of employees, teachers salaries and the use of trained volunteer staff, hours of operation and more. Our first goal will be to offer a quality proposal to the city of Gaborone, while never losing sight of the need to have a positive balance sheet.

People and institution involved: mutual commitments

The project that the Association intends to carry out in Botswana, to be brought to a successful conclusion, needs to see the full involvement of four institution:
  • The Government of Botswana.
  • Institutions and private entities in Botswana
  • The villages directly involved in it.
  • The Santina Gusmini Onlus Association.
  • The Government of Botswana. No financial contribution is required to the Government  of Botswana. All costs will be borne by the Association or private entities, local or international: land acquisition , construction of buildings , staff costs, wages of new teachers for three years , teaching materials . We only ask a proper attention to those who are not coming with the arrogance of the colonizer , but with the awareness of being a guest in a foreign land. Attention for those who believe that international cooperation is not an abstract concept, but can produce effects and tangible benefits both in the short and long term . Attention for an Association and a project totally non-profit , but that will improve the condition of women, will help the children of the villages most disadvantaged , will create new jobs . If you believe in our project, we only ask you to understand and support, in a substantial  and  not merely formal way, the effort, the diligence and the energies made by our Association . This should result, first in a formal invitation to begin the activities in your country and then in a continuous care to minimize the impact of  bureaucratic difficulties.  The commitment of government officials must allow, in strict compliance with the current regulations in the country, to break down as much as possible downtime and the formalities which may delay the beginning first and the continuity then, of the operativity on the territory. This is all that we ask and expect, nothing else. It will then be exclusive evaluation of the Government decide whether to provide economic support, partial or total, to the villages, to keep the activities of teacher beyond Association support.
  • Institutions and private entities in Botswana. A direct investment by local private entities, was not, at the time of writing of this project, considered essential, though highly desirable. The international trend, the crisis gripping the whole world economies, the goal of self-management for Botswana’s workforce, the desire for the Association to create a new project, providing its know-how, but in short time locally self-managed, make these investments, at least necessary. Private investors must be an active part in the realization of the project. The Association has to build the basis because the entire project is managed by local people shortly. The Santina Gusmini Onlus Association sees Botswana as the first of many other international project self-managed, has no interest in overlap or hinder the growth of the local population, but sees favorably, devolution of management and skills to the country where it’s operating. Our models are the Montessori schools in the world.
  • The villages directly involved. Before starting any activity, members of  the Association will travel and visit personally, in case accompanied by government officials, an adequate number of villages, potentially interested in the project . A collaboration of the Government in the preparation of these meetings would be welcome. The villages that felt the proposal interesting and worthy of being implemented in their own village , must stipulate with the Association, an agreement in support of the project. The Chief of the village and / or the Council of Elders or the equivalent local authority , qualified to engage the village, must guarantee the free concession to the new teacher, a suitable place to take care and look after the children; watch on carrying out of the activity, report to the Association any anomaly or undue interruption of the service, take action in the three years in which the teacher will be paid by the Association, to prepare a plan for financing the costs of the teacher once finished the above mentioned period. We are willing to provide every village with a proper structure to host the kindergarten, if transportation of the building by lorry could be feasible.
  • The Santina Gusmini Onlus Association. The Association undertakes to provide all the know-how needed to start the project, to prepare and manage the building project, in the manner and form chosen, to recruit the staff needed, to form simultaneously local substitutes for each position covered by foreign personnel, but only in the times and ways unquestionably decided by Association itself, to train teachers in the number and time fixed, to support them financially for the period provided by contract and to implement all the obligations contained in this document.

Purposes and goal

We want to once again remind that our project has a dual purpose both cultural and social. We consider essential for the overall growth of a whole people, drawing nearer to a school as soon as possible the maximum number of kids. A true and lasting social change, can only go through a global cultural growth.

We can not exclude, from this essential growth process, the people living in the poorest areas. Improving the status of women and children also there, hundreds of miles away from the cities, where time seems to stand still, in a sort of unchanging world, it is our first goal.
A study of CNEL (Italian institution that deals with Economy and Labor – www.cnel.it) estimates that about two million people per year, will migrate every year up to 2050, from Africa to Europe. Prevent our children from becoming migrants by necessity, also thanks to the contribution, although modest, of our Association, would be a great satisfaction.

For sure we will not solve the serious problem of unemployment that afflicts your country, but we are glad to cooperate to combat it, by creating new jobs.

Our approach will always be low-key, never forget that we are guests of a great country that welcomes us, so that we can help, where the local economic resources may be insufficient. We simply want to be your more lucky friends, who want to share with you the knowledge and resources they have. These beliefs, combined with our determination to defend our independence and our ideals, we believe it is our real strength.
Dr. Maurizio Testa
President of Santina Gusmini Onlus