One of the things that continually surprises me about life here at ASYV is how thinly the local staff is stretched. They all work so hard and no one flinches when they are asked to do even more. It's impossible for me to imagine the village working in America with the same number of staff and still providing all the same services. Let's just say this is not a union shop.
The same kitchen staff makes every meal of the day. They arrive at 4 AM, to prepare breakfast that will be served at 6 AM (porridge and rolls) for 500 students. As soon as the breakfast dishes are done, those same employees will begin making lunch for 500 students and about 200 staff and visitors that will be served at 2:00 PM. Mountains of rice are prepared. Thousands of carrots and potatoes are peeled and chopped by hand. Beans are cooked with a sauce. Other vegetables are often added to the sauce. Somehow, before lunch is served the staff also finds time to tend to the kitchen garden, often planting and hoeing and also finds time to bake tomorrow's 500 or so breakfast rolls. Once lunch is wrapped up by 3PM they have 5 hours to get ready for dinner. Another 500 students and maybe 100 staff served more potatoes or cooking bananas, rice and sauce. Once the kids finish eating by 9, the kitchen staff clean all the serving dishes and the whole kitchen and are finished for the day around 10 PM. These workers get one day off a week. In a lot of places this would be two (possibly three?) shifts of work. Here it is a typical day. Look out if there is something special to prepare like salad, fruit or meat, then the day is even longer. There are also special meals to prepare for some restricted diets. Most surprising to me is that this whole staff is friendly, smiling and greets anyone who visits the kitchen warmly. They also never fail. Meals are always ready, and there is always enough to eat. That's an 18 hour day folks.
Another great example is the drivers: There are three drivers who work for the village. To pick up the teachers all over Kigali and drive them to ASYV they start work at 4 AM, driving all around the city and getting to school around 6:30 AM, I guess. (I am usually not up at that hour.) A second driver picks up the administrative staff like the finance department. The third driver is alwas in the village if there is a need to take a student to a hospital or other errands. All day, those drivers run errands picking up supplies for the village or taking sick kids to the hospital. Add to this insanity: sporting events, field trips, and sometimes shuttling kids or staff for special programs. Then when the school day and after school meetings are over, that same driver drives the teachers home and gets everyone dropped off by 7 PM or so. Then they get fuel and get ready for the next day, so are probably done with work at about 8 PM. 16 hour day is just the standard for their position.
Take the role of the family mother: These women are asked to parent 16 kids, get them up at 5 AM for breakfast and supervise, chaperone and love them once they are back from school from 3:00 PM to lights out at 11 PM. During the day while the kids are at school there are staff meetings, english lessons, computer lessons, securing supplies from the village inventory for the house, visiting with health & wellness for any problem kids and more often than not, caring for at least one sick kid at home. In the afternoon, many lead Extracurricular Programs teaching sewing, traditional weaving and even carpentry. They work 12 days in a row, then get 2 days off to see their external family (some have husbands and biological kids).
Then there's the village IT coordinator who has to try to keep about 100 rickety machines that kids download every virus under the sun onto functional. The machines have 3 possible operating systems (Windows, Linux or Ubuntu) and a wide array of software products. Also, in addition to doing this full time job, please just imagine this for a second, the village asked him to start teaching an IT class in the afternoon 4 days a week. He teaches from 3-5:30 PM Monday - Thursday for about 50 students. He assigns and grades homework and tests and plans his four 150 minute classes per week. All this while evaluating software the village needs to run the finance department, print report cards and helping people map a network drive and connect to a printer.
I've done a little org design and optimization, and honestly if I was going to try and staff this place for an American workforce, I think I would about triple the staff, which of course would blow the budget. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. I think part of it, certainly, is that the job market here is terrible, so employers have a lot of leverage to ask whatever they want. On the ground though, to really feels like the staff are so committed to the kids, and to the future of Rwanda, that any request is received and acted upon. Every full time employee here sacrifices seeing their family, sleep and any notion of free time to keep Agahozo-Shalom running and do the best they can for the kids. It is truly awe- inspiring dedication. It's not a job for them, it's a calling.
(One last case-in-point: Every minute of the day is scheduled from 6 AM to 10 PM, so if you have something unplanned to deal with, you need to scheduled it outside of that time. I just left a 10 PM - Midnight meeting where everyone but the Americans sat patiently. I don't know if Rwandans are just genetically harder workers than any Americans I've ever known, or if the aftermath of the genocide changes you in ways where anything else seems tolerable, even reasonable by comparison.)