Table of Contents

A Word From Puma

The Big Picture...

Workshops Program

Student Enrollment Project

Pressure to Build at Poleni

Medical Complex Started at Poleni

Coming in Next Issue

Puma's Kitchen

How You Can Help

Make a Donation

A Word from Puma

Many people visited Myrt Schools this year, including the mayor of Lubumbashi, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health, five UN peace keepers, seven former Myrt students, and other friends. Every one of them was impressed by the work we have accomplish with your help.

I was touched most by the UN soldiers and the former Myrt school students.

The UN peace keepers said that Myrt schools were the first well organized, well equipped, all Congolese run organizations that they had seen in their extensive travels throughout Congo. Their words made me happy to be congratulated for the good work we do, but sad to hear about conditions in other parts of Congo.

The former students had completed grades 1 through 10 at Myrt. They had to transfer to other schools because Myrt could not afford to pay the higher level staff. All seven of them thanked us for our work that helped them pass the national exams to get into the University of Lubumbashi this year.

U.N. soldiers talk to Puma   Visiting UN peace keepers talk with Puma (second from left).

I was happy that these young boys and girls had succeeded, thanks to your help. I was happy to hear their heart felt appreciation, evidence that one day they too will be able and willing to help some people in the world somewhere.

I felt sad because we lost the opportunity to take these kids through high school at Myrt. That would further strengthen our reputation in the Congo. It is never too late. This year we opened the 9th and 10th grade again. We are determined to make it to the finish line. Together we can. Let us keep up the good work.

Again, thank you so much for your help.

Mbuyu “Puma” Wa Mbuyu
Co-Founder and President

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The Big Picture...

The Business of Schools

Unlike schools in the U.S. where schools are supported by taxes, all schools in the Congo have to raise their own money, typically by charging tuition. Some lucky schools get a little help from the government and some receive help from NGOs. Able & Willing covers the cost of building infrastructure at Mryt schools, but they are expected to operate on their own. This is not an easy model to follow.

This newsletter reports on how Able and Willing is responding to major challenges to Mryt school self-sufficiency, made all the more difficult because of the hard economic times in Congo:

  • increase enrollment of paying students;
  • enforce collection of tuition owed;
  • maintain and shore up student aid programs for those who can’t afford tuition (see next page);
  • 4 develop new sources of income compatible with the school’s basic teaching mission.

The Myrt Schools’ business model draws income from goods and services produced at the school for local markets, and uses that income to supplement tuition income and to support student aid programs. We call this our Workshop Program. Past efforts – community gardens, coop, raising rabbits for sale, for example - have not worked well.

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“The key to the success of our workshops program is that that we can now make high quality goods at low cost compared to the goods available on local markets, where nearly everything is imported. We just need to unleash the creativity of our students.”

            Mbuyu "Puma" Wa Mbuyu
            President, AWIEF

A Special Thanks

Because of this year’s exceptional challenges, Puma’s usual three month stay was extended by two months. All the additional work during this time was made possible by the generous support of:

  • $5,000 from the Ausherman Family Foundation

  • $3,200 net revenue from the Document Shredding & Electronic Recycling Day sponsored by the Jefferson Ruritan Club with assistance from Scout Troop 1066, and ALL-SHRED, INC and friends near Jefferson, Md.

  • $9,377 raised by Myrt School

  • $9,370 from our President.

  • $11,922 in interest free loans from two businessmen, friends of Puma, in Lubumbashi, with a good faith repay-as-you-can agreement.

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Myrt Schools’ Student Aid Programs

  • The Parents Work-for-Tuition Program allows parents to work on construction or weekly maintenance chores in exchange for tuition of up to two children per family.

  • The Orphans Scholarship Program allows any orphan adopted by a family in the village to get free education.

  • The Student Apprenticeship Program is part of the Myrt School’s Boy Scout and Girl Scout program. Scouts above the age of 12 can help in construction and community service projects and receive free tuition in Myrt’s secondary and technical schools. The Scouts receive extra academic tutoring after school and while camping out at construction work sites during summer vacation.

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Workshops Program

Over the last two years, we have shipped over $20,000 of shop machinery, computers and sewing machines to Myrt School to equip three workshops, two computer classrooms and a tailoring classroom. Now the challenge is to utilize those accomplishments by teaching job skills to the students and producing income for the school.

Summary of Progress

  1. All workshops and computer classrooms were wired for electricity produced by two diesel generators.
  2.  Instructors were retained for shop, computer and tailoring classes.
  3.  A variety of products were designed and built under Puma’s direction
  4.  Marketing on a rental basis to generate steady income had limited success but has great potential.
  5.  Full production is delayed until the campus is connected to the Congo power grid.

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Cheap Electricity is Near

Getting power to run computers and workshops has been a challenge from the get-go. Currently workshops are powered by generators on site that use diesel fuel. However due to the steep increase in the price of diesel (now over $7/gal, delivered), the workshops are on a severely restricted schedule. This unfortunate situation has made it challenging to push forward with a profit-making model.

Two diesel generators  
Diesel generators in these two sheds provide electricity for the Myrt School 1 campus on a limited schedule due to the steep rise in diesel fuel prices.

Once we are connected to the Congo power grid, we will get cheap electricity and can sell or use the generators at another campus.

The good news is that cheap electricity may soon be available. The Congo power grid is now within one kilometer of Mryt School. Connecting to it is up to customers, who must obtain and install the poles, cable and substations all the way to the nearest existing substation. Neighbors are interested in partnering with the school to extend the power line to the village.

All of the required utility poles were made in the school workshop with cost shared by a local businessman. However installation has been held up for four months by government plans to widen the road. When Puma left Congo in late November, all private property within the new right of way was being demolished, which would have included our poles. The poles wil be erected after demolition work is completed in about four months.

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Introducing Rental Plans to Congo

The concept of renting equipment, rather than buying it, is rare to nonexistent in the Congo. Puma’s prior market research concluded that rental contracts for goods would: 1) produce a steady stream of income for the schools, 2) allow for technical training for students, and 3) make products available to other schools and customers at affordable prices and terms.

This past year, the workshops produced 66 student desks for area schools and made them available on a low monthly rental basis. But the concept has yet to take hold, and the three schools that were near to signing backed out of the deal. The desks are now being used by Myrt Schools.

Puma also made metal forms for masons to use in building brick archways. The forms are renting for $20/week. Puma had observed that local masons were having difficulties in building structurally sound and attractive archways. Student apprentices made an “archway showroom” on the school campus for local masons to view the finished product.

Masonry forms for making brick arches.
This set of arches, built with Puma’s masonry form, will be part of a demo showroom
so local masons can select the form to rent. Each of these masonry forms earns $20/week.

Rental income from seven forms for one week would
pay tuition for 20 elementary students at Poleni for one month.

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A third project was the development of a prototype see-saw operated dual pumping system, designed and built under Puma’s direction. Market demand is high, locally and throughout Africa, for pumping water from wells. Existing pumps, made in China and South Africa, are very expensive. Our production costs were low.

dual pumping system operated as a see-saw
This see-saw operated dual pumping system is being tested by student apprentices.
Made from scrap parts in the school workshop, it is drawing water 6 meters up from a well
and out the top of a pipe 6 meters above ground.

            Profit from this single machine would pay the tuition of
at least 13 elementary students at Poleni for one year.

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Producing Our Own Equipment

Motorcycle towing cart
This motorcycle drawn trailer, made in school workshops, transports up to 250 kg of supplies 6 kilometers between Myrt School campuses, saving a lot of money and time.


100 ton press Puma designed and supervised the construction of a 100 ton press (left) and a sheet metal bender (bottom). The machines are used to produce and repair goods.
Sheet metal bender



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Student Enrollment Project

With the downturn in the world-wide and local economies in the spring of this year, many parents were having hard times finding money to pay their tuition. Some parents hadn’t paid tuition for several months. Others bartered items that the school could not sell, e.g., power hand tools and a motorcycle. This left the school unable to meet expenses. Teachers’ pay was delayed. Student aid programs, uninterrupted since 1995, were threatened.

Short Term Fixes

Longer Term Solutions 

Puma in Church
Puma’s inspirational presentation moved one church to sign a contract to pay tuition for 23 of their parishioners’ children for a year.



Preschool Building
A classroom for preschool children was added to the existing building at left. Demographics around our first school are changing to include more families with two working parents. Demand is high and operating costs are low. The arched entrance at right leads to the table tennis game room. The table was made in the workshops out of concrete.

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Pressure to Build at Poleni

New Construction Priorities and Funding

Due to growing demand for elementary education in Poleni Village, a new building for third and fourth grades was badly needed. Furthermore, the peculiar requirements of the Congolese use-or-lose property laws meant that another building must be built before the end of the year or risk losing valuable land. The risk was particularly high at this time because of a continuing dispute over original ownership of all land in the village, compounded by the vagaries of a newly appointed regional mayor.

School Building in Poleni
A new classroom for Poleni Village.  The student toilet facilities and septic field are on the right. They are the first in the region to ever pass state sanitary inspection with no violations.

Somehow we needed to raise more money to build a new classroom. Dimitri, an old friend of Puma’s stepped to the rescue. Dimitri and his brothers own and operate a large and growing construction supplies business in Lubumbashi where Puma has bought building supplies for over 20 years. He generously extended $8,000 credit to Able & Willing, interest free and pay-as-you-can. This is very unusual in Congo and speaks to the trust that Puma has built over the years.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. Jim Carpenter organized efforts to raise money.

Other Campus Improvements

The new school building was not quite enough to fulfill our claim to all of the land we had purchased. A tennis court with a practice wall and a parking lot were added. Improvements to the soccer field were also made. Thes    e low cost structural improvements secure ownership of the entire parcel of land against other claims, as well as benefit the whole village.

Safe water is a big issue in rural villages like Poleni. Most people get drinking and household water from streams where animals drink and people bath. We built two wells, one on the school campus and another across the road where we are building a clinic and nursing school. The wells are dug by hand and are perfectly round, about three feet wide by 30 feet deep and capped by a concrete shoulder. They are a huge contribution towards the health of the community.

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Medical Complex Started at Poleni Village

The Medical Department at the University of Lubumbashi has agreed to staff a clinic and teach nursing classes if Able & WIlling provides the physical infrastructure. This affiliation will provide needed medical services to a large area around Poleni Village that is without services and extend Myrt’s curriculum to classroom education and practical training of nurses.

Building medical complex in Poleni Village
Workers build the first doctor’s examination room.

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Coming in Next Issue

We couldn’t cover all of the stories of our work in the Congo in this issue.
Look for these stories in early 2010:

Computer Lab Connects to Internet

Land Dispute Resolved

Waza Continues

Teacher Training

Amo Congo Provides Health Education

Tuseme Girls Empowerment Program

Scouts Work and Learn

Puma Commits More Time to Projects


Puma’s Kitchen

Dinner to Benefit Education in Africa

Featuring Mbuyu “Puma” Wa Mbuyu, Founder,

AWIEF PowerPoint Presentation of AWIEF Projects

and African Cuisine


Pepe Soup (Beef Stew), Pilipili (Hot Sauce)
Muhongo (Cassava), Epinards(Spinach), other
African meat, seafood & veggie dishes.

Sorry, the feast must be postponed
due to our extended work projects.

Expected to be in January 2010.

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How You Can Help

We rely on help from our ever expanding network of friends.  You can make a donation over the web or via mail.  Also, check with your employer about a donation matching program that could multiply your help.

Even if you can't give money, you could help to spread the word of our mission and accomplishments.  You may belong to a civic organization or church that is looking for effective ways to help less fortunate people in other countries.  If you need additional information for your organization, give us a call (301-685-3282) or email:  

For additional ways that you can help, visit our web site page How You Can Help

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Make a Donation!

Help needed to keep construction going on new schools.

With most of our current budget invested in the various workshops that will keep MYRT School afloat and keep kids in school, we desperately need money to continue the school construction projects in Poleni and Kipopo villages.

The parents in these villages are able and willing to work on building the schools. Won’t you help by investing in the start up costs? 

With your help, our long standing aim - to build self-supporting, quality schools that can produce human and financial resources to build more schools – is coming to fruition, despite these hard times. This is the way to break the demoralizing and self perpetuating chain of dependency on foreign aid.

Two ways to donate.  Either way, you can make a gift donation in the name of a friend and we'll send them an acknowledgment. 

Donate online via Network for Good   Donate Now
Donate via mail:  use this printable form


Able & Willing International Education Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit, non-religious, all volunteer run organization. 
All contributions are tax deductible.
For a copy of the current financial statement of AWIEF, please write to: AWIEF, P.O.Box 4303, Frederick, MD 21705   
Call: (301) 685 - 3282                Email: